The start of the group stages of the African qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup has been postponed.
The qualifiers scheduled to begin in early June was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
CAF this week issued a list of approved stadiums for the first two rounds of qualifiers, which left a quarter of the 40 team competing for places in Qatar 2022 without a venue to play its home matches.
Those affected include Senegal, who competed at the last World Cup in Russia in 2018, and Mali, who were among the top seeded team for the preliminaries.
Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Niger and Sierra Leone has all also been effected, but a delay would give them time to make the necessary improvements.
In an official statement, CAF said, “The CAF Emergency Committee, in consultation with FIFA decided to postpone the CAf Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 that were due to be played in June 2021 after taking into consideration the current challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to ensure the optimal playing conditions for participating teams.”
“The Qualifiers will now take place in the existing windows of September, October, November 2021 and March 2022.”
“CAF is reassessing its protocols and proceses to enhance the implementation of COVID- related protocols, including specifically focusing on pre match testing which had been the source of challenges in previous windows.”
“Full details on the updated match schedule will be updated on due course.”
The shift in calendar would mean there would be two rounds of qualifiers in each of the FIFA international windows in September, October and November this year.
The 10 group winners will then advance to the final playoff stage in March, which is contested on a home and away basis, where the five victors will earn their place in Qatar.
Nigeria have to navigate through a group comprising Cape Verde, Liberia and Central African Republic.