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Two African nations withdraw from World Cup

JOHANNESBURG, Sept 7 (Reuters) - The Central African Republic and Sao Tome e Principe have pulled out of the 2010 World Cup, precipitating a change in the first phase of the African qualifiers.

Both countries had been due to play in a first knockout round next month.

FIFA said in a statement it had changed the draw for the opening round of African qualifying matches, in which the 10 lowest ranked teams had been paired.

No details were given as to the reasons for the withdrawal of the two countries.

Swaziland and the Seychelles have now been handed byes into the group phase.

Madagascar will play the Comoros Islands, who are making their World Cup debut, and Sierra Leone take on Guinea Bissau in two-legged ties next month and in November.

Djibouti will meet Somalia in a single play-off match in Djibouti on Nov. 17. Somalia have had to forfeit home advantage because of the civil war in the country.

The winners of the three ties will join 45 other countries in the group draw, to be made in Durban on Nov. 25.