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Sports News Thu, 14 May 2020

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When will Black Stars start World Cup qualifiers?

Ghana were billed to begin their qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in October but with the current Covid-19 disruptions, much seems to be up in the air.

Having failed to qualify for the 2018 gathering in Russia, the West Africans are eagerly anticipating the next round of qualifiers.

A bye in the first round means the Black Stars are having to wait until the commencement of the second round to stick out a leg in action.

Ghana have qualified for the World Cup on three occasions.

On their maiden appearance at Germany 2006, the Black Stars surpassed expectations, beating the Czech Republic and the United States to finish second behind Italy at the group stage and qualify for the Round of 16 where they bowed to reigning champions Brazil.

At South Africa 2010, the West Africans went one step further as they reached the quarter-finals. Brazil 2014 would, however, end on a disappointing note for the four-time African champions as they suffered a first-round elimination for the first time.

Status quo before coronavirus

Caf's second round of World Cup qualifiers was originally set to begin in March but was later moved to October to make way for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers after the final tournament for the latter was brought forward from June/July 2021 to January/February 2021.

A January draw pitted Ghana against familiar foes South Africa, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia in Group G to battle it out for the sole qualification ticket for the third and final round in the race to Qatar.

Matchday 1's set of games are scheduled to come off between October 5-13 while Matchday 2 action is billed to take place between November 9-17.

There will be no further matches until March next year when a double-header takes centre stage with matchdays three and four.

The penultimate matchday of second-round matches have been set for August 30 - September 7, 2021, with the last round coming off between October 4 -12, 2021.

Will Covid-19 cause a change to the qualifying calendar?

Caf has already been forced to make a major change to its international calendar as Afcon 2021 qualifying matches billed for March were all postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus.

June's round of games has also been similarly affected as many nations are yet to open their closed borders to permit their international travels.

Caf has stated it will announce a new programme in due time.

With all the disruptions, it is currently unclear if Caf will be altering the current World Cup qualifying schedule which is still five clear months away from kicking in.

On the face of things, particularly with football beginning to return in many jurisdictions, it may be possible to play international games by October.

However, with the Afcon final set for January/February next year, the continental football's governing body may be forced to move the World Cup qualifying matches further away to enable the completion of the Afcon qualifiers in time should it hesitate to reschedule the final Afcon tournament one more time.

The Ahmad Ahmad-led administration is soon expected to announce the way forward for its competitions.

Source: goal.com

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