The hunt for a slot at South Africa 2013 resumes this weekend with a number of nations up against each other in the first leg of the final round qualifiers.

Kawowo sports makes a brief preview of all the matches available on Saturday and Sunday. The Zambia – Uganda clash misses out as it will have a detailed preview latter. Let’s get started:

Central African Republic Vs Burkina Faso

CAR, nicknamed ‘Les Fauves’ (The Wild Beasts), have never appeared at an AFCON tournament but they are now just 180 minutes away from breaking that duck, having knocked out North African heavyweights Egypt 4-3 on aggregate in the previous round.

The Pharaohs may be going through a tough transitional period in their football, and their home leg was played in front of an empty stadium due to crowd violence concerns, which partly explains the shocking result, but there is no doubt that it was a massive upset victory for CAR, who will take great confidence from having ousted the seven-time Nations Cup winners.

But can they now go on and defeat a talented Burkina Faso side that has appeared in seven of the last nine AFCON tournaments?

Sierra Leone Vs Tunisia

Sierra Leone will be aiming to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time since taking part in the 1996 edition of the tournament, which was coincidentally held in South Africa.

They reached the second round of qualifying through a 5-4 win over Sao Tome and Principe, where they lost 2-1 in the first leg before winning 4-2 at home in the second leg.

Tunisia on the other hand received a bye in the first round and was one of the seeded sides in the second round following their participation at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations and their recent record in the competition.

The two sides are also due to meet during the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers next year.

Gabon Vs Togo

Emmanuel Adebayor will be the star attraction as he returns to the Togo side for his first competitive match this year in the African Nations Cup qualifier against Gabon.
Adebayor has played just twice since the attack on the Togo team bus that saw them withdraw from the 2010 finals in Angola.

Up against him will be the emerging star talent of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who leads Gabon’s attack in their attempt to return to the finals tournament in South Africa, where they first made their debut in 1996.

Cape Verde Vs Cameroun
The ghost of Samuel Eto’o will hang over Cameroon’s trip to the Cape Verde Islands for Saturday’s African Nations Cup final round, first leg qualifier in Praia.

The four-time African Footballer of the Year is a notable absentee as he continues his protest against the running of football in Cameroon, which he describes as amateurish. Cameroon’s captaincy has been taken over by Marseille defender Nicholas Nkoulou.

The home side, nicknamed Tubaroes Azul (Blue Sharks), have named a 21-man squad with Ronaldo, Valter Borges and the Dutch-based midfielder Guy Ramos returning to the line-up.

Goalkeeper Ernesto however has retired and both Lito and Roni have been dropped by Coach Lucio Antunes. The match is being played on the artificial surface at the Estadio Varzela.

Sudan Vs Ethiopia

The fact that Sudan shares a border with Ethiopia means that these two nations have been frequent foes over the years as they prepare to meet in a 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Saturday.

Sudan will host the first leg in Omdurman, hoping to build on their excellent quarterfinal showing at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations which should make them favourites against an Ethiopian side who have not been to the finals for 30 years.

But Ethiopia showed in their World Cup qualifier draw away in South African in June that they do travel well, and having also recently beaten Egypt’s vanquishers Central African Republic, are one of the past few months

Ivory Coast Vs Senegal

Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal meet in Abidjan on Saturday in the most anticipated match on the continent in years with at stake, a place at the next year’s African Nations Cup finals.

The two sides were the form teams on the continent in 2012 although since Senegal’s star has dipped dramatically and while the Ivorians might still be top ranked they are now seen as coming to the end of a golden generation.

Senegal qualified in the most formidable fashion for the 2012 finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon but then bombed at the tournament, losing all three group games.

Since new coach Joseph Koto has overhauled the team and added in a youthful element, although Moussa Sow of Fenerbahce, Issiar Dia and Demba Ba have been recalled for the game in the Ivorian capital.

The home side are little changed from the team beaten by Zambia in last February’s; Nations Cup finals, although former France international Sabri Lamouchi is now in charge.

Mali Vs Botswana

Mali returns to their home ground in Bamako for the first time since March’s coup d’etat after being forced to host their last competitive international in neutral Burkina Faso.

They host Botswana in the first leg of their final round of African Nations Cup qualifiers, pitting two teams who shared the same group at the finals in Gabon earlier this year.

Mali scored a 2-1 win over Botswana in Libreville and went on to finish third while Botswana lost all three of their group games on their debut appearance.

Liberia Vs Nigeria

Such is the pressure on the Super Eagles to win that a draw in a 2013 AFCON qualifier in Liberia on Saturday would be a huge disappointment. The country’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, has further raised the stakes with his personal interest in this West African clash.

He first put a call through to coach Stephen Keshi, urging him to lead the team to victory in Monrovia and on Wednesday, he was at the team’s training in Abuja to further stress the importance of this game.

After sensationally failing to reach the 2012 edition of this tournament Nigeria are leaving nothing to chance to ensure they feature at the next competition in South Africa in January. 

Nigeria beat Liberia in 1984 in a 1986 World Cup qualifier, winning 3-0 in Lagos and 1-0 in Monrovia. Liberia’s only win within that time was when they stunned the star-studded Nigerians 2-1 in a 2002 World Cup qualifier, which the Eagles later avenged 2-0 in Port Harcourt on their way to piping the Lone Star at the post to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. 

Zimbabwe Vs Angola

A Southern African derby between Angola and Zimbabwe will decide progress for one of the region’s countries to the 2013 African Nations Cup finals in nearby South Africa. Angola will be seeking to reach the finals for a fifth successive tournament while Zimbabwe has only previously played in 2004 and 2006 finals.

Mozambique Vs Morocco

Morocco’s reputation as a team of huge potential and a future continental champion has been on the wane this year and faces another examination against Mozambique away on Sunday.

The two countries clash in their African Nations Cup final round, first leg qualifier at the Machava Stadium as the Mambas move back to their spiritual home despite last year’s opening of the impressive Zimpeto Stadium.

DRC Vs Equatorial Guinea

Democratic Republic of Congo coach Claude Le Roy stands on the brink of extending his record number of appearances at the African Nations Cup as his team starts overwhelming favourites for their final round qualifying tie against Equatorial Guinea in Kinshasa on Sunday.

LeRoy, winner of the competition with Cameroon in 1988, has coached at six different tournaments and previously took DR Congo to the quarter-finals of the 2006 Nations Cup in Egypt, breaking the record for the most matches coached in the tournament’s history in the process.

Equatorial Guinea, under the tutelage of Brazilian coach Gilson Paulo, won their last match, a warm up against Liberia in Malabo last month with a goal from Isaac Mvondo.

Guinea Vs Niger  

AC Milan midfielder Kevin Constant is back in the Guinea team for the first time in almost a year after boycotting the African Nations Cup finals earlier in the year. He returns to a 20-man squad that will host Niger in Conakry on Sunday in the first leg of the final round qualifier for the 2013 finals in South Africa.

French-born Constant had refused to play for Guinea in the tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea after helping them to qualify.

Niger were among the surprise qualifiers for the 2012 finals but lost all three of their group games in Gabon. 

Article credit: Mtn football.com

Email: ismael@kawowo.com 

Senior Staff writer at Kawowo Sports mainly covering football

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