BY APESIN ADEMOLA.
Six more teams may join the nine who have already booked their spots in next year’s Africa Cup of Nations to be hosted by Cameroon.
The finalists include the Super Eagles of Nigeria, hosts Cameroon, record title winners Egypt and former champions Tunisia and Morocco.
The rest are Senegal, Mali, Uganda and debutante Madagascar.
Among the possible qualifiers on Sunday are Tanzania, coached by ex-Nigerian international Emmanuel Amunike, as well as Algeria, Guinea, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. Côte d’Ivoire may also be in the number.
Amunike was hired on August 6 to manage the Taifa Stars whose only appearance in the continent’s flagship tournament was in Nigeria 38 years ago when they were eliminated in the first round.
Tanzania played the opening match of Nigeria 1980 at the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos and got beaten 3-1 by the home team. And defeat to Egypt 1-2, plus a 1-1 outcome against the Ivorien Elephants placed the east Africans at the foot of the table in Group A.
Amunike has been in charge of three matches since, returning from Kampala with a point against Uganda, losing to Cape Verde away and achieving his first win (2-0) against the same opposition in the reversed fixture.
If Tanzania lift their game and overcome their hosts in Lesotho in the only Group L match of the day, they will be listed among the finalists of Cameroon 2019.
A draw in Maseru will mean that Tanzania will have to better the result of the chasing duo of Cape Verde and Lesotho who will face themselves on the last matchday of the qualifiers, while the Taifa Stars host Uganda.
In the first leg played last June 10 at the Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium, Dar-es-Salam, Lesotho forced the home team to a 1-1 draw.
In Group D, Algeria will join the finalists if they make it double victory over Togo having won the first leg by a lone goal.
Since winning the African title on home soil in 1990 by beating Nigeria in the final, Algeria’s best outing in the competition was fourth place in Angola 2010 where Nigeria got their revenge by winning the third placed match 1-0.
If Algeria lose, they will remain on top of the table, but on same points with Benin Republic with whom they have head-to-head advantage.
In Group H, Guinea will go through with just a point, or if Central Africa Republic fail to win.
It will be Guinea’s 12th time in the finals, although their best outing was way back in 1976 when they were runners-up to Morocco in Ethiopia.
Guinea won the first leg against their hosts Côte d’Ivoire, who will try to avoid double defeats.
For the Ivorien, the results of their match and that of Central Africa Republic in Rwanda are of essence. The Elephants will qualify for Cameroon 2019 if they avoid defeat and Rwanda beat their guests.
Zimbabwe’s quest for a fourth appearance in AFCON finals will be confirmed if they pick a point in Monrovia against the Liberian side they humbled 3-0 in Harare. But defeat will mean that the Harambe Stars, presently leading Group G, will have to battle it out on the last matchday when they host Congo Republic.
Congo Republic will step up from the bottom of the table if they triumph over DR Congo, who won the first leg 3-1, while Liberia are also in the mix with only one point behind second placed DR Congo.
Mauritania are on the verge of history. If they beat Botswana, which lost at home 0-1 in the reversed fixture, they will have qualified for the continental competition for the first time. Any other result will however still keep the northwest African team in contention until the last match of the group stage when they travel to Ouagadougou to face Burkina Faso.
The Burkinabe, who are presently No 2 in Group I with two points adrift of surprise elements Mauritania, engage Angola in Luanda. The Angolans will seek revenge after losing the first leg 3-1, and realising that victory will lift them above their opponents and put them in good stead to qualify for Cameroon 2019.
In Group J, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) and Niger Republic play for pride having already lost out to Tunisia and Egypt in the race for Cameroon 2019. The first leg of this dead rubber ended goalless in Niamey.
Mozambique will count on their home fans to back them as they strive to repeat their first leg result against Zambia, who lost at home 0-1 in the first leg. If the Mozambicans succeed, 2012 champions Zambia will be eliminated, while Mozambique will close in on Group K front runners Guinea-Bissau and Namibia, who will then be only one point ahead.
In Group F, the situation is uncertain as CAF is yet to determine what happened to the two matches Sierra Leone were stopped from playing with Ghana as a result of the suspension of that country’s FA then.
Kenya lead the group with seven points from four matches, while Ethiopia have four points from the same number of games.
Ghana and Sierra Leone have played only two matches each and have three points.
Ethiopia host Ghana seeking to deal with their guests who won 5-0 in the first leg, while Kenya are home to Sierra Leone. The West Africans won the first leg 2-1.
Madagascar, already in Cameroon 2019 finals, fight to snatch Group A leadership from Senegal as they go for a double over Sudan, who were beaten 1-3 at home in the first leg.
Group A: Madagascar v Sudan (first leg Madagascar 3-1) (12:30pm)
Group D: Togo v Algeria (first leg Algeria 1-0) (5pm)
Group F: Ethiopia v Ghana (first leg Ghana 5-0), Kenya v Sierra Leone (first leg Sierra Leone 2-1) (both 2pm)
Group G: Congo Republic v DR Congo (first leg DR Congo 3-1) (3:30pm), Liberia v Zimbabwe (first leg Zimbabwe 3-0) (5pm)
Group H: Rwanda v Central Africa Republic (first leg Central Africa Republic 2-1) (2:30pm), Guinea v Côte d’Ivoire (first leg Guinea 3-2) (6pm)
Group I: Angola v Burkina Faso (first leg Burkina Faso 3-1) (4pm), Mauritania v Botswana (first leg Mauritania 1-0) (6pm)
Group J: eSwatini v Niger Republic (first leg 0-0) (2:30pm)
Group K: Mozambique v Zambia (first leg Mozambique 1-0) (2:30pm)
Group L: Lesotho v Tanzania (first leg 1-1) (3pm)