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The Road to 2026: FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in Africa’s CAF Zone

As anticipation builds for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, to be held in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the quest for qualification intensifies across the globe. In the African continent, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Zone presents a fierce battleground in the first qualifying round. Almost all teams have played twice, and the next matches are scheduled for June, 2024. Let’s delve into the dynamics of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Africa’s CAF Zone as teams strive for their chance to shine on the world stage.

The Africa qualifiers for the World Cup 2026 in North America have started early, compared to the other FIFA zones. Since November 2023 54 teams play in the first CAF qualification round, although meanwhile it is actually 53, as Eritrea has withdrawn. Round 1 consists of nine groups of mainly six nations each. Only Group E, the poule of World Cup 2022 surprise Morocco, consists of five teams, after Eritrea’s early withdrawal.

African football nations to qualify for the World Cup

Nine to ten World Cup tickets can be allocated to Africa. The nine Round 1 group winners qualify directly. The possible tenth African country that participates in the World Cup finals still has a long qualification road ahead of it.

African play-offs
First, that country needs to be among the four best Round 1 runners-up. That will give them permission to continue in the African play-offs. Those four then play in a mini tournament including semi-finals and a final. The winner has not qualified yet, but does represent Africa in the FIFA Intercontinental play-offs, in November 2025.

Intercontintal play-offs
In those last play-offs six countries are participating; from the FIFA confederations AFC (Asia), CAF (Africa), OFC (Oceania), CONMEBOL (South America), and two nations from CONCACAF (North America, Central America, and the Caribbean). Only two of the will be part of the final 2026 World Cup schedule, with perhaps one of them being the tenth Africa country.

53 African nations in World Cup qualifiers

These are the 53 African nations aiming for World Cup football qualification. Their schedule of CAF qualifying matches will take place until the end of 2025.

Note: originally there were 54, but Eritrea has withdrawn.

Up to and including the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a total of thirteen African countries have managed to qualify at least once for the World Cup. These are Cameroon, Morocco, Nigeria, Tunisia, Ghana, Algeria, Senegal, Egypt, South Africa, Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Angola and Togo.

Best African performance: Morocco

The best performance ever by an African country at the Football World Cup is Morocco’s fourth place. The Moroccan football team reached the semi-finals in 2022 in Qatar. A total of four Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF) countries managed to reach the quarter-finals of the Football World Cup. Those are Morocco in 2022, Cameroon in 1990, Ghana in 2010, and Senegal in 2022.

How do the former African World Cup representatives perform now?

The former World Cup representatives from Africa seem ‘obliged’ to finish high in the current CAF qualification. How are they performing so far, after the first two rounds?

We are talking about Cameroon, Morocco, Nigeria, Tunisia, Ghana, Algeria, Senegal, Egypt, South Africa, Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Angola and Togo.

The following five of those contenders for the World Cup football title in 2026 are still flawless in their qualifying campaign. Morocco (Group E against Niger, Tanzania, Zambia and Congo), Tunisia (Group H against Equatorial Guinea, Namibia, Malawi, Liberia, and Sao Tomé and Principe), Algeria (Group G against Botswana, Guinea, Mozambique, Somalia and Uganda), Egypt (Group A against Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone), and Ivory Coast (Group F against Gabon, Kenya, Burundi, The Gambia and Seychelles). They have six points out of two games, apart from Morocco that has only played once yet.


The next two are also undefeated. Cameroon (Group D against Libya, Cape Verde, Angola, Mauritius and Eswatini), as well as Senegal (Group B against Congo DR, Mauritania, South Sudan, Sudan and Togo). They both have tied once, in addition to a three pointer.

Also Ghana (Group I against Comoros, Mali, Madagascar, Central African Republic and Chad), South Africa (Group C against Rwanda, Nigeria, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Benin), and DR Congo (Group B against Mauritania, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan and Togo) know how winning feels in the first African World Cup qualification round. Their other game, however, has resulted in a loss for them.

None of the African teams that have ever played in the World Cup have lost both of their first qualifying matches for the upcoming 2026 tournament. Yet there is some slight disappointment in three of these countries. Nigeria (Group C against Rwanda, South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Benin), Angola (Group D against Cameroon, Libya, Cape Verde, Mauritius and Eswatini), and Togo (Group B against Congo DR, Mauritania, Senegal, South Sudan, and Sudan) have not won yet. They all gained (only) two points in two games.

About the FIFA 2026 World Cup

The 23rd edition of the World Cup football in North America lasts from Thursday, June 11 to Sunday, July 19, 2026. A record total of 104 World Cup football matches are scheduled for the finals in host countries Canada, Mexico and the United States. Namely, at the 2026 World Cup football finals there is also a record number of 48 participating countries.

Host cities: three regions

The host cities of the 2026 FIFA World Cup are broken up into three North American regions. The Eastern Region consists of Atlanta (U.S.), Boston (U.S.), Miami (U.S.), New York/New Jersey (U.S.), Philadelphia (U.S.), and Toronto (Canada). The Central Region consists of Dallas (U.S.), Guadalajara (Mexico), Houston (U.S.), Kansas City (U.S.), Mexico City (Mexico), and Monterrey (Mexico). And the Western Region consists of Los Angeles (U.S.), San Francisco/Bay Area (U.S.), Seattle (U.S.), and Vancouver (Canada).

World Cup football final

So, the U.S. has 11 hosts, Mexico has three hosts, and Canada has two. The opening match on June 11 is in Mexico, in Mexico City at the Azteca Stadium. The World Cup final is on Sunday, July 19, 2026, in the USA, New York/New Jersey, in the MetLife Stadium.

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World Cup Football Qualifiers North America, Central America, Caribbean

Qualification North America, Central America, Caribbean

In North America, Central America and the Caribbean, the FIFA qualifiers run from March 18, 2024 to November 18, 2025. Six, seven or eight of the 32 participating CONCACAF nations qualify, joining hosts USA, Canada and Mexico.

World Cup Football Qualifiers South America

FIFA World Cup football Qualification South America

In South America, the FIFA World Cup qualifiers run from September 7, 2023 to September 9, 2025. A total of 10 CONMEBOL nations participate. Six to seven South American countries will qualify. There is one single round.

World Cup Football Qualifiers Europe

FIFA World Cup football qualification Europe

In Europe, the qualifiers run from March 17, 2025 to March 31, 2026. A total of 55 (of 54) UEFA nations participate. Sixteen European countries will qualify. There is one group stage (Round 1), followed by the European play-offs.

World Cup Football Qualifiers Asia

FIFA World Cup football Qualification Asia

In Asia, the World Cup qualification runs from October 12, 2023 to November, 2025. A total of 46 AFC nations participate. Eight or nine Asian countries will qualify. There are three qualifying rounds, before the play-offs.

World Cup Football Qualifiers Africa

FIFA World Cup football Qualification Africa

In Africa, the World Cup football qualifiers run from November 13, 2023 to November 18, 2025. A total of 54 CAF nations participate. Nine or ten African countries will qualify. There are two qualification rounds.

World Cup Football Qualifiers Oceania

FIFA World Cup football Qualification Oceania

In Oceania, the FIFA qualifiers for the World Cup football run from September, 2024 to March, 2025. Eleven OFC nations participate. One or two Oceanic countries qualify. There are three qualification rounds.


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