Bitter rivals, Nigeria and South Africa will square off in a bid to secure qualification to the 2026 World Cup, following the draws made for the African qualifiers in Abidjan on Thursday.
The Super Eagles and South Africa’s Bafana Bafana, both of whom have a long-standing rivalry, are in the same group with Benin, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Lesotho.
The top team in each of the nine groups, which each contain six countries, qualify automatically for the World Cup.
The four best runners-up will enter an African playoff stage, where the winners will feature in the inter-confederation playoffs to be held in March 2026.
It means Africa is guaranteed nine places at the expanded 48-team finals, with a 10th side possibly added via the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Morocco have been drawn with Zambia, Congo-Brazzaville, Tanzania, Niger and Eritrea, and will be heavy favourites to finish top of the pool.
They had a thrilling run to the World Cup semi-finals in Qatar last year, the first African side ever to make it to that stage of the global tournament, and finished in fourth place.
African champions Senegal face a tougher road with Democratic Republic of Congo in their group and a potentially tricky away day in Mauritania. They also meet 2006 World Cup finalists Togo and the duo of Sudan and South Sudan.
Algeria missed out on the 2022 finals in heartbreaking fashion with a last-gasp playoff loss to Cameroon, but will be confident of getting it right first time as they clash with Guinea, Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana and Somalia.
The first two match days in the groups will be played on November 13-21, 2023 and the last two on October 6-14, 2025. The African playoff stage is scheduled for November 10-18, 2025.
Africa World Cup qualifying groups:
Group A: Egypt, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Djibouti
Group B: Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania, Togo, Sudan, South Sudan
Group C: Nigeria, South Africa, Benin, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Lesotho
Group D: Cameroon, Cape Verde, Angola, Libya, Eswatini, Mauritius
Group E: Morocco, Zambia, Congo, Tanzania, Niger, Eritrea
Group F: Ivory Coast, Gabon, Kenya, The Gambia, Burundi, Seychelles
Group G: Algeria, Guinea, Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana, Somalia
Group H: Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, Namibia, Malawi, Liberia, Sao Tome e Principe
Group I: Mali, Ghana, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Comoros, Chad.