by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – THE 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying games resume this week with aspirants eager to turn the tide against disease outbreaks, conflict and concerns over the crisis-torn hosts’ readiness to stage the tournament.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has allayed that fears crisis-torn Cameroon would be stripped the rights to host the tournament, paving the way for the resumption of tricky encounters this coming weekend.
CAF President, Ahmad Ahmad, debunked rumours CAF would withdraw the hosting rights from the Central African country beset by tensions pitting English and French speaking regions.
“CAF has never envisaged such a scenario,” he said.
Cameroon are also the defending champions.
Presidential elections were ongoing at the time of publication but CAF qualifiers start this coming Friday evening with a fixture between Group E rivals Libya and Nigeria, the conflict-torn countries, to battle at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna.
Libya’s Mediterranean Knights lead Group E table with four points from two matches played to date while the Super Eagles of Nigeria are third with three points from the same number of games.
South Africa, also in the same group, lie second on the log with four points.
Bafana Bafana face continental lightweights Seychelles at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg where they are favoured to win, but with a reputation of chocking against nonentities, it would not make news if the 1996 champions flop.
South Africa’s northern neighbours, Zimbabwe, who lead Group G, face Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at Stade des Martyrs in the capital Kinshasa on Saturday.
The two sides owe their countries solace from health crises following deadly outbreaks of cholera and Ebola, respectively, which have claimed dozens of lives.
Goal difference separates the Warriors of Zimbabwe and the Leopards, who have four points each.
Other matches lined up for Saturday include the encounter between titans Egypt and lightweights Swaziland in Group J at a venue to be announced.
Egypt are second on the table with three points from two games while Swaziland are third with a point.
Tunisia leads the Group J with six points from the same number of games.
Lesotho are away to vastly-improving Uganda at the Nelson Mandela National Stadium in Kampala.
Uganda leads Group L with four points from two matches played while Lesotho lie second with two points.
The last match for the day pits 1998 hosts Burkina Faso against Botswana at Stade du 4-Aout in the former’s capital Ouagadougou.
The Stallions of Burkina Faso are second in Group I with three points from two matches while the pointless Batswana are bottom.
A southern African derby between Mozambique and Namibia in Maputo highlights a galore of fixtures on Sunday.
The Mambas of Mozambique are second in Group K with four points, the same number with leaders, Guinea-Bissau. Goal difference separates the two sides. Namibia are third with a point.
Group J leaders Tunisia host Niger in Tunis while Guinea-Bissau host Zambia at Estadio 24 de Setembro in Bissau.
The qualifiers round off with a famed rivalry between East African foes, Kenya, the hosts, and Ethiopia at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi.
The neighbours have a global athletics sporting rivalry running for decades.
Athletes from both countries have dominated international marathons.
Ghana leads the table. Kenya are second, Sierra Leon are third and Ethiopia bottom.
Cameroon vs Malawi, Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium (16h30)
Angola vs Mauritania, Estadio 11 de Novembro (17h00)
Gabon vs South Sudan, Stade de l’Amitie (17h00)
Nigeria vs Libya, Ahmadu Bello Stadium (18h30)
Guinea vs Rwanda, Stade 28 Septembre (18h30)
Cote d’Ivoire vs Central African Republic, Stade Bouake (19h00)
Togo vs Gambia, Stade Municipal Lome (20h00)
Mali vs Burundi, Stade 26 Mars (21h00)
Algeria vs Benin, Stade Mustapha Tchaker (21h45)
Cape Verde Vs Tanzania, To be announced (TBA) (23h00)
Egypt vs Swaziland, TBA (2:00)
Uganda vs Lesotho, Nelson Mandela National Stadium (15h00)
South Africa vs Seychelles, FNB Stadium (15h00)
DRC vs Zimbabwe, Stade des Martyrs (19h30)
Burkina Faso vs Botswana, Stade du 4-Aout (20h00)
Morocco vs Comoros, Stade Mohamed V (20h00)
Senegal vs Sudan, Stade Leopold Senghor (21h00)
Equatorial Guinea vs Madagascar, TBA (23h00)
Mozambique vs Namibia, TBA (0h00)
Tunisia vs Niger, TBA (14h15)
Guinea-Bissau vs Zambia, Estadio 24 de Setembro (18h00)
Kenya vs Ethiopia, Nyayo National Stadium (18h00).
– CAJ News