After the spectacle of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the race to the Orange Africa Cup of Nations Morocco 2015 continues this weekend as 14 nations face-off in the first of two legged matches which will deliver the final seven teams into the final group phase of qualification.
The East African trio of Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya lead the charge into the weekend action seeking to end a combined distressing 80 years of non-qualification to the biggest continental soccer fest.
The Cranes’ last qualified in 1978, the Taifa Stars last appeared at the Afcon finals in 1980 while Kenya’s last showing was in 2004. Uganda have had a change of second round opposition following the disqualification of Equatorial Guinea who were banned from the 2015 edition for fielding ineligible Cameroon-born Thierry Fidjeu in their 3-1 aggregate win over Mauritania.
Mauritania were restored and took Equatorial Guinea’s place but Uganda coach Milutin Sredojevic goes into the clash at the Nelson Mandela stadium in Nambole not too pleased with his side’s unimpressive run of games in preparations, a narrow 1-0 win over Seychelles who travel to Sierra Leone and a 0-0 against the Flames of Malawi who have a tough date against the Squirrels in Cotonou.
Tanzania will be playing Mozambique for the fifth time in Afcon qualifiers, in which the former has never eliminated the latter, managing only one victory, lost twice and drawn once.
Taifa Stars skipper Nadir Haroub expressed optimistic that Tanzania was equal to the task and was hopeful of overcoming the Mambas.
“I know Mozambique is a good team and we have a lot of respect for them, but everyone in the team understands the importance of winning the game; there is a team spirit and no doubt we’ll win,” Haroub said adding: “We have a strong team that can beat Mozambique. We will fight hard for victory as we want to reach the next stage of the tournament, hopeful we’ll do so and bring joy to Tanzanians.”
Kenya’s Harambee Stars will not have first choice goalkeeper Arnold Origi will miss the encounter in Maseru. Arnold Origi, son of Kenyan legend Austin Makamu Oduor and a cousin of Belgian Divock Origi who played for Belgium in Brazil, also missed the first leg of the first preliminary round which Kenya won 1-0 to set up the fixture against Lesotho.
Across the continent, in West Africa, the Squirrels and Flames who both last appeared at the Nations Cup in Angola in 2010 square off in Cotonou.
Squirrels trainer Didier Ollé-Nicolle of Benin and Malawi’s Young Chimodzi are eager to get into the next round of qualifying and attempt a return at Morocco 2015. A testing fixture awaits the two sides in Cotonou at the Stade de l’Amitie.
Rwanda’s Wasps, who shocked CHAN 2014 Winner Libya in the last round are away in Pointe Noire against Congo. The Zebras engage Guinea Bissau in Gaborone.
Saturday 19th July
Botswana vs Guinea Bissau
15H30 National Stadium/Gaborone
Uganda vs Mauritania
16H00 Mandela National Stadium/Kampala
Sierra Leone vs Seychelles
Sunday 20th July
Lesotho vs Kenya
15H00 Setsoto Stadium/Maseru
Congo vs Rwanda
Benin vs Malawi
16H00 Stade de l’Amitie /Cotonou
Tanzania vs Mozambique
16H00 National Stadium/Dar es Salaam
Confederation of African Football (CAF) News
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