Soccer-Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers postponed to allow for World Cup preparation

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Africa Cup of Nations - Final - Senegal v Egypt - Olembe Stadium, Yaounde, Cameroon - February 6, 2022 Senegal's Kalidou Koulibaly lifts the trophy after winning the Africa Cup of Nations REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - The next round of Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in September have been postponed to allow the continent’s five World Cup-bound teams the opportunity for better preparatory matches before the tournament in Qatar, the Confederation of African Football said on Sunday.

The postponement had been muted for weeks, especially after the date for the next Cup of Nations finals in the Ivory Coast was put back from June next year to January 2024.

Senegal coach Aliou Cisse was among the more vocal critics of the fixtures, which meant his country would have had to play two Cup of Nations qualifiers, home and away against Mozambique, in the final window of opportunity in September when they wanted to play against opposition from other continents ahead of the World Cup.

Senegal are expected to announce alternative fixtures soon.

Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco and Tunisia are the other African teams who will be playing at the World Cup finals.

The Cup of Nations qualifiers, which started with two rounds of matches in June, still have four rounds remaining.

CAF said match day three and match day four qualifiers have been moved to March 20-28 next year, the fifth round to June 12-20 2023 while match day six will be played on Sept. 4-12 2023.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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