2019 AFCON Qualifiers: Ghana resume campaign, North African derby, Zambia must win & more
Okay fine, the 2019 AFCON qualifiers have been fun but almost dragging at the same time. From the get go, we all have been eager to find out who the 24 finalists will be for the June 2019 Africa Cup of Nations scheduled to be held in Cameroon. As matchday 5 of 6 comes to our screens from Friday the 16th November all through the entire weekend, it’s inevitable that a couple more nations could be confirm their booking for the finals. It obviously goes both ways, many will have their hopes and dreams crushed as well. Here is a pick of the weekend matchups you don’t want to miss.
Egypt vs Tunisia (Friday, 16 November 2018)
Both the Pharaohs and the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia already booked early tickets to the 2019 Cameroon finals after seeing off the kingdom of eSwatini and Niger in group J. Typically, this match would be what they call a dead rubber, but not this time, especially not for the North Africans. Tunisia won the bragging rights in the first leg and Mo Salah together with his teammates will surely turn up to restore pride and fight for the elusive top spot in the group.
South Africa vs Nigeria (Saturday, 17 November 2018)
You guessed right, we couldn’t miss mentioning this one. Arguably the most anticipated match of the weekend where everything is at stake in group E. All of Nigeria, South Africa and Libya are still pretty much in the running for only two spots to qualify for the finals. Bafana are yet to concede a goal so far in this tournament and welcome the free-scoring Super Eagles who missed out on the 2017 AFCON finals in Gabon. With a point separating the two and a defeat giving more hope to third placed Libya, no one will be planning to lose this one. Boosted by the return of controversial Thulani Serero, Bafana are clearly not entertaining the idea of losing at home and with the qualifiers’ top scorer, Odion Ighalo, among the visitors - they will have to do what it takes to avoid home and away defeats at the hands the Southern African boys.
Morocco vs Cameroon (Saturday, 17 November 2018)
There are matches you just cannot afford to ignore and the above encounter is such a one. Cameroon have already qualified by virtue of being hosts and visit second-placed Lions of the Atlas who still have to ward off convincing interest from third placed Malawi who visit Comoros. When two such highly rated nations meet; blood, sweat and tears are obviously shed. The Dutch Eredivisie’s best player, Hakim Ziyech will be on show in his Moroccan colors to welcome Clarence Seedorf’s Indomitable Lions.
Ethiopia vs Ghana (Sunday, 18 November 2018)
The AFCON 2017 semi-finalists find themselves on the back foot, off the qualifying places with only two matches remaining. The Blacks Stars are in this position as a result of suffering a shock defeat in Kenya and having their third and fourth matches postponed by reason of their opponent, Sierra Leone’s ban by CAF. Their fixtures against Sierra Leone could be reinstated but in the short-term, they will have to beat second placed Ethiopia in Addis Ababa to avoid missing out on the tournament finals for what would be the second time since 1992.
Mozambique vs Zambia (Sunday, 18 November 2018)
Now, the permutations of group K are super interesting. The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations champions, Zambia, are sitting not so pretty on the foot of the table, three points behind first and second placed, Guinea-Bissau and Namibia respectively. The Brave Warriors of Namibia who have appeared only twice in the history of the tournament are so close to a rare third appearance and will obviously mount a stronghold when they welcome first placed Guinea-Bissau on Saturday. Justin Shonga’s Zambia will have just to win all their remaining matches beginning with a tricky tie away at third placed Os Mambas of Mozambique. Of all teams in this group, I kid you not, the Zambian fans are not prepared to sit out an AFCON - the fight is obviously on.
Which match will you be watching and how are the chances looking like for your favorite team? Here is the full list of the fixtures.