More teams gear up for 2017 AFCON

Three more nations can qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Gabon on Saturday as the penultimate round of fixtures continues.

Group winners will all grace the finals along with the two best runners up.

If Senegal’s Teranga Lions can pull off a draw in Burundi on Saturday, they will win Group K.

Meanwhile Egypt’s Pharaohs need to avoid a loss in Tanzania to qualify as Group G winners.

In Group C group leaders Mali also have a chance of advancing to the finals as they play away in South Sudan, however a current FIFA ban on 2nd placed Benin leaves their game against Equatorial Guinea in some doubt.

Benin are currently the best second-placed side in the competition with eight points.

If the sanction is not lifted before Sunday’s game in Cotonou the Squirrels will be eliminated from the qualifiers.

Mali remains unbeaten in 2017 qualifying and lead the group with 10 points, but the Eagles did lose 1-0 to Nigeria in a friendly last week.

Meanwhile 3rd placed South Sudan have three points having won their first ever competitive game last year with a lone-goal win over visiting Equatorial Guinea.

The South Sudanese have appointed Ugandan Coach, Leo Adraa for their final two Nations Cup qualifiers.

In Group K runaway leaders Senegal have been preparing to face Burundi in Rwanda.

The Teranga Lions have won all of their qualifiers so far and top the group with a maximum 12 points, while second placed Burundi have just six.

The group’s other fixture is a fight for survival with Namibia hosting Niger, both sides need a win to keep any hopes alive.

The withdrawal of Chad from Group G means that Tanzania must beat Egypt by at least four clear goals to keep their hopes alive.

Tanzania must then also win in Nigeria, who have been knocked out, in September to draw level with Egypt on seven points at the top of the group and qualify thanks to their better head-to-head.

Saturday’s game is Egypt’s final match in the qualifiers and they are without Al Ahly captain Hossam Ghaly who was left out of the squad by Argentine coach Hector Cuper.

The seven-time African champions are aiming to qualify for their first Nations Cup finals since they won the title in Angola in 2010.

2012 African Champions Zambia know they cannot lose in Guinea-Bissau if they are to have a chance of finishing top of Group E.

A win for Guinea-Bissau will take them to 10 points and on the verge of qualifying for their first-ever Nations Cup finals tournament.

Zambia are currently level on six points with Congo-Brazzaville, who play the already eliminated Kenya on Sunday.

Congo are ahead of Zambia on goal difference as their head-to-head record is identical after two 1-1 draw in March.

In Group I Sierra Leone play host to Sudan, both nations know that only a win will keep alive their qualification hopes.

Ivory Coast top this group with five points and take on 2017 hosts Gabon on Saturday in what is effectively a friendly match.

South Africa will have one eye on Cameroon’s Group M game in Mauritania on Friday as they prepare to face Gambia.

That’s because if Cameroon win and qualify the best South Africa can hope for will be a runners-up spot.

Bafana Bafana are yet to win a match in the qualifiers and just three points so far from three draws, they also lost to Mauritania

The Gambia are on two points and only have an outside chance of finishing second in the group.

Coach Sang Ndong is in his third stint of the Scorpions but will have to do without one of his key players Modou Barrow, who plays for English Premier League side Swansea City.

Barrow told reporters he was injured before he missed Monday’s friendly goalless draw at home to Zambia.

In Group F there is a battle between two Atlantic Ocean archipelago’s as Sao Tome and Principe host Cape Verde.

Cape Verde, who are aiming for a third straight finals, will be guaranteed second place if they can win and Libya lose or draw against Morocco on Friday.

Morocco have already won the group and qualified for the finals.

Rwanda know that even a win over the already eliminated Mozambique in Kigali may not be enough for them to win Group H.

Ghana will claim top-spot if they win in Mauritius on Sunday.

The Rwandans will be looking to bounce back from their 2-0 loss to Senegal in Kigali on Saturday.

Uganda travelled via Zimbabwe for their Group D qualifier against Botswana.

The Cranes had hoped to give a full competitive debut to Werder Bremen’s Melvyn Lorenzen after he played in their 2-0 loss to Zimbabwe in a friendly in Harare on Tuesday.

The 21-year-old striker played in the first-half of the match and impressed as he hit the bar but afterwards says he still needed to decide whether to commit his international future to Uganda.

He was born in London and qualifies to play for Uganda through his father, he also has German citizenship thanks to his mother.

Coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic will be worried about the fitness of striker Faruku Miya, who plays in Belgium for Standard Leige.

He missed their loss to Zimbabwe with concussion but then returned to training on Thursday.

The Cranes will also be without US-based midfielder Mike Azira, who has chosen not to join the squad citing fatigue after a busy MLS season with Colorado Rapids.

Moses Oloya also misses out having stayed in Vietnam in order to recover from injury.

The final round of group matches will be played in September.


BBC/Aisha JM