The race to the Orange Africa Cup of Nations Morocco 2015 continues this weekend as 14 nations’ face-off in the first of two legged matches which will deliver the final seven teams into the final group phase of qualification.

The Cranes of Uganda, Harambee Stars of Tanzania, Taifa Stars of Tanzania and Rwanda’s Amavubi are the four CECAFA nations that will be in action this weekend.

Kawowo Sports’ Ismael Kiyonga previews the seven matches that will be played across the continent.
Uganda vs Mauritania – Mandela National Stadium.

The Cranes face Mauritania at Namboole seeking to register a convincing victory that will see them finish the job away in a fortnight.

Mauritania reached the stage after disqualification of Equatorial Guinea who were banned from the 2015 edition for fielding ineligible Cameroon-born Thierry Fidjeu in their 3-1 aggregate win over Mauritania while Uganda eliminated Madagascar on away goals rule after a 2-2 draw.

The Cranes whose last appearance at the AFCON finals in 1978 go into the game on the back of unconvincing performances in warm up games but Coach Micho believes all that will be put to bed when they face Mauritania and promised victory for Cranes.

“True there is a lot to worry but there lots of positives from the friendlies,” Micho stated. “We defend well and we create chances and I believe we shall put them away come Saturday,” he promised.

Cranes will be without key players in midfield with Tonny Mawejje (out) and Aucho Khalid (suspended) but all eyes will be on striker Geoffrey Massa who scored the winner in Uganda’s previous round encounter against Madagascar at Namboole.

Lesotho vs Kenya – Setsoto Stadium, Maseru

Kenya’s Harambee Stars will be without first choice goalie Arnold Origi after his club refused to release him since the match is not on a FIFA calendar.

Arnold Origi also missed the first leg of the first preliminary round which Kenya won 1-0 to set up the fixture against Lesotho but coach Amrouche’s side has able replacements in Wilson Obungu (Bandari), Duncan Ochieng (Sofapaka), Jerim Onyango (Gor Mahia) and AFC Leopards Wycliffe Kasaya.

The Stars may also miss the services of Belgium based midfielder Ayub Timbe but in McDonald Mariga, Victor Wanyama and Allan Wanga, they have enough ammunition in the squad to pick a decent result on the road. Kenya’s last appearance at the finals came 10 years ago in Tunisia.

Tanzania vs Mozambique – National stadium, Dar es Salaam
Taifa Stars of Tanzania will be playing Mozambique for the fifth time in Afcon qualifiers, in which the East African nation has never eliminated the latter, managing only one victory, lost twice and drawn once.

Nevertheless, Taifa Stars skipper Nadir Haroub expressed optimism that Tanzania was equal to the task and was hopeful of overcoming the Mambas as quoted by cafonline.com

“I know Mozambique is a good team and we have a lot of respect for them, but everyone in the team understands the importance of winning the game; there is a team spirit and no doubt we’ll win,” Haroub said adding: “We have a strong team that can beat Mozambique. We will fight hard for victory as we want to reach the next stage of the tournament, hopeful we’ll do so and bring joy to Tanzanians.”

Tanzania were boosted by the arrival of TP Mazembe striking duo of Mbwana Samatta and Thomas Ulimwengu and plus midfielder Mwinyi Kazimoto.

Azam FC striker John Raphael Bocco is once again expected the line with Mrisho Ngassa playing off him in a number 10 role with Samatta and Ulimwengu playing in wide attacking areas. Tanzania’s last appearance at the finals was in 1980.

Congo vs Rwanda – Pointe-Noire
Rwanda’s Wasps, who shocked CHAN 2014 Winner Libya in the last round, are away in Pointe Noire against Congo.

Amavubi coach Constantine is optimistic his side can pick a decent result away from home as witnessed against Libya in the previous round.

“We had a good start after eliminating Libya. We did everything we could to win that game. Players worked extremely hard in the two weeks that we had to prepare for the game and I think we deserved to win that game,” Constantine told Times Sport.

Skipper Haruna Niyonzima, hat trick hero Daddy Biroli against Libya and Ugandan born Meddie Kagere will be the players the Amavubi will look up to for inspiration.

Benin Vs Malawi – Stade de l’Amitie /Cotonou
In the other game, the Squirrels of Benin and Flames of Malawi who both last appeared at the Nations Cup in Angola in 2010 square off in Cotonou.

Squirrels trainer Didier Ollé-Nicolle of Benin and Malawi’s Young Chimodzi are eager to get into the next round of qualifying and attempt a return at Morocco 2015. A testing fixture awaits the two sides in Cotonou at the Stade de l’Amitie.

Malawi who drew goalless with Uganda on their way to Benin will have hopes in forward Joseph Kamwendo and South Africa based Atusaye Nyondo while Benin expect Stephen Sessegnon to lead the team past the Flames.

In the other game, Seychelles who lost their friendly 1-0 against Cranes face Sierra Leone in Free Town.

Full Fixtures:
Saturday 19th July
Botswana vs Guinea Bissau – National Stadium/Gaborone
Uganda vs Mauritania – Mandela National Stadium/Kampala
Sierra Leone vs Seychelles- Freetown/Freetown

Sunday 20th July
Lesotho vs Kenya – Setsoto Stadium/Maseru
Congo vs Rwanda – Pointe-Noire/­Pointe-Noire
Benin vs Malawi – Stade de l’Amitie /Cotonou
Tanzania vs Mozambique – National stadium, Dar es Salaam

Senior Staff writer at Kawowo Sports mainly covering football

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