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MBABANE – A tight schedule awaits senior national football side Sihlangu in the new year.

On top of four confirmed 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers, Dominic Kunene’s troops are expected to feature in the annual Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Cup which is usually played between June and July. AFCON qualifiers resumes in March, with Sihlangu’s first stop away in Cape Verde. Sihlangu played two out of the six qualifying matches and they drew 2-2 with Togo and lost 1-3 to Burkina Faso. The remaining four games will be played between March and September 2023.

Notably, the 2023 edition of the AFCON was moved to 2024 over weather concerns. The tournament, set to take place in Ivory Coast, has been rearranged from its original date between June and July 2023 and will instead be played in January and February 2024. On top of the AFCON qualifiers and COSAFA Cup games in 2023, Sihlangu are expected to begin their journey to the 2026 FIFA World Cup finals to be staged in three countries.

Qualification will be between 2023 and 2025. Canada, Mexico and the United States of America were named as the hosts for the global soccer showpiece. Instead of the usual 32, at least 48 countries are expected to do battle on the biggest stage in world football. Africa is expected to have a minimum nine slots instead of the usual five. Based on the tentative schedule, Sihlangu might be forced to play about 10 games in six months, especially if they start the COSAFA Cup in the group stages.

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