COSAFA nations enter FIFA World Cup draw

COSAFA nations, bar Zimbabwe, will know their fate on Saturday when the draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification competition is made in St Petersburg, Russia.

They are among a record 53 nations from the continent who have entered the preliminaries with only Zimbabwe left out after being banned for failing to pay a previous coach.

Unusually this time Africa’s preliminaries will see two rounds of two-legged knockout matches to whittle the field down top 20 teams only for the group phase of the competition.

Only the group winners will then advance to the finals in Russia in 2018.

It is a change from the process employed for the 2014 finals when Africa had a single round of knockout matches, followed by an extensive group competition with 10 winners advancing to a round of play-off matches where Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria advanced.

For 2018, the 26 lowest ranking teams in Africa, which includes Botswana Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, will play in the first round of qualifiers in October.

The 13 winners of those two-legged ties then advance to be drawn with the top 27 teams in the next round of knockout matches before the group line-up is determined.

COSAFA teams in first round: Malawi, Namibia, Botswana, Madagascar, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mauritius, Seychelles, Comoros

COSAFA teams handed a bye: South Africa, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique