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Friday, June 28, 2013

2018 FIFA World Cup: CAF qualifying format to be changed?

In May 2013, CAF announced the qualifying format for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (hosted by Morocco).

With all the 2014 FIFA match dates used for the 2015 qualifiers, it means the preliminaries for the 2017 ACN and 2018 World Cup will only start in 2015. The preliminary draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup will take place on 24 or 25 July 2015.

CAF can't use the 2010 WCQ system because back then the World Cup and the Nations Cup where held in the same year.

I think the best option would be to take a page out of AFC's book. It's in CAF's best interest to send its best teams to the World Cup and also to give them matches against quality opposition during the final stages of the qualifying. That's because they obviously want more spots at the World Cup (don't they all?) and the confederation weightings used in the FIFA ranking calculations are based on World Cup performance of each confederation's teams. The playoff for the 2014 World Cup could have Egypt meeting Côte d'Ivoire and I think CAF would rather have both teams making it to Brazil.

1. First stage

Home and away matches to reduce the number of teams to 36. To be played in March and June 2015.

2. Group stage - draw taking place in July 2015.

Six group of six teams, top two advancing to the next stage. 10 match dates are needed. The best 15 teams qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.

3. Group stage

Two group of six teams. Top two advance to the 2018 World Cup, the third-placed teams play-off for the final spot. 10 match dates are needed for the group stage and another 2 for the play-off.

22 match dates are needed for the two group stages and there are 26 available (6 in 2015 after the draw, 10 in 2016 and 10 in 2017).

So, looking at the July ranking, this is how things would look like:

1. First stage

Pot 1: Uganda, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Congo DR, Central African Republic, Congo, Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Liberia, Niger, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya
Pot 2: Namibia, Rwanda, Sudan, Chad, Lesotho, Gambia, Sao Tome e Principe, Mauritania, Swaziland, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros, Eritrea, South Sudan, Seychelles, Somalia, Djibouti

2. First group stage

Assuming the seeded teams advance for the first stage, these would be the pots:

Pot 1: Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Algeria, Nigeria, Burkina Faso
Pot 2: Tunisia, Cape Verde Islands, South Africa, Zambia, Guinea, Egypt
Pot 3: Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Cameroon, Togo, Senegal, Morocco
Pot 4: Uganda, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Congo DR, Central African Republic, Congo
Pot 5: Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Liberia, Niger, Malawi
Pot 6: Zimbabwe, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya

3. Second group stage

Assuming the teams with the better Elo rating (yes, I'm cheating a bit :) ) advance from the previous group stage, these would be the pots.

Pot 1: Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana
Pot 2: Mali, Algeria
Pot 3: Nigeria, Burkina Faso
Pot 4: Tunisia, South Africa
Pot 5: Egypt, Libya
Pot 6: Cameroon, Senegal

About me:

Christian, husband, father x 3, programmer, Romanian. Started the blog in March 2007. Quit in April 2018. You can find me on LinkedIn.


  1. 22 match dates are needed for the two group stages

    now only 8 matches !!

    to go to the world cup

    big difference


    but preliminaries for the 2017 mabey 6 matches

    so 8+6 =14
    14 matches

    22-14 = 8 matches difference

    africa are poor can they do it ??

    i hope that

  2. 22 matches is too much, even south america does not have this infernal pace.

  3. I really like the way that AFC is organizing the WCQ in Asia, plenty of games and more chances to teams to get it right and recover.

    Two rounds with home-away two-leg games. Some good teams entering from the second round (Uzbekistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, ..etc).

    Then two group stages, the first with 6 games and the second with 8 games giving a minimum number of games of 14 to strong teams like Japan, Australia, or South Korea.

    Uzbekistan and Jordan for instance have played 2 home-away games in the second round, + 14 games in the two group stages which makes it 16. The two countries will again have 2 games to play against each other before having two other games again COMNEBOL fifth for the ticket to WC2014.

    In Asia, every teams will at least cross 50% the strongest teams in the continent before getting qualified.

    The first group of 4 give chance to the top 2 to advance which helps strong teams falling in the same group due unfair seeding.

    Asia is also a large continent like Africa and teams can have two games 5000km apart within 4 days.

    In Africa, it sometimes takes 15-20 years to see two strong teams facing each other in WCQ, this never happens in Asia. CONCACAF has a similar system like Asia where the last teams are in the same group looking for 3.5 tickets.

    It is therefore time for change in Africa.

  4. Edgar, I think your starting cull is too severe.

    How about this, the first round, you whittle the teams from 54 to 48 through playoffs.

    2nd round, 12 groups of 4, top 2 teams advance to Round 3.

    3rd Round, 6 groups of 4, top 2 advance. There are 16 matchdays before 2017 and this uses 14 of them. Top 3 third place teams also qualify for the ACON, along with the rest. It would be top 4 third place sides if the 2017 host was strong enough to be among the best 16.

    Final round, 3 groups of 4. Group winners and top runner up to the World Cup and a playoff between the other two runners up. It uses a max of 22 dates like you, but realistically, 20 dates. 4 of 5 qualifiers would almost certainly only have to play 18 dates.

  5. I was trying to think up a good qualifying format:
    Round 1: (2 gamedays)
    28 weakest teams from CAF play a two legged play-off to qualify for next round in AFCON and FIFA qualifying
    The winner of each tie qualifies.

    Round 2: (6-8 gamedays (6 FIFA/6-8 AFCON)
    10 groups of 4 teams.
    Top team of each group qualifies to AFCON 2017 and next round of FIFA qualifying.
    5 best second placed team qualify to AFCON 2017
    Second placed teams play a two-legged playoff to qualify for AFCON 2017

    Round 3: (8 gamedays)
    Two groups of 5 teams. Played after AFCON 2017.
    Top two qualify for FIFA world Cup. Two legged playoffs between third placed teams.

    Round 4:
    Two-legged playoff between 3rd placed teams of Round 3.

    Examples for possible Round 3 groups (according to current ELO):
    Ivory Coast

    South Africa

  6. If you take the AFC format for the CAF qualifying, you would get something like this (assuming all 54 confederation would enter the WC qualifying):

    1st round:
    38 lowest ranked teams (nrs. 17-54 FIFA Ranking), two-legged playoff. 19 advance to 2nd round

    2nd round:
    19 winners of 1st round + nrs. 6-16 FIFA-Ranking (11 teams). Two-legged playoff, 15 winners advance to 3rd round.

    3rd round:
    15 winners of 2nd round + 5 best placed teams of FIFA-Ranking. 5 groups of 4 teams each. Nrs. 1 & 2 advance to 4th round.

    4th round: 10 teams, 2 groups of 5 each. Nrs.1 & 2 qualify for WC, nrs. 3 will play a two-legged playoff for last WC-spot.

    So a maximum of 20 games to be played, the top 5 teams play a maximum of 14 games.