The fourth round of qualifiers for the 2019 AFCON will take place this week. Here are some key themes to look out for.
Cameroon to hold tight
As the Cameroonian people get set to host the next Africa Cup of Nations, a dark foreboding cloud looms over the national team. By virtue of being the hosts, they should have an automatic qualification. However that is far from set in stone, as the Confederation of Africa Football Federation (CAF) is yet to make the final decision on their hosting. CAF president Ahmad Ahmad has stated they will pronounce their final verdict in November, after further addressing security concerns in Cameroon. Morocco is the next available host should things fall apart. With that very real threat bearing over the Indomitable Lions, the team will be keen to keep winning in order to seal their qualification with or without hosting rights. They take on Malawi this afternoon.
Uganda on the brink
It’s been 39 long years since the Uganda Cranes last had a taste of the AFCON. They’ve been wetting their beaks in recent weeks as the prospect of qualification looks more and more likely. As things stand, the Cranes are perched on the edge of glory, and the only thing that stands between them and a second successive international qualification is a victory over Lesotho, contingent on Tanzania failing to beat Cape Verde Islands. Uganda won 3-0 at home against the southern Africans last week, and it’s easy to picture them doing the same tonight.
Kenya crossing their fingers
There will be quiet nights and empty skies in Group F this week. Not a single Harambee Star, Leone Star, nor Black Star will be in sight. This is due to uncertainty on the status of Sierra Leone in the Competition. Earlier this month, the country’s football association failed to lift a suspension handed to them by FIFA. The likely scenario is that Sierra Leone will be removed from the competition and their results expunged. Kenya currently lead the group with seven points to their credit after three matches. If the Leone Stars are evicted, it could mean seeing Kenya at the Nations Cup finals for the first time since 2004.
The great North African revival?
North African teams had a rather dismal showing at this year’s World Cup. Thankfully for them, the tides have turned. Tunisia is now on two consecutive wins in the qualifiers. The same is true for Egypt who thrashed Niger 6-0 in their penultimate qualifier, and hammered Swaziland to the tune of 4-1 last week. Algeria haven’t had it quite as easy with a draw and one win to their name, but they have an equally golden chance to qualify for the AFCON finals if they get another win against Benin this week. Tunisia could also seal their 14th successive continental finals with a win in Niger. If the Eagles of Carthage come out victorious and Egypt beat Swaziland once more, we could be seeing all three North African giants at the finals.
Three-way shootout in Group C
Things will go down to the wire in Group C, which is currently the tightest race for qualification. It will culminate in a three-way shoot-out between current leaders Mali who boast seven points, Burundi sitting on five, and Gabon who have four points. South Sudan are well out of the race having lost all three of their matches thus far.