September’s 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers have been postponed to allow the continent’s five World Cup-bound teams to prepare for the tournament in Qatar.
The postponement of the third and fourth round of fixtures had been mooted for weeks, especially after the dates for the finals in Ivory Coast were put back from June next year to January 2024.
Consequently, match days three and four qualifiers have been moved to 20-28 March 2023 by organisers the Confederation of African Football (Caf).
Match day five is now scheduled for 12-20 June 2023, with the final round of matches to be played between 4 and 12 September 2023.
Delaying the 2023 Nations Cup until early 2024, a decision taken to avoid playing the tournament during the rainy season in West Africa, has afforded Caf some leeway to re-arrange qualifiers during a packed calendar.
Back in April, two qualifying dates were changed shortly after Tunisia suggested they may skip the qualifiers to concentrate on World Cup preparations.
That allowed international friendlies to be arranged in June, when Senegal coach Aliou Cisse was among the more vocal critics of the fixtures scheduled in September.
The Teranga Lions were due to play home and away qualifiers against Mozambique rather than arrange matches against opposition from other continents before heading to Qatar.
The African champions are set to announce alternative fixtures soon, while Morocco are now expected to face South American opposition in the form of Chile and Paraguay in September friendlies.
Ghana – who have a friendly against Switzerland in the United Arab Emirates in November – and Cameroon are the other African teams who will be playing at the World Cup finals.