Soccer-Africa Cup of Nations preliminary round draw conducted

Soccer Football- Africa Cup of Nations draw.- The exhibition center of Abidjan, Ivory Coast - October 12, 2023. A man stands near the mascot and representation of the nation's African cup during the draw. REUTERS/Luc Gnago/ File photo

CAIRO (Reuters) - The draw for the preliminary round of Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers for next year's tournament in Morocco was conducted in Cairo on Tuesday barely a week after the conclusion of the finals in the Ivory Coast won by the hosts.

The bottom eight ranked entrants have been drawn into four two-legged knockout ties to be played between March 20-26.

Somalia were the lowest ranked team and drawn against Eswatini, while Sao Tome e Principe take on South Sudan.

The other two fixtures are between Chad and Mauritius while Djibouti play Liberia.

Both Liberia and Mauritius have previously qualified for the Cup of Nations finals.

The winners of the four preliminary round ties advance to the group stage of the qualifiers, joining 44 other countries.

The 48 teams will be drawn into 12 groups of four with the top two in each group qualifying for the finals in Morocco.

Morocco will also participate despite qualifying automatically as hosts, so only one other country will qualify from their group.

The Confederation of African Football has yet to announce the date for the group phase draw or the finals of the Cup of Nations, which Morocco want to play in mid-2025 thought that will clash with the newly-expanded Club World Cup in the U.S.

The qualifiers for the Cup of Nations finals will be completed by the end of the year. They are being played in the three international windows in September, October and November with two rounds of matches in each window.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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