Countries that do not qualify for the Orange CAN Gabon – Equatorial Guinea 2012 will play a first round eliminatory, with direct elimination, with a view to finding fifteen teams. The period from 15 January 2012 to 15 February 2012 was chosen for this first round.
I doubt they will trim the field to 15 teams during that period. Most likely it will be only a preliminary round. Here's why.Looking at the CAF 2014 World Cup calendar and at FIFA's match dates for 2012, you'll notice there are two conspicuous double match dates available for CAF: 7-11 September and 12-16 October.
There are 37 teams that didn't qualify for the 2012 edition. With South Africa hosting the 2013 event, that leaves 36 teams. Of course, that doesn't mean all 36 will want to play in the 2013 preliminaries.
The preliminary round should involve the bottom 12 teams in the FIFA rankings to trim the field to 30 teams.
Probably the second round will be in September, with the final round scheduled for October.
In 2010, the draw took place at the 2010 CAF Super Cup, on 20 February 2010. Next year this event is scheduled for 24-26 February, with the February 2012 FIFA Ranking set to be published on 15 February.
Looking at the intermediate February 2012 ranking, this is how the qualification could look:
Pot 1: Guinea-Bissau, Swaziland, Madagascar, Lesotho, Seychelles, Comoros
Pot 2: Mauritius, Somalia, Eritrea, Mauritania, Djibouti, Sao Tome e Principe
Pot 1: Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Cape Verde Islands, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Malawi, Cameroon, Uganda, Gambia, Central African Republic, Togo, Benin, Mozambique, Rwanda
Pot 2: Kenya, Tanzania, Congo DR, Ethiopia, Liberia, Congo, Namibia, Burundi, Chad plus six winners from the previous round.
Pot 1: Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Libya, Guinea, Mali, Tunisia, Angola, Zambia, Morocco, Niger, Botswana, Sudan and the winner of Gabon/Equatorial Guinea
Pot 2: 15 winners from the previous round
It's quite possible to see matches like Côte d'Ivoire vs. Egypt, Ghana vs. Nigeria, Senegal vs. Cameroon or Morocco vs. Algeria in the final round.
This could be a disaster for CAF - and the sales of TV rights. In order to protect their flagship competition, CAF might create four pots in the final round.
Pot 1: Top 8 from the 2012 edition
Pot 2: the remaining 7 teams
Pot 3: Top 7 from the February 2012 FIFA ranking
Pot 4: the other 8 teams
and draw Pot 1 vs. Pot 4 and Pot 2 vs. Pot 3.