by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – SOUTHERN Africa, ever a punching bag in continental football, will this weekend see a number of nations featuring in a do-or-die qualifying matches for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Among the highlights of the campaign will be three Southern African Development Community (SADC) derbies pitting Mozambique against Zambia, Comoros versus Malawi and Lesotho taking on Tanzania.
The teams will be aiming to emulate Madagascar, who last month qualified for their first finals.
Group G leaders Zimbabwe are a safe bet to follow in the islanders’ footsteps and qualify for the tournament set for Cameroon early next year.
South Africa, the 1996 champions, who are second placed in Group E, and Namibia, who are second in Group K, also have bright prospects of sealing their berths this weekend.
Angola, in third, are in a must-win encounter against Burkina Faso in Group I.
Botswana, in the same group have crashed out.
Tanzania are second and will be eager for a win against bottom-placed Lesotho to qualify.
Meanwhile, the key fixture of the qualification campaign will feature South Africa hosting longtime rivals Nigeria’s Super Eagles at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Coincidentally, the visitors have sweet memories of this venue, where they won their third title in 2013.
South Africa won their first title before the same venue was revamped for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Also on Saturday, Comoros will host Malawi at Stade de Beaumer, Uganda will host Cape Verde at Nelson Mandela National Stadium in Kampala while Namibia will welcome Guinea-Bissau at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek.
Gabon are against Mali at Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville, Equatorial Guinea host Senegal at Estadio de Bata in Malabo while in a battle of lightweights, Gambia will host Benin at the Independence Stadium in Banjul.
On Sunday, a carnival atmosphere is to return when history-making Madagascar host Sudan at CNAPS Stadium in Antananarivo.
Ethiopia will welcome continental heavyweights Ghana at Addis Ababa Stadium in Addis Ababa.
Kenya host Sierra Leone at Moi International Sports Centre in Nairobi while Mozambique and 2012 champions Zambia resume their rivalry at Estadio do Zimpeto in Maputo in a Southern African derby.
Eswatini will host fellow strugglers Niger at Mavuso Sports Centre in Mbabane.
Congo Brazzaville host Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the Stade Alphonse Massamba-Debat in Brazzaville while Angola host Burkina Faso at Estadio 11 de Novembro in Luanda.
Group G log leaders Zimbabwe will travel to Liberia at Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Monrovia, Mauritania host Botswana at Stade Olympique Nouakchott in Nouakchott, Guinea entertain Ivory Coast at Stade 28 Septembre in Conakry while Rwanda clash with Central African Republic (CAR) at a venue to be announced but in Kigali.
SATURDAY, 17 November 2018
Comoros Vs Malawi: Stade de Beaumer, (14h00)
South Africa Vs Nigeria: FNB Stadium, (15h00)
Uganda Vs Cape Verde: Nelson Mandela National Stadium, (15h00)
Namibia Vs Guinea-Bissau: Sam Nujoma Stadium, (16h00)
Gabon Vs Mali: Stade de l’Amitie, (17h00)
Equatorial Guinea Vs Senegal: Estadio de Bata, (17h00)
Gambia Vs Benin: Independence Stadium, (18h30)
SUNDAY, 18th November 2018
Madagascar Vs Sudan: CNAPS Stadium, (13h30)
Ethiopia Vs Ghana: Addis Ababa Stadium, (15h00)
Kenya Vs Sierra Leone: Moi International Sports Centre, (15h00)
Mozambique Vs Zambia: Estadio do Zimpeto, (15h30)
Swaziland Vs Niger: Mavuso Sports Centre, (15h30)
Lesotho Vs Tanzania: Setsoto Stadium, (16h00)
Congo Vs DR Congo: Stade Alphonse Massamba-Debat, (16h30)
Angola Vs Burkina Faso: Estadio 11 de Novembro, (17h00)
Liberia Vs Zimbabwe: Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex, (18h00)
Mauritania Vs Botswana: Stade Olympique Nouakchott, (19h00)
Guinea Vs Cote d’Ivoire: Stade 28 Septembre, (19h00)
Rwanda Vs Central African Republic, venue to be announced ‘TBA’, (23h30).
– CAJ News