By Duncan Mlanjira
Malawi national football team is seeded from the preliminary round of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) due to their better standings on the FIFA rankings as of last December.
The draw for the 34th edition, to be hosted by Côte d’Ivoire, will be conducted on Saturday at 15h30 GMT) and will be live on CAF digital platforms.
Level 1 of the draw, which is for the highest of the 12 least ranked teams have four from the Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) — Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana and Mauritius — joined by the Gambia and South Sudan.
Level 2 has Chad, Sao Tome & ePrincipe, Djibouti, Somalia Eritrea and COSAFA side Seychelles.
The six highest ranked teams in Level 1 will draw against the six least ranked teams in Level 2 with the first leg set to be played at home of the lower ranked teams.
The six aggregate winners will then join the 42 highest ranked teams into the group stage of the qualifiers where Malawi — ranked 129th in the world and 33 in Africa as of December — will get to know their qualifying opponents.
The COSAFA was represented at the 2021 Cameroun by the Flames and Zimbabwe, who saw themselves being drawn in same Group B together with Guinea and Senegal.
Malawi have gone through to the Round of 16 as best third-placed side following a 0-1 loss to Guinea, a 2-1 win over Zimbabwe and a 0-0 draw with Senegal.
Zimbabwe are out having lost 0-1 to Senegal in their opener, losing to the Flames and beating Guinea 2-0 in their last game but were still fourth on the table.
This leaves all COSAFA’s eyes on the Flames as they date Morocco in the Round of 16 to be played on Tuesday, January 25.
Last teams standing for the 2021 AFCON include the hosts Cameroun, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde (Group A); Senegal, Guinea, Malawi (B); Morocco, Gabon and Comoros (C); Nigeria and AFCON seven-time champions Egypt (D); reigning African champions Algeria and Côte d’Ivoire (E) with Gambia, Mali and Tunisia in Group F.
Meanwhile, CAFonline announced that former Cameroon captain Rigobert Song and Nigeria Super Eagles’ former star Emmanuel Amunike will be the AFCON 2023 preliminary round draw assistants — an honour for what they have achieved for African football in the playing career and thereafter.
The former Indomitable Lions defender and captain, Rigobert Song featured in eight AFCONs — 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 — winning the compettition twice in 2000 and 2002.
Amunike, the former midfielder for Super Eagles, won the AFCON in 1994 and was also part of the ‘golden generation’ team that claimed the Olympic gold medal in 1996 with Nigeria.
There will also be the draw for the African qualifiers of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 during Friday’s 2023 AFCON preliminary draw at which the 10 qualified teams will be divided into two levels based on the official FIFA ranking, published in November 2021.
The five highest ranked teams will play against the five least ranked teams (the first leg will be played at home of the lower ranked teams).
According to the ranking published on 19 November 2021 after the last round, the distribution of the teams on the two pots shall be:
Level 1: Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Nigeria
Level 2: Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali and DR Congo