With only five qualifying berths available for teams from Africa, World Cup qualifying is a typically competitive and ruthless affair, with slip-ups and mistakes punished harshly, especially for the continental heavyweights.
With one game round to go, on Tuesday, it's going down to the wire, with Africa Cup of Nations champions Senegal on the brink of missing out on Qatar after losing their playoff first leg 1-0 to Egypt this past Friday.
Here are six times continental giants missed out on the World Cup in the past, a list of near-misses that the 2022 qualifying hopefuls will be desperate not to emulate.
We'll never know what African representation at the 1966 World Cup would have looked like, with the continent not having a side present at the tournament after all teams withdrew in protest at Africa's meagre allocation of places.
It's a situation that still hasn't truly been resolved -- with CAF's constituent members still unhappy with the continent's current representation at the tournament -- but in 1966, with no solution ultimately found, the World Cup continued without any African participation.
While 16 African nations were initially pencilled in to compete in the qualifying campaign, Ghana were by far the strongest team in the continent during the 60s and would have been favourites to qualify.
The Black Stars won the Nations Cup in both 1963 and 1965, reached the final in 1968 and 1970, and topped their group in the men's football event at the 1964 Olympics, defeating Japan and drawing with Argentina.
They didn't lose a match between May '61 and June '64, and boasted talent such as Edward Aggrey-Fynn, Wilberforce Mfum, Edward Acquah, Osei Kofi and Baba Yara.
Zaire, in 1974, ultimately became Africa's first sub-Saharan representative at the World Cup, although it's tantalising to imagine what Ghana could have achieved in '66.
Cameroon's Indomitable Lions were consistent World Cup qualifiers since their debut appearance in 1982, reaching four consecutive tournaments between 1990 and 2002.
By 2005, the fine side -- who won back-to-back Nations Cups in 2000 and 2002 -- may have lost Marc-Vivien Foe to cardiac arrest at the 2004 Confederations Cup, but were still considered African royalty.
Samuel Eto'o was approaching the pinnacle of his powers -- he scored 26 Liga goals for Barcelona in 2005-06 -- while the likes of Geremi Njitap, Alex Song, and current head coach Rigobert Song made for a star-studded supporting cast.
They negotiated a tough qualifying group containing both Egypt and the Ivory Coast effectively, but still required victory against the Pharaohs at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde in their final group game to advance.
The scores were tied at 1-1 when - with 95 minutes on the clock - Cameroon were awarded a penalty - and a gift-wrapped opportunity to secure qualification.
However, with both Eto'o and captain Song denying responsibility, left-back Pierre Wome was pressed into last-minute penalty duties.
Wome's effort slammed against the post, sending him into international wilderness for four years and preventing Cameroon from attending the World Cup for the first time in 20 years.
The 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign also proved miserable for Cameroon's fellow African giants Nigeria who, like the Indomitable Lions, had grown accustomed to gracing the grandest stage of all.
The Super Eagles had featured at three consecutive tournaments before coming unstuck in the qualifying campaign for the '06 tournament in Germany where, unlike Cameroon, they were outright favourites to win their group.
Nigeria largely impressed during qualification -- scoring 21 and conceding only seven -- but their head-to-head record against a far less convincing Angola side ultimately counted against them.
They were defeated 1-0 in Angola when Akwa netted the winner, and the Eagles had no response when Paulo Figueiredo cancelled out Jay-Jay Okocha's early opener in the return match in Kano.
Both sides ended the campaign on 21 points, with Angola -- first time qualifiers -- advancing by virtue of their superior head-to-head record.
It's the only time Nigeria have failed to reach the World Cup since their debut appearance in 1994.
Egypt's qualifying tussle with Algeria ahead of the 2010 World Cup was like nothing the continent had seen before, as the hostility and animosity between these north African siblings bubbled over across three remarkable fixtures.
Drawn together in Group C, Algeria triumphed in the first match in Blida - fortunately for head coach Rabah Saadane, who had tearfully acknowledged before the fixture that he would be afraid for his family's security were the Fennecs not to triumph.
Heading into the second match between them in Cairo, the intensity had been ramped up - not least as it dawned on Egypt just how costly it would be for this magnificent generation to again be denied a World Cup berth by their fierce rivals.
The Algeria bus was stoned before the match -- injuring three players -- with the Egyptian media blaming the visitors for fabricating the incident in order to have the fixture moved to a neutral venue.
Ultimately, Egypt won 2-0, with Emad Moteab's 95th-minute goal ensuring the two sides ended their group campaign with identical overall and head-to-head records.
This necessitated a neutral playoff in Omdurman, Sudan, where Anthar Yahia's 40th-minute goal settled a tense, cagey, feisty contest and ensured that the Golden Generation's best chance of reaching a World Cup had passed them by.
Despite being conspicuous by their absence at the 2010 tournament in South Africa -- the first and only edition on African soil -- Egypt did at least win the Nations Cup in Angola earlier that year (their third in a row), smashing Algeria 4-0 in the semifinal.
The coming years would prove tumultuous for Egypt, both the country - as it was dragged through the Arab Spring - and the national side, as the heroes of the Golden Generation steadily hung up their boots, some having witnessed the Port Said stadium massacre of 2012.
Nonetheless, the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign offered one last opportunity for the remaining vestiges of that great team to return the Pharaohs to the grandest stage.
The sight of the next superstar of the Egyptian game -- Mohamed Salah -- lining up against his hero, the old icon, Aboutrika at the 2012 Olympics in England had fuelled optimism that the young blood coupled with the old heads could finally end Egypt's qualification misery.
They progressed through the group stage as the only team with a 100 percent record, scoring 16 goals, with Salah and Aboutrika dazzling in tandem.
They both scored in 3-2 and 4-2 victories over Guinea, as well as the 4-2 triumph over Zimbabwe in Harare -- to date Salah's only international hat-trick -- and were slight favourites heading into their playoff against Ghana.
What followed in the first leg in Kumasi was one of the most humiliating hours in Egyptian football history, as a rampant Black Stars won 6-1 to render the return leg a formality.
The sight of Wael Gomaa, once Africa's most feared centre-back, being outpaced time and time again by Waris Majeed was a miserable epitaph for the continent's finest side.
Neither three-time AFCON winner Gomaa nor the iconic Aboutrika ever played for the national side again as the final fling ended in heartbreak, although Salah did make up for lost time four years later when he single-handedly inspired Egypt to Russia 2018.
Cameroon's Africa Cup of Nations victory in 2017 was 'against the run of play', with the Indomitable Lions going into the tournament against a backdrop of instability within FECAFOOT and various high-profile withdrawals from the squad.
Despite an underwhelming group-stage campaign, they muddled their way through the tournament and ultimately defeated Egypt in the Libreville final to end their 15-year wait for a continental crown.
It looked, at least from a distance -- as though Cameroon had returned to power after several years in the doldrums, including an ignominious showing at the 2014 World Cup and failure to even qualify for the 2012 or 2013 Nations Cups, and it was imperative they consolidated their revival with qualification to Russia.
No side in Africa, after all, has a prouder heritage at the global high table than the Indomitable Lions, who were the first sub-Saharan African team to pick up a point at the tournament, and the first African side to reach the quarterfinals.
No one from the continent has qualified for the tournament more often, but the squad's limitations, ongoing fissures, and a tricky qualifying group put paid their hopes of representing Africa.
A 4-0 demolition by Nigeria in Uyo in September 2017 -- only seven months after they'd lifted the AFCON crown -- brought Cameroon crashing down to earth, and ensured they missed out on the World Cup for only the second time since 1986.