2023 AFCON qualifiers take centre stage

2023 AFCON qualifiers take centre stage
General view of the Africa Cup of Nations Trophy

by Graeme Jackson

Tuesday May 31, 2022. 11:00

The group phase of 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers will see 44 Matchday 1 and 2 fixtures played from Wednesday 1 to Monday 13 June, as the journey to next year’s tournament in the Ivory Coast gets underway in earnest.

The ‘big gun’ in action on Wednesday evening is Ghana, with the West Africans welcoming Madagascar to Cape Coast for a Group E clash. The Black Stars are still buzzing after overcoming Nigeria to secure 2022 World Cup qualification two months ago, though their squad is missing key players in the shape of Thomas Partey (injury) and Alfred Dunan (retired from international football).

Thursday sees Egypt begin their post Carlos Queiroz era, as new coach Ehab Galal looks to lead them to a victory over Group D rivals Guinea. “We are not here to ruin what the previous coaching staff did, we’ll try to keep the positive aspects and fix the negative ones,” said Galal. “There might be some changes to our play style but nothing major yet.”

A busy weekend features hosts Ivory Coast in action on Friday night when they host Zambia, while Saturday’s headline fixture sees AFCON champions Senegal begin the defence of their crown by welcoming Benin to Dakar for their opening Group L clash.

Saturday also features Uganda visiting Algeria and Mali tackling Congo in Bamako. The Uganda Cranes will face a stiff test against their North African hosts, but coach Milutin Sredojevic is introducing new blood into the team, including Dulwich Hamlet forward Ibra Sekajja.

“I thank the coach for giving me this opportunity,” said Sekajja. “But I feel it has taken long to even be here. I feel so happy and I can’t wait to score goals to help the team win games.”

Matchday 2 fixtures begin on Sunday, while the outstanding Matchday 1 games will be caught up on Thursday 9 June, with the key fixtures seeing Nigeria tackle Sierra Leone and South Africa face a stiff test away to Morocco in Rabat.

Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos has admitted that the Atlas Lions are a cut above in their qualifying group – “It’s clear that Morocco is the best team in our group. They were in the AFCON in January and were eliminated by Egypt and they are a very good team” – but he is hopeful of an upset on the road.

As for the Super Eagles, new coach Jose Peseiro has already gotten off to a losing start with defeat to Mexico in a friendly this past weekend, but he has promised that AFCON glory will arrive under his guidance.

“We will work with great ambition so that in the end we can finally call Nigeria the ‘four-time African champions’,” said the Portuguese tactician, who will also guide Nigeria in a match away to Mauritius when this double block of qualifiers wraps up on Monday 13 June.

AFCON Qualifiers, 1-13 June

All times CAT

Wednesday 1 June (Matchday 1)

18:00: Angola v Central African Republic

18:00: Libya v Botswana

21:00: Ghana v Madagascar

Thursday 2 June (Matchday 1)

16:00: Malawi v Ethiopia

18:00: Mozambique v Rwanda

21:00: Egypt v Guinea

21:00: Tunisia v Equatorial Guinea

Friday 3 June (Matchday 1)

15:00: Comoros v Lesotho

18:00: Togo v Eswatini

21:00: Burkina Faso v Cape Verde

21:00: Ivory Coast v Zambia

Saturday 4 June (Matchday 1)

15:00: Namibia v Burundi

18:00: Niger v Tanzania

18:00: Gambia v South Sudan

18:00: DR Congo v Gabon

21:00: Algeria v Uganda

21:00: Mali v Congo

21:00: Mauritania v Sudan

21:00: Senegal v Benin

Sunday 5 June (Matchday 2)

15:00: Central African Republic v Ghana

15:00: Botswana v Tunisia

18:00: Madagascar v Angola

Monday 6 June (Matchday 2)

21:00: Guinea v Malawi

21:00: Equatorial Guinea v Libya

Tuesday 7 June (Matchday 2)

15:00: Eswatini v Burkina Faso

15:00: Zambia v Comoros

18:00: Cape Verde v Togo

21:00: Rwanda v Senegal

Wednesday 8 June (Matchday 2)

15:00: Burundi v Cameroon

15:00: Uganda v Niger

18:00: Tanzania v Algeria

18:00: Congo v Gambia

18:00: Gabon v Mauritania

21:00: Sudan v DR Congo

21:00: Benin v Mozambique

Thursday 9 June (Matchday 1)

18:00: Nigeria v Sierra Leone

18:00: Guinea-Bissau v Mauritius

21:00: Morocco v South Africa

Thursday 9 June (Matchday 2)

14:00: South Sudan v Mali

18:00: Ethiopia v Egypt

19:00: Lesotho v Ivory Coast

Monday 13 June (Matchday 2)

15:00: Mauritius v Nigeria

18:00: Sierra Leone v Guinea-Bissau

21:00: Liberia v Morocco

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