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Race for Olympic slots gets hotter

22 May 2015 08:33

The Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games is a year away, however the battle for places takes another turn this weekend with the first leg matches of the second round of the continental qualifiers.

 

Seven teams will emerge from the knockout rounds to join hosts Senegal for the African U-23 Championship from 28 November to 12 December 2015, where the top three teams will qualify for the final tournament in Rio de Janeiro.

 

Leading pack in the penultimate round of matches in the qualifiers are Cameroon and Ghana, two big names as far as Africa’s performance at the quadrennial multisport event is concerned.

 

Cameroon were the second African side to win gold at the 2000 edition in Sydney, Australia, replicating the jinx-breaking feat by Nigeria four years earlier in Atlanta, USA. The Indomitable Lions ‘golden generation’ included the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Geremi Njitap, Modeste M’Bami, Carlos Idriss Kameni and Patrick M’Boma. Since then, they have managed only one appearance, 2008 in Beijing (China) adding to their maiden appearance at the 1984 edition in Los Angeles, USA.

 

Four years ago, the Indomitable Lions crashed out at the first round, losing 4-3 on penalties to Tanzania, a result which puts so much pressure on coach Pierre Ndjili Ndengue and his charges to rise to the occasion against Sierra Leone.

 

The good news for the Cameroonians is that the Leone Stars have adopted the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaoundé for the first leg on Sunday, due to the existing ban of hosting games in Sierra Leone following the outbreak of the Ebola virus last year, meaning the Indomitable Lions will play both games at the confort of their home and in front of their local fans.

 

But Sierra Leone managed by England-born ex-national midfielder John Keister are taking no chances having reached this stage without action after Guinea Bissau withdrew at the first round, after weeks of preparations in Freetown.

 

In Accra, Ghana, the first African country to win a medal at the Olympics, 1992 in Barcelona (Spain) face yet another tough test on the road against Congo, after seeing off Liberia at the previous round. Coach of the Ghanaian team, Malik Jabir, a two-time Olympian, 1968 (Mexico City, Mexico) and 1972 (Munich, Germany) has boosted his squad with late call-ups to midfield duo, Moro Ibrahim who plays for FC Kairat in Kazakhstan and Enoch Ebo Andoh English lower side, Port Vale, after club commitments ruled out his preferred foreign stars.

 

“We have been preparing for the game since the Liberia game. The players are ready and I’m convinced they will deliver a result that will help our quest,” said Jabir, famed for his goal scoring abilities during his days with Asante Kotoko and the national team in the 60’s and 70’s.

 

Congolese coach, Claude Le Roy, a man who knows so much about Ghana football after his stints with the Black Stars between 2006 and 2008, has named the likes of goalkeepers Christoffer Mafoumbi (unattached) and Pavelh N’dzila (Etoile du Congo), and forward Sylvere Ganvoula (Raja Athletic Casablanca), all part of the Diables Rouges squad at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea, in his quest to upset the Black Meteors.

 

Botswana will go into the clash against Zambia with a new coach after Keitumetse Paul was fired barely 72-hours before the clash in Lobatse. Paul, who plotted the exit of Kenya at the first round, saw his appointment terminated for alleged misconduct following comments about five players of his team being drafted to the senior team for the regional COSAFA Championship in South Africa.

 

Uganda’s Serbian trainer, Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic makes a return to Rwanda for the first time since parting ways with the Amavubi Star almost a year ago, by guiding the Cranes to a familiar territory.

 

The Desert Hawks of Sudan, whose only appearance at the quadrennial multisport was 43-years ago at the 1972 edition in Munich (Germany) trek to Tunis as guests of the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia. The Sudanese are buoyed for the clash after holding Algeria to 1-1 draw in Blida last Tuesday before emplaning for neighbouring Tunisia.

 

In Harare, Zimbabwe will battle it out with Swaziland in a battle between familiar foes.

 

The second leg matches has been fixed for the weekend of 29-31 May 2015 with the winners progress to the third round.

 

Fixtures

Friday, 22 May 2015

Botswana vs Zambia

 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Ghana vs Congo

Mauritania vs Mali

Rwanda vs Uganda

Tunisia vs Sudan

 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Sierra Leone vs Cameroon*

Zimbabwe vs Swaziland

 

*Match to be played at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Omnisports Stadium in Yaounde

 

 

Confederation of African Football (CAF) News

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