THE Warriors will today discover their opponents in the preliminary round of the 2022 World Cup qualifier when the draw for the African qualifiers is conducted at the Caf headquarters in Cairo, Egypt.
BY HENRY MHARA
Zimbabwe are returning to the qualifiers of the global showpiece after missing the 2018 campaign serving a suspension by for failing to pay a former Warriors coach Valinhos.
The Warriors will begin their campaign in the preliminary stage after slipping down on the Caf and Fifa rankings released last week.
Following their chaotic Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) campaign when they crashed out in the group stages, Zimbabwe moved two places down the Fifa rankings to number 112 in the world. In the Caf rankings, they slipped down one rung to number 27 and were overtaken by the Central Africa Republic.
With Caf adopting the new format for the qualifiers, where the top 26 teams in Africa are exempted from the preliminary round, it means Zimbabwe will start their campaign in the initial round.
The Warriors are the top seeded team in Pot 1 which has 14 teams who will be paired against the other 14 teams in Pot 2. The teams will play home-and-away matches over two legs with the 14 winners advancing to the second round.
Zimbabwe’s possible opponents in the draw are Comoros, Botswana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mauritius, Gambia, South Sudan, Chad, Sao Tome and Principle, Seychelles, Djibouti, Somalia and Eritrea.
The 14 first round winners will join the top ranked 26 teams to make a total 40 who will then be divided into 10 groups of four teams to play home-and-away round-robin matches. The 10 group winners will advance to the third and final round.
The 10 teams, which advance from the second round, will play home-and-away over two legs with the five winners qualifying for the 22nd edition of the Fifa World Cup.
Fifa have left each continental confederation to decide its qualifying format for the 2022 World Cup and set its own date for the preliminary round draw. Africa’s World Cup preliminary qualifiers will begin in September.
The Qatar football jamboree will be the first World Cup ever to be held in the Arab world and the first in a Muslim-majority country. This will be the first World Cup held entirely in Asia since the 2002 tournament in South Korea and Japan.
In addition, the tournament will be the last to involve 32 teams, with an increase to 48 teams scheduled for the 2026 tournament.
This will also mark the first World Cup not to be held in May, June, or July; the tournament is instead scheduled for late November until mid-December.
It is to be played in a reduced timeframe of around 28 days, with the final being held on 18 December 2022, which is also Qatar National Day. The reigning World Cup champions are France. The final draw is scheduled to take place in April 2022.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s African Nations Championships (Chan) preliminary round match against Mauritius which was supposed to take place yesterday in Port Louis failed to take off due to a waterlogged pitch.
The match will now be played this afternoon at the Auguste Vollaire Stadium in Flacq and the return match is in scheduled for Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo on Sunday.
Zimbabwe are under the stewardship of Rahman Gumbo who is in charge of the team on the interim after the resignation of Sunday Chidzambga last week.
The winner of this contest meets either South Africa or Lesotho in the final qualifying round for the Chan finals to be played in Cameroon next year. Lesotho beat South Africa 3-2 in the first leg on Saturday.
Chan is a biennial football tournament exclusively featuring domestic based players.
Caf’s new World Cup qualifying format:
Twenty-eight teams (ranked 27–54) will play home-and-away over two legs
The 14 winners will advance to the second round.
Forty teams (teams ranked 1 to 26 and 14 first round winners) will be divided into 10 groups of four teams to play home-and-away round-robin matches.
The 10 group winners will advance to the third round.
The 10 teams, which will have advanced from the second round, will play home-and-away over two legs
Five winners then qualify for the World Cup
The allocation of slots for each confederation was discussed by the Fifa executive committee on May 30, 2015 in Zürich after the Fifa congress. The committee decided that the same allocation as used in 2006, 2010 and 2014 would be kept for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments:
Caf (Africa): 5
AFC (Asia): 4 or 5
Uefa (Europe): 13
Concacaf (North and Central America and Caribbean): 3 or 4
OFC (Oceania): 0 or 1
CONMEBOL (South America): 4 or 5
Hosts: 1 (Qatar)