Any team that cannot fulfil an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying fixture between November 11 and 17 will be handed a 2-0 defeat, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) confirmed on Saturday.
African football’s governing body Caf says matchday squads must consist of at least 15 players – 11 starters plus four substitutes – for a qualifier to go ahead.
The measures come amid fears that the COVID-19 pandemic could affect some of the 48 matchday three and four qualifiers to be played over seven days from Wednesday.
Four international friendlies involving African countries were cancelled last month – two in Portugal, one in Turkey and one in Senegal – because of COVID-19.
Africans who tested positive while on international duty then included Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita of Guinea and Crystal Palace forward Jordan Ayew of Ghana.
There had been reports that Senegal and Guinea-Bissau were “discussing” playing each other twice in Lisbon, but the matches will go ahead in Thies near Dakar and Bissau.
Many countries like Mali have chosen larger-than-normal squads in case players are forced to withdraw because of positive tests for COVID-19.
“Prevention is better than cure,” said Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba as he explained why he had called up 37 players for qualifiers against Namibia in Bamako and Windhoek.
Caf said this week that all 48 qualifiers must be played behind closed doors, but have since added that if the government of the host team wants spectators, they can apply to the African body for permission.
The continental body also said both qualifiers could be played in one country, but only Sao Tome e Principe have taken up the offer, opting to meet South Africa twice in Durban.