Confederation of African Football (CAF) has announced the 2022 Qatar World Cup qualification format which will see Malawi’s Flames starting from the preliminary stage of the competition.
The qualification format will see 26 highest ranked teams, according to the official Fifa ranking exempted of the preliminary round, leaving 28 participating teams in that round.
Of these 28 teams, the 14 highest ranked teams including Malawi which is ranked 32 in Africa and 126 in the world, will play against the 14 least ranked teams. (Lesotho, Botswana, Comoros, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mauritius, Gambia, South Sudan, Chad, Sao Tome e Principe, Seychelles, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia).
“The 14 winning teams of the preliminary round will join the 26 exempted teams in the group stage and will be divided into 10 groups of four teams.
“The draw of the groups will be based on the seeding of the 40 teams into four levels according to the official ranking of Fifa. Each group will contain a team from each of level.
“The winners of the 10 groups will be divided into two levels based on the official ranking of Fifa. The five highest teams, according to the official Fifa ranking will play against the five least ranked teams,” a statement from CAF reads in part.
The qualifiers are expected to start between September and October this year and conclude towards the end of 2021 with five tickets up for grabs among Africa’s 54 participants.
Coach Meke Mwase said the Flames need to be prepared to face any team from the 14 teams that Malawi will be paired against.
“If we prepare well, we can make it to the group stages,” he said.
Soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda said though the teams Malawi face are lowly-ranked, they have potential to cause an upset.
“There are no underdogs these days,” he said.
The Flames also started in the prelimary round for the 2018 World Cup qualification and were eliminated by Tanzania.