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Several Nations out to seal AFCON spot as qualifiers continue

AFRICA – Uganda is one of a cluster of teams that can book a place in next year’s Africa Cup of Nations with victory in today’s qualifiers.

Saturday’s 3-0 over Lesotho in Kampala lifted the Cranes to 7 points from three games. A repeat result against the Southern African minnows will knock the stuffing out of the Crocodiles.

Cape Verde are second behind Uganda on four points but have a more demanding assignment against Tanzania’s Taifa Stars at the Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

Senegal’s Lions of Terranga are also well poised to progress from Group A along with surprise package Madagascar who have confounded the form book by grabbing victories away to Sudan (3-1) and Equatorial Guinea (1-0).

The two teams are tied on seven points, four clear of Equatorial Guinea. Aliou Cisse’s Lions are perhaps the continent’s strongest side never to win an AFCON title and should be too strong for 1970 champions Sudan.  Madagascar host Equatorial Guinea in Antananarivo.

With Cameroon already guaranteed a place as tournament hosts, Clarence Seedorf’s Indomitable Lions will use Tuesday’s tie with Malawi in Lilongwe to try to sharpen his goal-shy striking line.

Herve Renard’s Atlas Lions must contend with a potential banana skin away to Niger in the other Group B game.

Burundi’s emergence as strong contenders to qualify from Group C adds spice to today’s clash with Mali in Bujumbura. Despite their lowly ranking, the Swallows beat major odds to hold perennial campaigners Mali and Gabon in Bamako and Gaborone respectively.

Daniel Cousin will once again be counting on Pierre Emerick Aubameyang to provide the firepower in Juba where his side battle South Sudan.

Group E is even less straightforward. Nigeria’s 4-0 victory over Libya on Saturday only took them into second place behind South Africa, who demolished Seychelles 6-0. Competition winners in 1980, 1994 and 2013, Gernot Rohr’s Super Eagles can expect a stronger challenge from the Mediterranean Knights in Tripoli.

1996 champions South Africa are expected to roll over Seychelles in the other group game.

AFCON winners in 1968 and 1974 Democratic Republic of Congo are in danger of falling out unless they can atone for Saturday’s 1-2 reverse at home to Zimbabwe.

1972 champions and DR Congo’s neighbours Congo Brazzaville travel to Monrovia in buoyant mood following a 3-1 win over Liberia in Brazzaville.

Meanwhile, Javier Aguirre’s record seven-time champions Egypt will be protecting a one hundred percent record when they confront Estwatini (Swaziland) in Mbabane. However,  the Pharaohs are without talismanic skipper Mohammed Salah, as he was injured in the 4-1 victory over the same opponents.

In the other Group J game, Tunisia must negotiate a potential banana skin away to Niger as on Saturday the Carthage Eagles struggled to a 1-0 win over the West Africans.

Two round three matches have already been played.  On Sunday Kenya’s Harambee Stars dismantled Ethiopia’s Walya Antelopes 3-0 to improve their chances of making it to the Cameroon 2019 finals.  Kenya now lead their group with seven points from three games. The doubleheader between Ghana and Sierra Leone was postponed by world football governing body FIFA over government inference in the latter’s soccer administration. In Sunday’s second game, Guinea Bissau came back from a goal down to beat Zambia 2-1 to throw Group K wide open.

The fixtures:

TODAY:

Group A: Sudan v Senegal, Madagascar v Equatorial Guinea

Group B: Malawi v Cameroon, Comoros v Morocco

Group C: Burundi v Mali, South Sudan v Gabon

Group D: Benin v Algeria, Gambia v Togo

Group E: Libya v Nigeria, Seychelles v South Africa

Group F: Kenya 3-0 Ethiopia, Ghana v Sierra Leone postponed

Group G: Zimbabwe v DR Congo, Liberia v Congo Brazzaville

Group H: Rwanda v Guinea, Central African Republic v Ivory Coast

Group I: Mauritania v Angola, Botswana v Burkina Faso

Group J: Estwatini v Egypt, Niger v Tunisia

Group K: Namibia v Mozambique, Guinea Bissau 2-1 Zambia

Group L: Lesotho v Uganda, Tanzania v Cape Verde

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