African aspirants resume journey

JOHANNEBURG - After this week’s matches in the CAF preliminary tournament for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, the 40 remaining teams will be halfway through the group stage.
Libya, who surprisingly lead  Group I ahead of Cameroon, are away toDR Congo on Sunday.  Saturday Sport / T. Kisambira.
Libya, who surprisingly lead Group I ahead of Cameroon, are away toDR Congo on Sunday. Saturday Sport / T. Kisambira.

Fixtures
Saturday
Congo        vs    Gabon  
Cameroon    vs    Togo  
Nigeria        vs    Kenya  
Côte d’Ivoire    vs    Gambia
Namibia        vs    Malawi
Senegal        vs    Angola
Burkina Faso    vs    Niger
Tunisia        vs    Sierra Leone
South Africa    vs    CAR
Sunday
Tanzania    vs    Morocco  
Lesotho        vs    Zambia  
Mozambique    vs    Guinea
Congo DR    vs    Libya  
Ethiopia        vs    Botswana
Ghana        vs    Sudan  
Liberia        vs    Uganda  
Eq. Guinea    vs    Cape Verde
Tuesday
Egypt        vs    Zimbabwe
Algeria        vs    Benin

JOHANNEBURG - After this week’s matches in the CAF preliminary tournament for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, the 40 remaining teams will be halfway through the group stage.

With the knowledge that only the ten group winners advance to the final stage of qualifying, teams will be desperate to claim as many points as they can.

The big game

Burkina Faso-Niger

Although they have zero points from two matches and sit bottom of Group E, Burkina Faso have been buoyed by their performance at the recent CAF Africa Cup of Nations and are hoping to get their World Cup campaign on track.

Paul Put’s team sensationally reached the final match of the AFCON, and that achievement is something that Player of the Tournament Jonathan Pitroipa believes will help the team in their next games.

“Some people will laugh at the thought of Burkina Faso at the World Cup, but no one gave us a chance in South Africa and we surprised everyone,” said the Rennes winger.

For their part, previously unheralded Niger have reached the last two continental finals and are in with a shout on three points in a group led by Congo with six.

Elsewhere

Cameroon coach Jean Paul Akon will be missing three defenders for the Indomitable Lions’ crunch clash against Togo.

The six-time finalists are only third in their group on three points and will be without the injured Aurelien Chedjou and Dany Nounkeu, as well as Tottenham Hotspur’s Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who is not available due to personal reasons.

South African coach Gordon Igesund is in a similar situation as Bafana Bafana, with two points from two matches, take on the Central African Republic in Cape Town with several key players missing.

Newly crowned African champions Nigeria are at home to Kenya and are looking to extend their lead at the top of Group F, where Namibia take on Malawi in the other match.

Buoyed by the three points they were awarded after it was ruled that Sudan had fielded an ineligible player in their opening victory against the Chipolopolo, Zambia are keen to maintain their 100-per-cent record away to Lesotho.

After disappointing at the recent Afcon, Zambian players have vowed to move on and prove a point. “We have to go all out because we were very disappointed with the Afcon, so we need to prove that we are a better side and that we did not win the 2012 title by luck,” said South Africa-based striker Collins Mbesuma.

Hoping for a Zambian slip-up are Ghana, who are at home to Sudan and three points behind the southern African team.

Côte d’Ivoire fans will be witnessing an unusual sight in Abidjan when Les Elephants take on Gambia. Sabri Lamouchi has dropped talismanic captain Didier Drogba, though the coach has said that the former Chelsea player remains in his plans.

“He has had three different clubs in the last eight months and his time in China cost him a lot of fitness. But I am still counting on him in the World Cup qualifiers,” said the French coach.

The Ivorians top Group C with four points, while Tanzania, who are a point behind, host third-place Morocco. Senegal, who reached the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals in 2002, can take a giant step towards the next round if they beat Angola, and Liberia do them a favour by beating Uganda in Group J.

Guinea are looking for a win in Mozambique to keep the pressure on Egypt in Group G, while Ethiopia want to stay top of their group with a victory at home against Botswana.

Libya, who surprisingly top their group ahead of Cameroon, are away at Congo DR, while Rwanda take on Mali. Cape Verde are hoping to build on their Afcon success – they reached the quarter-finals in their debut - by securing their first qualifying points away to Equatorial Guinea.

Egypt against Zimbabwe and Algeria versus Benin are the matches being played on Tuesday.

 

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