Lebogang Phiri of SA and Elyas Samawal of Sudan during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers match between South Africa and Sudan at Orlando Stadium on November 17 2019 in Johannesburg. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ LEFTY SHIVAMBU
Lebogang Phiri of SA and Elyas Samawal of Sudan during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers match between South Africa and Sudan at Orlando Stadium on November 17 2019 in Johannesburg. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ LEFTY SHIVAMBU

Bafana Bafana will learn their pathway early in 2020 to a potential World Cup finals place in 2022, but SA’s poor ranking will guarantee a tough task in the bid to qualify for Qatar.

The draw for the group phase of the African qualifiers has been set for Cairo on January 7, when Bafana will be among 40 teams to be drawn into 10 groups of four teams.

Fifa rankings will be used to determine the seedings. Given that Bafana are outside the list of the top 10 teams on the continent‚ despite a quarterfinal place at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt earlier in 2019, they will not be in the top tier.

It means they have a strong chance of being paired with one of the continent’s form teams‚ which will make qualifying for the World Cup finals tough.

Bafana are the 13th best African team according to the latest Fifa rankings‚ where they sit in 72nd place among the world's teams.

SA were spared having to play in September’s preliminary round where the bottom 28 countries in the Fifa rankings played a knockout duel over two legs.

The 14 winners advanced to join the top 26 countries on the continent.

Now they are to be paired into 10 groups of four with only the group winner advancing to a final round of play-offs to determine Africa’s five places at the finals in Qatar.

The group phase of the World Cup qualifiers begin as early as the next international break in March‚ leaving new Bafana boss Molefi Ntseki little time to study their first opponents.

SA will be participating for the eighth time in World Cup qualifiers‚ which includes the 2010 event which the country hosted. SA played in the qualifiers despite already being in the final field as hosts. That was the last time Bafana went to the World Cup‚ having first qualified in 1998 in France and again four years later in Japan and South Korea.