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African national teams set to resume playing in October

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Aug 25 – African national teams are set to resume playing this October, according to CAF, with a nine-day window available for friendly matches ahead of 2022 Cup of Nations qualifiers one month later.

No international matches have been possible in the continent this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, leading to new dates for both Cup of Nations and 2022 World Cup eliminators.

Clubs have also been badly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak with the semi-finals and finals of the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup, originally set for May, yet to be played.

Here, AFP Sport updates the positions regarding the main national team and club competitions in Africa.

World Cup

The two-leg preliminary round was completed last year before the pandemic took hold, leaving 40 contenders for five places at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

African champions Algeria, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia are seeded to win the 10 first-round groups.

Only Mali among the 10 favourites have not qualified before and the Eagles could face strong competition from Uganda and Kenya in Group D for the single final-round place.

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Dates: First round: May 31-June 15 2021, Aug 30-Sept 7, Oct 4-12 (all two matchdays); play-offs: Nov 8-16 (two legs)

Africa Cup of Nations

Qualifying for the 2022 tournament in Cameroon will resume this November with two matchdays and be completed with two further rounds next March.

The biggest surprise during the opening two matchdays was the lacklustre form of record seven-time champions Egypt, who could only draw with Kenya and the Comoros.

Those setbacks left the Pharaohs, whose star is Liverpool sharpshooter Mohamed Salah, third in the Group G table ahead of home and away clashes with unpredictable Togo this year.

Dates: Nov 9-17, Mar 22-30 2021 (both two matchdays)

African Nations Championship

The biennial tournament for footballers playing in their country of birth was among the first victims of coronavirus and has been rescheduled for January in Cameroon.

Four venues in Douala, Limbe and Yaounde will host the 16 teams over 22 days with Morocco hoping to become the first nation to win back-to-back titles.

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Togo will be the only debutants, having shocked 2019 runners-up Nigeria 4-3 on aggregate. Other casualties of regional qualifying included Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

Dates: January 2021 (dates to be announced)

CAF Champions League

The semi-finalists come from Egypt and Morocco, the first and third most successful countries in CAF club competitions with 34 and 17 titles respectively.

After considerable tinkering, CAF decided to stage two-leg semi-finals, with the venue for the single-match final dependant on who qualifies.

A Raja Casablanca-Wydad Casablanca final will be in Morocco, an Ahly-Zamalek final in Egypt and a neutral venue will be chosen should the title decider involve a club from each nation.

Dates: Semi-finals, first legs – Sept 25/26, second legs – Oct 2/3; final – single match date, venue to be announced

CAF Confederation Cup

The format for the African equivalent of the Europa League will differ from the CAF Champions League with single matches deciding both the semi-finals and the final.

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Morocco will stage the ‘final four’ tournament and two clubs from the kingdom, Renaissance Berkane and Hassania Agadir, meet at the penultimate stage.

African debutants Pyramids of Egypt are in the other semi-final against Horoya of Guinea, the only non-north African survivors in either club competition.

Dates: Semi-finals – Sept 22; final – Sept 27 (all single matches hosted by Morocco)

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