The 2026 World Cup qualifiers in Africa get under way this week and there will be plenty of COSAFA interest as all 14 member associations dream of a place in the finals in the United States, Mexico and Canada.
It is a long road to get there, and it all gets under way in the coming days as we look ahead to the fixtures of the sides.
Group C: Nigeria, South Africa, Benin, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Lesotho
This pool contains no less than three COSAFA sides, including old foes South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Bafana Bafana begin with a home clash against Benin on Saturday, while before that Lesotho must travel to Uyo to face a star-studded Nigeria on Thursday. That will be a massive test of their resilience.
Zimbabwe open their campaign on Wednesday with an away trip to Rwanda, after which they will stay on and host Nigeria in that country on Sunday as they cannot use their own home venues.
South Africa also travel to Rwanda for a clash with the hosts two days later, while Lesotho will host Benin in neutral Durban.
Group D: Cameroon, Cape Verde, Angola, Libya, Eswatini, Mauritius
Another pool with three COSAFA sides in it. Angola have two away matches in their opening two qualifiers, first in Cape Verde on Thursday and then a trip to regional rivals Mauritius on Nov. 21.
The Mauritians begin their campaign away in Cameroon, w tough start at the favourites for the pool before their second game at home to Palancas Negras.
Eswatini will host Libya at the Mbombela Stadium in South Africa on Friday, before taking on Cape Verde at the same venue on Nov. 21.
Group E: Morocco, Zambia, Congo, Tanzania, Niger
With only the top team qualifying automatically for the finals, Zambia face a tough challenge in this pool, which also contains 2022 World Cup semifinalists Morocco.
Zambia host Congo in Ndola in their opener on Friday, before a trip to Morocco to face Niger on neutral territory on Nov. 21, with the latter unable to play fixtures at home.
It is a big bonus for Chipolopolo not to have to make the arduous trip to west Africa.
This pool has only five teams in it after Eritrea withdrew.
Group F: Ivory Coast, Gabon, Kenya, The Gambia, Burundi, Seychelles
It is fair to say Seychelles are the minnows in this pool, but as they say, hope dies last.
It doesn’t get any tougher than a trip to the Ivory Coast to face the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations hosts in Abidjan.
They will stay in the west African nation to play their second fixture against Kenya as they are unable to use their normal home venue. It is a rough start in a very tough group.
Group G: Algeria, Guinea, Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana, Somalia
COSAFA rivals Botswana and Mozambique go head-to-head in their pool opener in Francistown on Thursday, and both will no doubt be confident of victory.
Mozambique will then entertain pool favourites Algeria in Maputo on Sunday, before Botswana stay at home to welcome Guinea for their second pool match on Nov. 21.
Group H: Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, Namibia, Malawi, Liberia, Sao Tome e Principe
A pool where both Malawi and Namibia will be dreaming of a stunning upset, though both must travel for their first games.
Namibia are in Malabo to meet Equatorial Guinea, while Malawi go to Liberia for a tricky but winnable contest.
The Flames then return home and host pool favourites Tunisia in Lilongwe, while Namibia head to Morocco for a clash on neutral territory with São Tomé and Príncipe. This is a home fixture for the island nation.
Group I: Mali, Ghana, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Comoros, Chad
Madagascar and Comoros have both been improved sides in recent times and will also be dreaming of an upset but will need a good start in the pool.
Comoros host Central African Republic on Friday, before they welcome Ghana on Nov. 21, with both of those games in Moroni. They must take advantage of being at home.
Madagascar will travel to Ghana for their first game on Friday and stay away for a meeting with Chad in neutral Morocco on Monday.