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AFCON 2019: The Stage is Getting Set

Five out of twenty four nations have qualified for the 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations billed to hold in Cameroon in June 2019, after match day four of the qualifying series.

The competition, which used to have sixteen teams battle for the big prize was expanded to accommodate twenty-four nations, after an Executive Committee meeting  of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on 20th July, 2017
The teams already qualified as it stands now are Cameroon (the hosts), Senegal, Madagascar, Tunisia and Egypt.

The Teranga Lions of Senegal and Madagascar both have ten points from four matches each, after winning three and drawing one game. The drawn game happened on 9th September 2018, at the Mahamasina Municipal Stadium, in Antananarivo, when both teams played out a 2-2 draw with Paulin Voavy and Koulibaly getting on the score sheet for the Barea, and Pape Moussa Konaté and Keita Diao scored one goal each for the Teranga Lions.

Both teams had in the process conquered Equatorial Guinea and Sudan to seal their place in Cameroon, Madagascar earning their place in the biggest football showpiece in Africa for the first time ever.

Senegal and Madagascar meet on the last match day, but that will only be a formality.

Tunisia and Egypt also had an easy ride in Group J, Egypt whitewashing Niger Republic 6-0 in Alexandria, Swaziland 4-1 in Cairo, and 2-0 in Manzini. Tunisia on their part beat Swaziland 2-0 in Manzini, Niger Republic 1-0 In Rades, and visited Niamey to conquer them 2-1.

The Egyptian Pharaohs only tasted defeat when they travelled to Rades to face Tunisia, and the Carthage Eagles piped them 1-0, Taha Yassine Khenissi finding the net, two minutes into the second half.
Both sides meet again in Egypt next month, and it will be a battle of who finishes top of the group.

In Cameroon’s group, things are slightly different, being the host of the coming Africa Cup of Nations . It turns out that three teams from that group will be at the AFCON, with only one losing out. If the Indomitable Lions finish first, then the second and third advance, and if second, the first and third will make it.
As things stands, after match day four, Morocco and Malawi are at advantage, with Cameroon, leading with eight points, Morocco with seven, and Malawi with four points. Comoros only has two points so far.

The road is still rough in other places, though some teams are very close to qualification. Countries like Algeria, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Guinea are one win away from qualification for AFCON 2019. A point can do the magic for Guinea, provided Ivory Coast fails to win their remaining matches. It is safe to conclude that a great cracker awaits on 16th November, when Guinea hosts Cote d’Ivoire. It should be recalled that the Syli Nationale won the first leg in Bouake in June, 2017.

In Group E Seychelles is out of the race, as there is still a slim chance for Libya to make it through. Mathematically, a win against Seychelles in November, and and at least a draw against South Africa at home will guarantee a place for the Mediterranean Knights, provided South Africa fails to win any of their remaining fixtures.

Nigeria on their part need a  point from the available six to seal their place in Cameroon.
There is still all to play for in Group C, where Mali, Gabon and Burundi have eight, seven and six points respectively. Group D sees Algeria, Benin Republic struggle with seven points each, and Togo has five, Group G, seeing Zimbabwe in eight points, DR Congo with five, Congo and Liberia with four points each. Zimbabwe visits Liberia on match day five, before hosting Congo on the last match day.

Group I is dicey. Mauritania, also seeking its first appearance at the finals currently has nine points, its only loss against Angola, in Luanda, Burkina Faso has seven points, Angola has six points, and already eliminated Botswana has one point.  And Group K has former African Champions, Zambia, sitting at the bottom of the group with four points, but still having a chance, as Guinea Bissau and Namibia have seven points respectively, and Mozambique has four.  The Chipolopolo, who had a 2-1 victory and defeat to Guinea Bissau within four days, will visit Mozambique, before they host Namibia, knowing what destiny holds for them.

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