Monday Nov 11, 2019. 17:00
The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers get under way this week as the 48 remaining sides battle the long road to the finals in Cameroon.
The gap between the so-called heavyweight nations and minnows has closed in recent years, which has led to a number of upsets and giant-killing acts.
AfricanFootball.com assesses the fixtures over the next week and where the shocks in the opening two rounds might come from.
CAMEROON VS CAPE VERDE ISLANDS
Cape Verde claimed a good 2-1 victory over Togo last month to arrest a poor run of form and appear to be improving after a dismal few years as they clash with Cameroon on Wednesday.
Cameroon have hardly been world beaters themselves of late, with three of their last four matches ending 0-0 and a 3-2 loss to Nigeria and previous Nations Cup finals in the mix as well.
They also have a new coach in Toni Conceicao and may be vulnerable while he tries to institute his plans.
EGYPT VS KENYA
Egyptian football is a mess with internal squabbles and the recent specter of their second round exit to South Africa on home soil at the 2019 Nations Cup finals.
They have flattered to deceive under new coach Hossam El Badry as well, with unconvincing 1-0 home wins over lowly Botswana and Liberia in recent months.
Kenya will be far more competent than those two and will smell as upset, especially with Mo Salah seemingly out of sorts for the home side.
MOROCCO VS MAURITANIA
Morocco have looked pretty ragged since their early exit from the 2019 Nations Cup finals and suffered a 3-2 loss to Gabon to go with a 1-1 draw against Libya in October.
They have a fantastic squad, but that does not always translate into wins on the pitch and a compact and organized Mauritania may fancy an upset in Rabat.
These two nations are at political loggerheads over the disputed Western Sahara region, which will add spice to the fixture.
SOUTH AFRICA VS SUDAN
Bafana Bafana will have to make a mad dash across the continent to return from their first qualifier in Ghana’s Cape Coast as they face Sudan at home just three days later.
Sudan will have had a home game against lowly Sao Tome and Principe on Wednesday, and so can take a leisurely stroll south for Sunday’s encounter with Bafana.
South Africa are notorious for not killing off weaker opposition, and with the hectic travel could find this a tough opponent.
GAMBIA VS DR CONGO
Coach Tom Saintfiet’s Gambia have been vastly improved in recent years as he finds more gems in European football, and they could give DR Congo a run for their money.
The Congolese have not lived up to their hype, and star quality, and have won just once in their last nine internationals, not including the home-based African Nations Championship.
Gambia will be confident they can get something from this match.