Five teams bidding to keep their perfect records going in AFCON qualifying

Five teams bidding to keep their perfect records going in AFCON qualifying
Nigeria players celebrate after beating Sierra Leone during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying football match between Nigeria and Sierra Leone held at the Abuja National Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria on 9 June 2022 ©Kabiru Abubakar/BackpagePix

by Staff Reporter

Wednesday Mar 22, 2023. 15:00

Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Mali, Morocco and Senegal have all won their opening two matches in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and are hoping to keep that run going.

Group A leaders Nigeria will be looking to make it three wins from three when they welcome Guinea-Bissau to the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja on Friday.

The Super Eagles are two points clear of their West Africa rivals after beating Sierra Leone 2-1 on June 9 and thrashing Sao Tome and Príncipe 10-0 four days later. The Djurtus kicked off their qualifying campaign with a 5-1 victory over the Falcons and True Parrots before playing out to a 2-2 draw with the Leone Stars on matchday 2.

Sierra Leone will be determined to register their first win in the qualifiers when they host whipping boys Sao Tome and Príncipe at the Stade Adrar in Agadir on Wednesday.

The Leone Stars trail Guinea-Bissau by three points in third place and need a victory to stay in touch with the top two. The Falcons and True Parrots are hoping to avoid another hammering after shipping 15 goals in their first two matches.

Burkina Faso will be aiming to keep their 100 per cent record intact when they lock horns with neighbours Togo at the Marrakesh Stadium in Marrakesh on Friday.

The Stallions top Group B with six points courtesy of victories over Cape Verde (2-0) and Eswatini (3-1) in June, while the Sparrowhawks are fourth after picking up a point in a 2-2 draw with the King’s Shield before being beaten 2-0 by the Blue Sharks.

Cape Verde will look to put pressure on the group leaders when they face Eswatini at the Estadio Pele in Praia on Friday.

The Blue Sharks are three points behind Burkina Faso in second place and two ahead of the King’s Shield, who edge Togo in the group on goals scored as their goal difference is identical.

Cameroon will be targeting maximum points when they take on Namibia at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde on Friday.

The Indomitable Lions lead the way in Group C after opening their qualifying campaign with a 1-0 win over Burundi on June 9. The Brave Warriors occupy third place, having picked up a point in a 1-1 draw with the Swallows on June 4.

Kenya’s disqualification means that only three teams are contesting the group and Burundi have a bye on matchday 3.

Group D still remains wide open after the opening two rounds, with leaders Ethiopia looking to take command of proceedings when they meet Guinea at the Stade Mohammed V in Casablanca on Friday.

The Walia Ibex suffered a 2-1 defeat to Malawi on June 5 but they bounced back with a shock 2-0 victory over Egypt four days later. The National Elephants put their first points on the board when they beat the Flames 1-0 on matchday 2-0 after losing to the Pharaohs by the same scoreline in their group opener.

Egypt will be desperate to get their qualification campaign back on track when Malawi arrive at the Cairo International Stadium on Friday.

The Pharaohs prop up the group on goal difference after scoring one and conceding two in their opening two matches, with the Flames in second place thanks to their victory over Ethiopia on June 5. All four teams are deadlocked on three points.

Ghana will be looking to take control of Group E when they entertain Angola at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi on Thursday.

The Black Stars lead the group on goal difference after running out 3-0 victors against Madagascar on June 1 and playing out to a 1-1 draw with Central African Republic four days later. The Black Antelopes are breathing down their necks in second place, having edged the Wild Beasts 2-1 on matchday 1 before sharing the spoils in a 1-1 draw with the Barea on June 5.

Central African Republic will be seeking their first win in the qualifiers they do battle with Madagascar at the Mahamasina Municipal Stadium in Antananarivo on Thursday.

The Wild Beasts trail the top two by three points in third place and find themselves ahead of the Barea on goal difference alone after both teams picked up a solitary point from their first two games.

Algeria will be looking to maintain their perfect record in Group F when they go head to head with Niger at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Baraki on Thursday.

The Fennec Foxes lead the Menas by four points after recording back-to-back 2-0 wins over Uganda and Tanzania in June, while the West Africans only managed successive 1-1 draws against the Taifa Stars and the Cranes.

An important three points will be up for grabs when Uganda and Tanzania clash at the Suez Canal Stadium in Ismailia on Friday.

Both teams are tied on one point and have an identical record after the opening two rounds, with victory for either of them set to boost their prospects of finishing in the top two.

Mali will aim to secure their qualification for AFCON 2023 when they square up to Gambia at the Stade du 26 Mars in Bamako on Friday.

The Eagles lead Group G on six points, having beaten Congo 4-0 and South Sudan 3-1 in June, with the Scorpions occupying third place on three points after clinching a narrow 1-0 win over the Bright Stars on matchday 1 followed by a 1-0 reverse to the Red Devils five days later,

Congo will look to hold onto second place in the group when they face South Sudan at the Stade Alphonse Massemba-Debat in Brazzaville on Thursday.

The Red Devils are ahead of the Scorpions after coming out on top in their encounter on matchday 2, while the Bright Stars bring up the rear following two consecutive losses.

Zambia will bid to take a step closer towards qualification for the finals in Ivory Coast when they play hosts to Lesotho at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola on Thursday.

The Copper Bullets lost 3-1 to the Elephants on June 3 but they responded with a 2-1 triumph over Comoros four days later. The Crocodiles registered their first point with a surprise goalless draw against the AFCON 2023 host nation on matchday 2 after suffering a 2-0 defeat to the Coelacanths in their group opener.

Ivory Coast will continue their preparations for the showpiece on home soil when Comoros visit the Stade Bouake in Bouake on Friday.

The Elephants remain unbeaten after two matches and are expected to keep that run going against the Coelacanths, who are looking to challenge Zambia for the second qualifying berth in Group H, with both teams tied on three points.

Mauritania will look to stay ahead of the pack in Group I when they journey to Douala to face DR Congo at the Japoma Stadium on Friday.

The Lions of Chinguetti lead Gabon on goal difference after kicking off their campaign with a 3-0 success over Sudan followed by a 0-0 draw against the former. The Leopards are bottom of the group and winless, having been beaten 1-0 by the Panthers and 2-1 by the Secretarybirds in June.

Gabon are also unbeaten in the group and sit one point ahead of Sudan in second place ahead of their clash at the Stade de Franceville in Franceville on Thursday.

Tunisia will target a return to winning ways when they face neighbours Libya at the Stade Hammadi Agrebi in Tunis on Friday.

The Eagles of Carthage top Group J on four points, having opened proceedings with a 4-0 mauling of Equatorial Guinea on June 2 before being held to a goalless draw by Botswana three days later. The Mediterranean Knights are just one point behind their North African rivals in third place after beating the Zebras 1-0 on matchday 1 and slipping to a 2-0 defeat against the National Thunder on June 6.

Equatorial Guinea will be eyeing all three points when they welcome Botswana to the Estadio de Malabo in Malabo on Friday.

The National Thunder occupy second place by virtue of their victory over Libya on matchday 2, with both teams sitting on three points. The Zebras are in desperate need of points if they hope to keep their qualification hopes alive.

South Africa will look to get their qualifying campaign up and running when they host Liberia at the Orlando Stadium, in Johannesburg on FRiday.

Bafana Bafana have yet to put any points on the board in Group K after losing 2-1 to leaders Morocco on June 9. They were given a bye on matchday 2 due to Zimbabwe’s disqualification.

The Lone Stars are also aiming to bounce back from a 2-0 defeat to the Atlas Lions on June 13, which has left them third in the group on goal difference.

Defending champions Senegal will continue their quest to retain the AFCON title when they go up against Mozambique at the Diamniadio Olympic Stadium in Dakar on Friday.

The Lions of Teranga have a 100 per cent record in Group K after recording back-to-back wins over Benin (3-1) and Rwanda (1-0) in June. The Mambas trail them by two points in second place after playing out to a 1-1 draw with the Wasps on matchday 1 before recording a 1-0 victory over the Cheetahs last time out.

Benin will be hoping to pick up their first points in qualifying when they take on Rwanda at the Friendship Stadium in Cotonou on Wednesday.

The Cheetahs are bottom of the group after suffering two successive losses, while the Wasps are only one point better off in third place and need a win to stay in touch with Mozambique.

Matchday 3 fixtures:

Wednesday, March 22

17h00: Benin v Rwanda

19h00: Sierra Leone v Sao Tome and Príncipe

Thursday, March 23

15h00: Madagascar v Central African Republic

18h00: Ghana v Angola

18h00: Congo v South Sudan

18h00: Zambia v Lesotho

21h00: Gabon v Sudan

23h00: Algeria v Niger

Friday, March 23

15h00: DR Congo v Mauritania

16h00: Uganda v Tanzania

18h00: Nigeria v Guinea-Bissau

18h00: Cape Verde v Eswatini

18h00: Ivory Coast v Comoros

18h00: South Africa v Liberia

21h00: Egypt v Malawi

21h00: Mali v Gambia

21h00: Equatorial Guinea v Botswana

21h00: Senegal v Mozambique

22h00: Burkina Faso v Togo

22h30: Cameroon v Namibia

22h30: Tunisia v Libya

23h30: Guinea v Ethiopia

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