Road to Cameroon: AFCON 2019 Qualifiers, Part Three
A look at the third round of the group stage of the 2019 AFCON Qualifiers
The third round of group stage qualifiers for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations will continue with nine matches across the continent on Saturday, October 13.
South Africa v Seychelles
The action gets underway early in the afternoon as 1996 Champions, South Africa, continue with their quest for their second continent’s big prize, as they square off against Seychelles in their Group E fixture of the qualifiers.
South Africa are heavily expected to pick up maximum points, but Coach Stuart Baxter has warned his team to expect a tough clash at FNB Stadium.
“Nerves, anxiety, complacency, things like that affect the intensity. If we play with the intensity we’re showing now, and the quality of the structure, then we will pick our way through, but it takes time,” he said.
Bafana are second in their group, behind Libya, but only on goal difference, having beaten Nigeria in the first group match and drawing with the Libyans last month.
Victory over Seychelles, home and away, will all but seal their passage to Cameroon in June next year.
On the other end, a victory for Seychelles has the potential to unofficially eliminate their opponents from the road to Cameroon, which only adds to the premise behind Saturday’s clash.
Seychelles’ key man Perry Monnaie is expected to start as the lone man up front on Friday with Nelson Laurence and Darrel Damoo providing support.
Bafana will be coming into the clash without Thapelo Morena and Vincent Pule, who have pulled out with injuries but the key replacements named by Coach Baxter have the capacity to fill up the voids left at ease.
If the Gavin Jeanne’s men will have chance to attack, then the hosts should also be untroubled at the other end of the pitch with centre-backs Buhle Mkhwanazi and Thulani Hlatshwayo expected to shut out their striking force.
In terms of play, Bafana boast some of the big names in African football and with one more advantage- their opponents are ranked 189th in the FIFA rankings that was released on September.
Seychelles are currently at the bottom of the group with no points having suffered a 5-1 defeat to Libya in their first fixture and going down 3-0 at home to Nigeria.
Without wishing to come across as disrespectful they have very little in the way of form to offer encouragement for an upset.
Uganda v Lesotho
Uganda play their third qualification match for AFCON 2019 when they host Lesotho in Kampala.
The Cranes were held were held to a goalless draw by Tanzania at home in their previous qualifier at the Mandela Stadium.
They created several goalscoring chances in a closely fought battle but were unable to find the breakthrough.
Sebastien Desabre’s team are currently on top of the standings with four points having secured a 1-0 victory over Cape Verde in their opening match.
The eagerly awaited fixture amongst Cranes fans will be another test for Frenchman who is still searching for his second victory as the national team coach since he was unveiled towards the end of last year. He has been in charge of ten games.
Meanwhile, Lesotho, who are undefeated in their last two games in all competitions having defeated Madagascar and drawn against Cape Verde, are this time in a crisis.
Their squad is not well balanced as they will be missing their key man Bokang Sello of Bantu FC due to suspension after accumulating two yellow cards.
To add to Sello’s woes: Lesia Thetsane, who is playing in United States college football for Columbia College, is also unavailable because of academic commitments.
However, the Likuenas will be welcoming back into their squad lead striker Thapelo Tale who is all-time leading goalscorer in the COSAFA Cup with five goals.
Tale, earned a late call-up on Tuesday to join the striking force that includes Matlama striker Motebang Sera and Nkoto Masoabi who has impressed since his August move to Real Kings in South Africa
At the other end of the pitch, Nicholas Wandanda and Denis Iguma have been having a great partnership and could struggle to cope with the movement of Masoabi in attack for Lesotho.
Both Uganda and Lesotho have met two times in recent years with the East Africans emerging victorious in both fixtures. The most recent meeting was a clash at last 2006 Africa Cup of Nations where Cranes won 3-0.
Senegal vs Sudan
Senegal takes on Sudan in their Group A match of the qualifiers at the Stade Léopold Sédar Senghor in Dakar, starting from 21h00 CAT.
The Lions of Teranga coach Aliou Cisse is expected to go with his favored 4-3-2 formation but with slightly different personnel.
The omission of Galatasaray midfielder Badou Ndiaye in their previous match against, Madagascar where the Lions of Teranga were held in a 2-2 draw, made critics to question team selection.
So far, Senegal sit top of the group log unbeaten with four points.
They have had an unimpressive record in their recent three matches in all competitions, having recorded two draws and one defeat.
On their side, Sudan are coming off a defeat in their last fixture as they were beaten 1-0 by Equatorial Guinea back in September.
This was the Falcons of Jediane’s second defeat in their last three games in all competitions having lost to Nigeria and defeated Libya, before facing Equatorial Guinea.
Sudan coach Zdravko Logarusic’s finishing has been poor but he is still expected to field regulars, mainly drawn from domestic league, to play in the two matches against Senegal.
Striker Saifeldin Malik Bakhit is expected to start on Saturday, but the 24-year-old has not scored in his last three appearances for the national team.
According to FIFA statistics, Senegal and Sudan have met in 8 matches: Lions of Teranga have claimed six wins compared to two for the Falcons.
Tunisia v Niger
Tunisia will face off with Niger in Group J of the qualifiers in a match set to be played at Rades Stadium in Tunis.
The North Africans are yet to taste defeat in the series. In their last match on September, they beat Swaziland 2-0.
The win extended Carthage Eagles’ impressive run, having claimed a 1-0 win over Egypt in their first match and are currently top of the group with six points, three ahead of their rivals.
Nonetheless, the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations champions will need to be wary of a Niger team that has been on the rise in recent times. Francois Zahoui’s men have not tasted defeat in five consecutive matches before their recent loss in the qualifiers to Egypt.
Both Tunisia and Niger have faced each other just two times in the past, with the North Africans emerging victorious in both fixtures. The most recent meeting between both teams was a clash at the 2016 African Nations Championship which Benzarti’s team won 5-0.
Morocco v Comoros
Morocco national senior men’s team will once again be in action this weekend as they look to build on their recent 3-0 victory over Malawi in Group B of the qualifiers.
Kick-off is at 2200 CAT.
The Atlas Lions head into the clash in the second spot on the group log, having accumulated three points from their opening two matches.
In the match against Malawi, the north Africans scored through Hakim Ziyech in the third minute while Youssef En-Nesyri struck a brace to hand Herve Renard’s men the win.
However, Comoros are the minnows of the group but will know that if they can beat Morocco at home their chances of finishing in top two and qualify for next year’s AFCON will be dealt a major boost.
The Coelacanths as they are affectionately known, are ranked 149th in the FIFA world rankings, 104 places below Morocco.
Comoros’s squad ply their trade in the lower leagues in France with quite a few players from their domestic league.
However, those players have had very notable success in the qualifiers, with the most recent one being a 1-1 draw over Cameroon.
The team managed by Amir Abdou are bottom of the standings with one point having suffered a 1-0 defeat to Malawi in their first match.
Morocco are expected to easily pick maximum points with the fearsome forward line of En-Nesyri, Ziyech and Younes Belhanda. The pace and movement of all three men should be too much for the likes of Camal Youssoufa and Kassim Abdallah in the Comoros defense.
Equatorial Guinea v Madagascar
Madagascar and Senegal will square off at the Estadio de Malabo in their second group A Fixture of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The Central Africans have looked good in their recent matches and should claim a comfortable win. They are expected to shock Madagascar who are favourites to grab maximum points.
Madagascar began their qualifying campaign for the with a shock 3-1 victory against Sudan and went on to hold Senegal 2-2 in their second match that was played in September.
Currently, they are sitting second in the group and despite their chaotic preparations, Nicolas Dupuis’ men are expected to be ruthless than they have been before. Their domestic league top scorer, Charles Andriamatsinoro will feature in the game and will lead the hunt of the goals with support from Faneva Andriatsima’s led midfield.
Equational Guinea and Madagascar faced each other once during the preliminary stage of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, where the West Africans earned a 2-0 win.
Mozambique v Namibia
Mozambique will host Namibia in the other Group K match of the qualifiers this weekend, in a game that will be played at Zimpeto Stadium in Maputo.
The other match of the group was played on Wednesday night, where Zambia beat Guinea Bissau 2-1, which has left Namibia under increasing pressure to remain in contention for a place at the 2019 AFCON finals.
The win saw Chipolopolo joining Mozambique and Guinea Bissau at the top of the log on four points each, while Namibia trail in fourth place on one point.
The situation can still change a lot over the next few days with Zambia travelling to Guinea Bissau for their return match on Sunday, while Namibia face Mozambique in Maputo this Saturday, with their return match scheduled for Windhoek next Tuesday.
With only a three-point deficit, Namibia is still in touch with the leaders, but they will have to start getting some points to remain in contention for a place at Cameroon next year.
Taking a brief look at the last meeting between the two sides, Mozambique has been dominating. The most recent clash was at the 2016 COSAFA competition which the Mambas won 2-0.
Saturday’s encounter will, however, be an important match for both teams especially after drawing in their second round of the qualifiers, where Mozambique played to a 2-2 draw at home to Guinea Bissau to while Namibia were held to a one-all-draw at home by Zambia.
Burkina Faso v Botswana
Burkina Faso will host Botswana at the Stade du 4 Août in Ouagadougou in a Group I match in a must-win match for both teams.
The Stallions are coming off of a 2-0 defeat to Mauritania in their previous international outing back in September.
This was Burkina Faso’s third defeat in their last five matches in all competitions.
They currently sit second on the group log with three points, having beaten Angola 3-1 in the first match that was played in July last year.
On their side, Botswana are currently at the bottom of the group with no points. In their second match of the qualifiers, they lost 0-1 to Angola.
The Zebras preparations have been affected by players boycott, and the team was about to miss the trip to West Africa until the government intervened.
The players wanted to be paid allowances from previous games before they could resume preparations for the trip to Ouagadougou.
Another case in the camp was that of rising midfielder, Lebogang Ditsele, which forced the team coaches to send him away for sneaking alcohol and women.
However, going into the match, Zebras are boosted by their 1-0 win against Namibia during Botswana’s Independence 52 years celebrations which was played on September 30.
DRC v Zimbabwe
The Democratic Republic of Congo will be aiming to take another step towards 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualification when they play host to Zimbabwe at the Stade de Martyrs in Kinshasa.
The Leopards currently occupy the second spot in Group G which was thrown wide open on Thursday, after Congo-Brazzaville beat Liberia 3-1.
With the victory, Congo now have four points, the same number with current group leaders Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The back-to-back fixture between Leopards and the Warriors, now means that a team that will collect six points in this top of the table clash will secure their place at the Afcon finals set for Cameroon next year.