Separating World Cup/Afcon qualifiers
If you're African, then it is likely your country has played two games in the past two weeks. Those two games were World Cup qualifiers, and they are different from the games that will be played this weekend, which are qualifiers for the South Africa 2013 African Cup.
Confused? Don't be. We've got you covered, as always.
World Cup 2014 qualifiers
You do know there are 54 African countries, right? Good. These 54 African countries are all members of CAF (there are two "associate members", but we'll talk about that later), and some of them decided NOT to take part in the qualifiers.
Those who decided to take part were divided into two groups. The lowest ranked 24 teams in Africa were put into one group and were drawn to play each other last year (November 2011). Officially, that was called the First Round of the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers.
You good so far?
Now, the 12 winners (of the lowest ranked 24 sides) qualified for another stage, or the Second Round. At this stage, they were joined by another group. These are the top 28 ranked teams in Africa.
So, (12 lowest ranked teams) + (28 top ranked teams) = 40 teams for the Second Round of Qualifiers.
These 40 teams were then grouped into 10 groups (Group A, B, C all the way to Group J).
It is these ten groups who have been playing in the last two weeks. The winners of each of these ten groups (who will be known by June next year) will be further drawn to face each other later, and then best five countries will represent Africa in Brazil.
Afcon 2013 qualifiers
The Afcon qualifiers look a bit tricky, but it's not. First thing you should know is this: the countries that took part in the 2012 African Cup have been exempted from this round of qualifiers. You'll see why in a bit.
Remember there are 54 African countries, right? These teams are all fighting for 15 slots at the next African Cup (South Africa is the host nation, so they'll be there by default.) Some of these 54 countries decided not to play in the Afcon qualifiers, so we were left with 47 nations.
CAF decided to play a qualifying series in three phases, like this:
- Preliminary Round: The lowest-ranked four teams in Africa at the time (Seychelles, Swaziland, Sao Tome and Lesotho) played a preliminary round. Seychelles and Sao Tome qualified.
- First Round: The two winners of the preliminary round (Seychelles and Sao Tome) joined the other 26 teams which did not qualify for the 2012 African Cup. It is these teams (Seychelles, Sao Tome + 26 non-Afcon 2012 teams = 28 in all) who will play this weekend.
- Final Round: The 14 winners, out of the 28 who will play this weekend, will join the 16 teams which qualified for the 2012 Africa Cup. So, 14 winners + 16 Afcon teams = 30 teams.
These 30 teams will be drawn to play in September and October this year. The 15 winners of these games will join South Africa in the 2013 African Cup.
So, basically, the twenty-eight teams who will be playing this weekend will be fighting to join the 16 teams who were at Afcon 2012 for the final round of qualifiers.
That wasn't difficult, was it? If it was, read it again, you'll get it!