Africa begins its path to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Togo line up for their 2006 World Cup encounter against France
Togo appeared at their only World Cup in Germany in 2006 but now have to negotiate the preliminary phase if they are to reach Brazil 2014

Africa's journey to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil begins on Friday with the first legs of eleven preliminary matches across the continent.

Djibouti will get the tournament underway as they host Namibia in a match kicking off at noon local time.

All matches take place on Friday, save for Somalia's clash with Ethiopia which will be played in Djibouti for security reasons - and takes place on Saturday.

The round's biggest teams are former World Cup qualifiers DR Congo and Togo.

The 11 overall winners will join Liberia, who received a bye when cash-strapped Mauritius withdrew, will advance to the group phase of the competition next June.

That is when Africa's top 28 nations begin their campaign, with a total of 10 four-team groups advancing the winners to the third and final round of qualifying.

Five teams will represent Africa at the first World Cup staged in Brazil since 1950.

Hoping to be among them will be 2012 Africa Cup of Nations co-hosts Equatorial Guinea, who will relish a taste of competition at home to Madagascar after a succession of friendlies.

Their game against the Malagasy will be the first in charge of French coach Henri Michel, even though he took charge in January.

New Kenya coach Francis Kimanzi will be confident he can ease his side past the Seychelles, with the Harambee Stars starting their quest to reach their first World Cup in the luxurious setting of Roche Caiman.

Another island nation hosting a qualifier on Friday are Comoros, who host a Mozambique side playing under German Gert Engels, who was appointed last month.

Elsewhere, Lesotho - whose national side reformed in July after a two-year break - will be fielding a number of the Under-20 side who have performed so well in recent years as they host Burundi.

Sao Tome e Principe make Lesotho's international hiatus seem short as their home match against Congo Brazzaville will be their first international in over eight years.

The long break means that one of the Confederation of African Football's long-standing members has dropped off the Fifa rankings.

Elsewhere, Chad host Tanzania while Rwanda, under new Serb coach Milutin 'Micho' Sredojevic, travel to play Eritrea.

The round of matches will be most galling for DR Congo and Togo however.

The first sub-Saharan country to represent Africa at a World Cup, when they turned out in Germany as African champions, the Congolese have neither won the Nations Cup nor qualified for a World Cup since - and start the preliminaries in Swaziland.

The Congolese recently hired experienced Frenchman Claude le Roy for a second spell as coach and he will be encouraged by a 3-0 win over Lesotho in neutral South Africa last weekend.

Togo are also on the road but should have the beating of Guinea Bissau even without Adebayor, whose self-imposed exile may soon be ending.

Adebayor quit Togo after the gun attack on the team on the eve of the 2010 Nations Cup and the team has been in the doldrums since with just one victory from eight 2012 qualifiers.

The second legs of the preliminary qualifiers take place on Tuesday 15 November, save for the Ethiopia-Somalia match which takes place a day later.

In all, Africa will stage 152 qualifiers to determine which five teams will reach the 2014 World Cup.

Top Stories