Africa Union

Afcon 2023: Two qualifiers moved after Tunisia consider boycott

Qualifying dates for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations have been changed shortly after Tunisia suggested they may skip the tournament to concentrate on preparations for the 2022 World Cup.

All six rounds of Nations Cup qualifiers were initially due to be concluded in September this year, with four matches in June and two in September.

The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has approved modifications to the schedule, moving two matches from June to March next year.

However, Tunisia and the four other African sides who have qualified for the World Cup – Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco and Senegal – will still be restricted in their preparations for the tournament in Qatar, which will be held in November and December.

Moving two games from June can allow two friendly matches to be arranged or for players to be rested.

However, September's international window, when African sides would still face key Nations Cup qualifiers, is the last one available to national teams prior to naming their World Cup squads.

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Clubs then have to release players on 14 November, a week before the first group matches in Qatar.

The 2023 Nations Cup in Ivory Coast is scheduled for June and July next year, with the qualifying group draw set to be be conducted on Tuesday, 19 April.

Sides will be split into 12 groups of four, with the top two in each group progressing to the finals.

'Will we sacrifice 2023 Afcon or not?'

Earlier this week, Wadie Jary, president of the Tunisian Football Federation (FTF), said the country could boycott Nations Cup qualifiers if they were not moved, while BBC Sport Africa understands the Moroccan federation did ask Caf to postpone games.

"If Caf doesn't change the dates, then it becomes a problem," Jary told Tunisian TV station Attessia.

"It becomes a question of whether we participate in this Afcon or not, if it will distract from our World Cup preparations.

"At that point, the question will arise: 'Will we sacrifice the 2023 Afcon or not?'. I hope it doesn't get that far and we come to find a solution with Caf."

It is unclear if Caf's modifications on Friday will appease the FTF, which BBC Sport Africa has contacted for further comment.

Tunisia have played in the past 15 Nations Cup finals, but a Caf spokesperson would not be drawn on the comments by Jary, who also sits on Caf's executive committee.

"We cannot comment on the statements allegedly made by president Jary," he said before Caf announced the updated schedule. "I'm sure if he needs to consult Caf, he knows who to talk to."

Caf president Patrice Motsepe visited the Ivorian capital Abidjan on Monday and said he was "reassured" by the progress made in preparation to host the continent's showpiece tournament.

Caf is yet to sign a host country agreement with Ivory Coast for the 2023 Nations Cup, but it is working on a deal.

The tournament dates in June and July fall during with the rainy season in West Africa – an issue which was a factor in moving the 2021 edition in Cameroon to January and February this year.

Artmotion S.Africa

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