Final AFCON Qualifiers To Confirm 16 Participating Nations In Gabon
This coming weekend sees the final round of AFCON qualifiers, with teams from all over the continent finalising their qualifying campaign for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, which is set to take place in Gabon in January and February next year.
These encounters will therefore unveil the 16 nations that will be represented at the competition.
Matches will take place across the continent on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Here is a brief look at some of the AFCON qualifiers, and what they will mean for the countries involved.
South Africa vs Mauritania
In a match that means nothing in terms of qualifying for the Nations Cup, as both teams are mathematically unable to do so, the theme of the encounter will be revenge for Bafana, who fell to Mauritania 3-1 in an earlier qualifier. The defeat is perhaps one of the worst in South Africa’s history, and they will want to make amends in Nelspruit to potentially end second in Group M below AFCON-bound Cameroon.
Ghana vs Rwanda
Ghana’s Black Stars have already qualified for the 2017 AFCON as winner of Group H, but the match against Rwanda has been overshadowed by a strange situation. After coach Avram Grant named his squad, Ghana sports minister Nii Lante Vanderpuye revealed that there was no money to pay for overseas-based players to travel, as well as accommodation for the team. This has led to many players paying for their own travel. Rwanda do not have a mathematical chance to qualify as one of the two best placed runners-up, so the match means little to them.
Ethiopia vs Seychelles
Ethiopia need a big win over Seychelles and favours from other groups if they are to qualify for the AFCON from Group J as one of the two best runners-up in qualifying. The Wayla Antelopes will host the Seychelles at the Hawassa International Stadium, and they can reach a maximum of 11 points if they earn all three with a victory over their islander visitors.
Cote D’Ivoire vs Sierra Leone
African champions Cote D’Ivoire have not yet secured a place in Gabon to defend the title they won in 2015, but with a home match against Sierra Leone this weekend, they have their destiny in their own hands, and know that a win will earn them a ticket to Gabon. Sierra Leone will be motivated to give the encounter all they have, as a victory will see them overtake the Elephants, while a win for Sudan over Gabon would mean that Sierra Leone end the campaign top with an automatic qualifying spot.
Cameroon vs Gambia
Cameroon have already secured their ticket to Gabon from a Group M that contained Mauritania, South Africa and Gambia. In another of the AFCON qualifiers the Indomitable Lions face bottom of the log Gambia, who are on only two points, and are expected to beat them without too much trouble.
Nigeria vs Tanzania
Unfortunately for John Obi Mikel and the Super Eagles, Nigeria does not have a chance to qualify for the 2017 AFCON, as Egypt have already topped Group G, and the Nigerians only have two points from three games. Tanzania are in the same boat at the bottom of the group, so this encounter will serve as preparation for the World Cup qualifiers to come.
Senegal vs Namibia
The West Africans earned qualification to the continent’s flagship competition some time ago, topping Group K ahead of Burundi, Namibia and Niger. With maximum points from the five games they have played in qualifying, The Teranga Lions are looking strong ahead of the Nations Cup, and they will want to finish qualifying on a high with victory against Namibia.
Zambia vs Kenya
Unfortunately for both Zambia and Kenya, neither of the two sides are able to acquire qualification to the 2017 AFCON, as they cannot top the group or finish as one of the two best placed runners-up in the overall standings. The match will still be an interesting encounter with pride on the line, as Kenya find themselves on four points, while Zambia is on six points, so a win for either side would mean a finishing place above their opponent.
Morocco vs Sao Tome
Morocco are already qualified for the AFCON thanks to five unbeaten matches in which they earned 13 points. Their final qualifying match will be against minnows Sao Tome e Principe in Rabat on Sunday. Sao Tome managed a stunning 2-1 win over Libya in March, but those would be their only points in the group, as they sit bottom. The last time to two sides met Morocco emerged 3-0 winners.
Algeria vs Lesotho
The Fennec Foxes have been dominant in Group J of the qualifiers, going unbeaten in five matches while earning 13 points to guarantee top spot and a berth at the Nations Cup finals next year. This final qualifying match in Blida will be an opportunity for the team to continue their preparations, while qualification is beyond Lesotho, so they will view the outing as a friendly match.
Tunisia vs Liberia
Tunisia and Liberia face off for a place at the 2017 AFCON when they clash in their last Group A qualifier in Monastir on Sunday. The two teams are top on 10 points apiece, which means that a victory for either nation would guarantee first place and a ticket to Gabon. However, a draw would likely cause a three-way tie at the top of the group between Tunisia, Liberia and Togo (who should beat Djibouti in Lome) on 11 points.
The Remaining Fixtures
2 September AFCON Qualifiers
Sudan vs Gabon
3 September AFCON Qualifiers
Cape Verde vs Libya
Angola vs Madagascar
Mozambique vs Mauritius
4 September AFCON Qualifiers
Uganda vs Comoros
Malawi vs Swaziland
Burkina Faso vs Botswana
Guinea vs Zimbabwe
Congo vs Guinea Bissau
Equatorial Guinea vs South Sudan
Congo DR vs Central African Republic
Togo vs Djibouti
Mali vs Benin
Niger vs Burundi