With the international break this week, we’ll be treated to an absolute feast of African football with a whole host of AFCON qualifiers scheduled to take place in the coming days.
With each team only having played two matches thus far, things are still tight across most of the 13 qualifying groups. That can all change though as all 52 teams will be in action twice over the next week or so. Let’s see whether or not we can find a few winners.
Thursday 24 March
Ghana 1/12 | Draw 9/1 | Mozambique 20/1
Ghana haven’t been the all-conquering force that we’ve been accustomed to seeing over the last few years, and it’s shown in their World Cup qualification campaign where they’ve struggled against the likes of lowly Comoros. Fortunately for fans of the Black Stars, the side has fared much better in AFCON qualification where they opened their in June account with a comprehensive 7-1 thrashing of Mauritius before beating Rwanda 1-0 in September. Their squad is littered with star names plying their trade in some of Europe’s most prestigious leagues. Look to the likes of Jordan and Andre Ayew as well maverick, Asamoah Gyan to provide the guile and flair up front Jonathan Mensah commands the back the four with his typically belligerent style of play.
They will come up against a Mozambican side who have yet to register a point in Group H and look destined to miss out on qualification to the showpiece African event. Abel Xavier’s side don’t really have the quality or depth to really compete at this level, at least not right now. The bulk of the squad plies its trade in either the Mozambican or Angolan leagues while there are a few guys over in Europe’s more unfashionable leagues. The side will be captained by Domingues, who PSL fans will know well from his time at Mamelodi Sundowns and more recently, Bidvest Wits. He’ll no doubt have his hands full as he attempts to shield his back four from wave after wave of Ghanaian pressure. Ghana are far too strong for the Mozambican side and should really stroll to victory. Back them to win both halves at even money.
Friday 25 March
Nigeria 8/10 | Draw 5/2 | Egypt 7/2
Nigeria and Egypt clash on Friday evening in what is no doubt the tie of the round. Nigeria, who are currently ranked 62nd in the world sit in second place in Group G having Drawn with Tanzania and beaten Chad in 2015. They will now face their biggest test as they prepare to take on the North African giants in front of what will be a sell-out crowd. The men from Central Africa haven’t set the world alight of late, as was underlined with their most recent 0-0 stalemate with lowly Swaziland in a World Cup Qualifier – bear in mind of course that I’ve not taken any of their African Nations Championship games into consideration. They still possess immense quality, with a frontline that will be led by Ahmed Moussa and Odion Ighalo, both of whom have been immense for CSKA Moscow and Watford respectively this season. Jon Obi Mikel will provide the steel in the midfield while Uwa Echiejile, Godfrey Oboabona, Ogyeni Onazi and Efe Ambrose complete a formidable back four.
Egypt come into this match with their backsides placed firmly in the driver’s seat of Group G following comprehensive wins over Chad and Tanzania in 2015. The team will be captained by Hossam Ghaly who many football fans will remember for all of the wrong reasons. He formed part of the Derby County squad that was relegated from the Premier League in 2008 with just 11 points and a solitary win to their name. The bulk of the squad play for one of Egypt’s top two clubs, Al Ahly and Zamalek while guys like Mohamed el Nenny and Mohamed Salah add a bit of European flair further up the pitch. I really do like the look of this Nigerian side, even if they haven’t quite clicked in their last few fixtures. They look good value to claim all three points against Egypt and move to the top of Group G.
Saturday 26 March
DR Congo 11/20 | Draw 28/10 | Angola 52/10
Our final port of call is the iconic Stade des Mastyrs where the Democratic Republic of Congo will go head to head with Angola in a top of the table Group B clash. The Congolese will head into this match brimming with confidence following the return of to action of Yannick Bolasie. The winger made his comeback two weeks ago for Crystal Palace following a fairly lengthy injury lay-off and looks to be getting back to his best. That’s not where the Central African’s goal threat ends, though. In Cedric Bakambu, they have one of the hottest young strikers in Europe right now. The Villarreal forward has bagged 11 league goals this term as well as three assists and will be looking to carry that form into the qualifier.
They will go up against a far less fashionable Angolan side. While they don’t possess a wealth of big European names like their counterparts, they’re still more than capable of upsetting even the strongest African teams. Their last fixture – again not taking into account African Nations Championship fixtures – came against South Africa where they were defeated at Moses Mabhida Stadium by a single goal following a Manucho Dinis own goal. I’m going to be dead honest in saying that aside from their two-legged defeat at the hands of South Africa in their World Cup Qualifier, I’ve not seen much of the Southern Africans. That said, I really like the look of this DR Congo team, I’d be more than happy to back them against even the strongest African opposition, thus I’m tipping them to get the business done against Angola at 11/20.