This page details the process of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualification phase. Forty-six African nations, including hosts Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, entered the competition. Gabon and Equatorial Guinea automatically qualified as host countries. The other 44 nations were drawn into eleven groups, each containing 4 teams. Togo was later added to Group K after its reinstatement.
In each group, teams played each other home and away in a round-robin format. The top team in each group qualified, as did the runner-up of Group K (which contained 5 teams) and the two best runners-up from the other groups.
CAF conducted the draw for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign on 20 February 2010. The draw was held at Lubumbashi, Congo DR where the CAF Super Cup was held on 21 February 2010. The 11 teams in Pot 1 were selected based on their ranking after the 27th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola. The rest were ranked based on their position at the latest FIFA Ranking.
Togo were banned from the 2012 and 2013 Africa Cup of Nations tournaments by CAF after they withdrew from the 2010 tournament following a deadly attack on their team bus.
Togo appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with FIFA president Sepp Blatter stepping in to mediate. The ban was subsequently lifted with immediate effect on 14 May 2010, after a meeting of the CAF Executive Committee. Togo were readmitted to the 2012 and 2013 tournaments, and (in the case of the 2012 qualifiers) added to the qualification stage.
Note: The ranking of the Central African Republic and Algeria by their head-to-head records is shown below. As they could not be separated on these criteria, ranking was based on overall goal difference.
The Namibia Football Association made a formal complaint that Burkina Faso fielded an ineligible player, Yaoundé-born Herve Xavier Zengue, in the games on 26 March and 4 June. Burkina Faso coach Paulo Duarte says that the player is eligible as he has a Burkinabé wife. CAF opened an investigation, but later dismissed the protest saying it was filed long after the stipulated period for such appeals.
Namibia indicated that they would appeal the decision to CAF and, if necessary, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on two different points. Firstly that an appeal had been filed with the match referee prior to their game with Burkina Faso but had not been forwarded to CAF and secondly that such an appeal was in any case not required due to article 36.12 of the competition regulations which stated that "non-qualified or a suspended player to take part in group matches shall lose the match by penalty (3–0), even in the absence of protests/reservations".
The South African Football Association lodged a complaint against their elimination, claiming that goal difference should be used to decide on the group winner, as it is "the traditional way of determining a log standing". The South African team had believed they had qualified when the final whistle was blown following their 0–0 draw with Sierra Leone. The SAFA later withdrew its appeal.
The two best runners-up from Groups A–J qualify for the 2012 ACN. After the withdrawal of Mauritania from Group F, the following rule applies:
In case a group of four is reduced to three teams during the competition, the two best runners up of the groups of four were determined by taking into account their results with the first and third of their respective groups without taking into account their results against the last team of their groups in order to allow the second of the group reduced to three teams to remain in the race for the two best second.
The two best runners-up are determined by the following parameters in this order: