It’s the final round of the AFCON qualifiers with most of the top nations in the continent sealing qualification early, while for some, they’ve left it late to learn their fate. There’s plenty of big games to look forward to, so let’s see who will get into this year’s showpiece in Egypt.
Friday 22 March
Malawi, who are dead and buried, close their qualifying proceedings with a clash against Group B leaders, Morocco. With just one win and four points to their name, there’s no way of getting into the big time for the hosts, while Herve Renard’s men just need a point to seal top spot. Hakim Ziyech has been in superb form for Ajax Amsterdam and should continue his excellent run of form with the national team. Back the away win here.
Nigeria, who have sealed qualification into this year’s AFCON, need a victory to guarantee top spot in Group E. However, if they get a point and South Africa fail to beat Libya, the Super Eagles would remain ahead of the pile.
Seychelles have been the whipping boys in the qualifiers thus far, and have a goal difference of (-20). In the Seychelles, Nigeria won 3-0, so expect a much bigger scoreline as Gernot Rohr called up a strong 23-man squad. Get on the home win!
Burkina Faso 1/1
Burkina Faso will be hoping to join Mauritania in the 2019 AFCON when the two sides do battle this Friday. The visitors have won four of their five matches in the group, while Burkina Faso have won just two of their five games, losing two as well. With home advantage, I’d expect the hosts to grind out a point, sadly, it wouldn’t be enough to qualify.
Botswana will look to spoil the party for Angola, who are two points ahead of Burkina Faso, although, it could also be considered as a free-hit fixture with nothing left to play for. In their opening five games, Botswana failed to win, losing four times. With much more to play for, I’m backing the visitors to get the job done.
Equatorial Guinea 19/10
Sudan and Equatorial Guinea will by no means set Africa alight in this fixture, with both teams suffering disappointing campaigns in their quest to qualify for this year’s AFCON. They share a similar record, losing four of their five encounters, winning once each. A dull affair is expected here with these sides tipped to cancel each other out.
Apart from the tie between Nigeria and Seychelles, this game between Tunisia and Swaziland provides us with the next banker. The hosts have already qualified for the 2019 AFCON, but still have a chance of topping the group ahead of Egypt. On the other hand, Swaziland are winless in the group, losing four of their five matches. Get on the home win.
Group D has proven to be one of the most entertaining groups, with all four teams still in with a chance of qualifying. At the top, Algeria just need a point to ensure qualification as the group leaders, while Gambia would need a victory as well as a favour from Togo, who need to stop Benin at all costs. Although just a point is needed, Algeria should do enough to grind out a win.
Saturday 23 March
It’s do or die for Gabon as they need maximum points in Burundi in order to seal qualification into this year’s AFCON. The return of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be a massive boost for Gabon after the Arsenal striker missed the last two qualifiers. For the hosts, its pretty straightforward, maintain their unbeaten run in the group and they’re through alongside Mali. My money is on a draw here.
Cameroon seek revenge against Comoros who are the only team in Group B to defeat the African heavyweights in this qualifying campaign. Cameroon still stand a chance of topping the group, while the visitors just have that one victory under their belts. They haven’t won away from home and will find the going tough in Cameroon. Back the home win.
High-flying Egypt will look to finish the job in Niger, where they will hope to keep the momentum and finish in first place ahead of Tunisia. Niger have won just once in five games, losing three times. It’s crunch time domestically for Liverpool, so coach Javier Aguirre has opted to leave Mohamed Salah with his club. Niger are expected to take advantage of that, with the draw tipped here.
Group K serves up another humdinger as Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique battle it out to ensure qualification into this year’s showpiece. The hosts are joint-leaders with eight points, alongside Namibia, with Mozambique trailing behind in third spot with seven points. Despite just needing a point to get through, I’m backing the hosts to claim maximum points.
Zambia, to many pundits’ surprise, languish at the bottom of Group K with no chance of qualifying to the 2019 AFCON. Chipolopolo would still want to end their disappointing campaign off on a high, and have called up in-form South African-based striker, Mwape Musonda, who is likely to link up in attack with fellow SA-based stars, Augustine Mulenga and Justin Shonga. The Zambian stars will not be the only Mzansi-based footballers with Namibia boasting the likes of Virgil Vries and Deon Hotto. My money is on Chipolopolo.
Cote d’Ivoire 1/6
Cote d’Ivoire already have one foot into this year’s tournament with just a draw needed to ensure qualification, regardless of other teams’ results. Rwanda have just two points, failing to win a match in the group thus far. Ivory Coast won their last home game 4-0 in the qualifiers and should do what is required of them against Rwanda.
Ghana and Kenya do battle in Group F having only played three times each, with Sierra Leone banned by FIFA, meaning both countries will participate in Egypt. Kenya have won two and drawn one of their three matches played so far, while Ghana look to leapfrog their opponents after winning two and losing one of their encounters. With home advantage, Ghana are tipped to edge it.
South Sudan 11/1
After an excellent group campaign which saw Mali qualify for this year’s AFCON, the Eagles will set their sights on finishing the job on South Sudan, who have been the worst country across all groups statistically, losing all five of their matches played. This tie is pretty straightforward with Mali tipped to cruise past their opponents here.
Sunday 24 March
DR Congo 7/10
Group G has also come down to the wire, with all four teams still in with a chance of booking their spot in Egypt. DR Congo could overtake Liberia with a win, and although they’ve been tough to beat, the hosts have struggled to pick up wins, drawing three of their five matches.
Liberia are still yet to pick up a point away from home in the group and will be hoping to turn their fortunes around if they’re to make it to the AFCON. Still, I can’t see anything but a home win.
Zimbabwe have qualification set in their hands, knowing that they just need to win their home game to progress. In fact, if other results go their way, they could progress as group leaders with just a point.
Congo have made it difficult for themselves, leaving them with an unthinkable task of getting a result in Zimbabwe. I’m expecting the likes of Khama Billiat and Knowledge Musona to have too much firepower for the visitors. Get on the home win here.
Central African Republic 11/10
Central African Republic will be looking to inflict Guinea’s first defeat in hope of snatching qualification by the skin of its neck, although they would need Ivory Coast to lose at home to Rwanda, which seems unimaginable.
Guinea still have top spot to play for, knowing that their run in the AFCON will be much easier, and a country like Guinea will need all the necessary help that they can get. For betting purposes, I’d back a draw here.
Cape Verde 6/10
Despite enduring a horrid campaign, Cape Verde and Lesotho still find themselves with a chance of progressing through to the AFCON. Both countries have won just one of their five matches played, and with Tanzania playing against Uganda, who are high-flying at the moment, both sides need to take their opportunity and bag maximum points. They drew 1-1 in Lesotho, but with home advantage, I’m backing Cape Verde to end the group off on a high.
A draw would not be enough to guarantee a spot in Egypt for Tanzania, but playing at home whilst already being in second place will mean the home side will fancy their chances against Uganda, who have already qualified as group leaders.
The visitors, however, have not conceded a goal in the group stages, which has seen Denis Onyango justify his title of being Africa’s number one goalkeeper. Despite not having much to play for, my money will be on Uganda here.
With Algeria expected to beat Gambia on Friday, both Benin and Togo will set their sights on leapfrogging the Gambians in second place. At home, Benin have already beaten Gambia and Algeria, keeping clean sheets in both ties, while they also managed to get a point in Togo. The momentum is with the home side and they should claim yet another home victory.
South Africa 29/20
TREBLE @ 5/2
Cameroon Win 1/6
Zimbabwe Win 9/10
Benin Win 6/10
Written by @NagelJesse – Twitter