A peculiar draw in Cairo, Egypt on Tuesday evening placed East African neighbours Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda in the same pool, drawing immediate excitement even before chances of qualifying are delved into.
Mali, the biggest name in the pool, completed Group E.
The first round of group games begins in October this year and ends in October 2021 before the final round of play-offs the following month.
Only 10 group winners will progress to the final play-off round, where two-legged ties will decide Africa's five World Cup representatives in Qatar.
The qualifiers had been due to begin this March but Caf postponed them after re-scheduling the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations from June to January.
The first round of African qualifiers saw the continent's 28 lowest-ranked sides compete over two legs, with the winners progressing to join the 26 nations given byes into the second stage.
The draw comes at a time political tensions between Uganda and Rwanda are simmering, while for Kenya, the two East African big boys have never needed an invite to throw each other off a sporting cliff.
Some of Uganda’s most memorable clashes with Rwanda and Kenya came in the 2004 and 2012 Africa Nations Cup qualifiers.
Then, the Amavubi Stars of Rwanda edged the Cranes in Kampala in that infamous 1-0 ‘juju’ encounter at Namboole before drawing in Kigali to qualify for Tunisia 2004 finals.
The Cranes also heartbreakingly failed to make it to the 2012 AFCON finals after a goalless draw with Kenya’s Harambee Stars at Namboole in 2011.
The group details are:
Group A: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Djibouti
Group B: Tunisia, Zambia, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea
Group C: Nigeria, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Liberia
Group D: Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Mozambique, Malawi
Group E: Mali, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda
Group F: Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Angola
Group G: Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia
Group H: Senegal, Congo, Namibia, Togo
Group I: Morocco, Guinea, Guinea-Biisau, Sudan
Group J: DR Congo, Benin, Madagascar, Tanzania