2013 Nations Cup qualifying to precede 2012 finals

Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium
The race to qualify for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa will begin in a month's time, two weeks before the 2012 finals get underway

Qualifying for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations will start ahead of the 2012 finals, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) has revealed.

The preliminary round's opening legs take place on 6-8 January, two weeks before the 2012 Nations Cup begins.

Meanwhile, the return legs of those ties will take place on 20-22 January, the same weekend as the finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon kick off.

The scenario has arisen as the finals are moving from even years to odd ones.

This action has been taken by Caf to ensure that the Nations Cup, which has been played in even years since the 1965 finals, no longer clashes with the World Cup.

The second qualifying round begins in late February before concluding in June.

Meanwhile, the third and final round of qualifiers will take place in September and October.

Only four teams will enter preliminary round one, with Seychelles taking on Swaziland and Sao Tome meeting Lesotho - with the winners meeting DR Congo and Sierra Leone respectively in the next round.

The second round intensifies the race to qualify for the finals in South Africa, with 28 teams clashing home and away, albeit with four months separating the ties.

It is at this stage that some of African football's superpowers enter the field, such as former continental champions Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria.

The third and final round of qualifying takes place in September and October, when the 16 teams who contest next month's Nations Cup enter the field.

Since 30 teams contest the final round, two finalists from Equatorial Guinea and Gabon must clash in this round.

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