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AFCON

African Heavyweights Tumble Like Dominoes At Cup Of Nations –

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African Heavyweights Tumble Like Dominoes At Cup Of Nations -

From Cote d’Ivoire’s remarkable resurrection to heavyweight exits and underdog successes, there may never have been a more unpredictable major international football tournament than the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations.

The last 16 concluded on Tuesday with the continent’s top-ranked team, 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco, being dumped out by South Africa after Achraf Hakimi missed a crucial late penalty.

Tournament hosts Cote d’Ivoire returned from the dead, narrowly escaping a humiliating elimination in the group stage, but this AFCON has already proven to be a graveyard for many of the traditional powerhouses.

“It is not the end of the world,” insisted defeated Morocco coach Walid Regragui, whose country will host the next Cup of Nations.

“We are not the only ones. Lots of the favourites have been eliminated. We will come back stronger.”

The three most successful teams in the history of the competition are out — Egypt, Cameroon and Ghana have 16 titles among them but the first two were sent packing in the last 16 after the Black Stars limped out in the group stage.

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All five of Africa’s representatives at the 2022 World Cup have already gone home.

Senegal’s exit on penalties at the hands of Cote d’Ivoire continues a trend which has seen no reigning champion win a knockout tie at the Cup of Nations since Egypt in 2010.

 

Indeed, the last three champions have all been eliminated, with Algeria exiting in the group stage for the second AFCON in a row following their triumph in 2019.

Mohamed Salah, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mane and Hakimi, four of the very biggest stars of African football, will watch the rest of the tournament on television, if they can even bring themselves to do so.

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Most remarkably, none of the quarter-finalists at the last edition, two years ago in Cameroon, have reached the last eight this time.

That might suggest that the decision to expand the competition to 24 teams -– a change brought in from the 2019 edition in Egypt -– has helped make many smaller nations more competitive and created a greater strength in depth across Africa.

“There are no small teams anymore” has quickly become a bland cliche, and yet there is some truth to it.

In terms of pedigree, two names stand out among the quarter-finalists.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, have impressed with African player of the year Victor Osimhen leading from the front.

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They look good bets for a fourth title, 11 years after their last, although there is a danger that might be a little too logical, given how the competition has been going.

Cote d’Ivoire -– the only one of the top seeds when the draw was made who are still alive — have twice been champions, including as recently as 2015. They also have the advantage that supposedly comes with playing at home.

Then again no host country has won the AFCON since Egypt in 2006, and the Elephants have been a basket case, suffering their heaviest ever home defeat as they almost went out in the first round, and then sacking their coach.

Three of the last eight are into the quarter-finals after winning a Cup of Nations knockout tie for the very first time.

Angola, ranked 28th in Africa, will measure themselves against Osimhen’s Super Eagles, while Guinea face the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Most striking of all has been the run of Cape Verde, the tiny Atlantic Ocean island nation with a population of 600,000.

They beat Ghana and drew with Egypt on the way to topping their group, before seeing off Mauritania.

Helped by players of Cape Verdean heritage born in countries such as Portugal, France, the Netherlands and Ireland, the Blue Sharks have been outstanding and face South Africa next.

“You can see that it is not easy for the big footballing nations to win games either now,” Cape Verde captain Ryan Mendes told Canal Plus Afrique.

“They have players who play for big clubs, but us so-called small teams play with a lot of heart, and we have a lot of quality at the same time.

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“We don’t have the same status, but we do have love for our country as well as ability,” he added.

-AFP

 

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Liberia, Eswatini hold upper hand in AFCON 2025 preliminary qualifiers –

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Liberia, Eswatini Hold Upper Hand In AFCON 2025 Preliminary Qualifiers -

After commanding victories in the first leg matches of the Africa Cup of Nations, Morocco 2025, qualifiers, Chad, Liberia, and Eswatini find themselves in advantageous positions as they gear up for the return fixtures scheduled for Tuesday.

As the second leg of the preliminary fixtures approach, all eyes will be on these teams as they vie for their coveted spots in the group phase of the qualifiers, with the hopes of making their mark on the continental stage.

Chad emerged victorious with a narrow 1-0 win over Mauritius, joining Liberia and Eswatini in the lead after their impressive triumphs earlier last week.

Liberia secured a 2-0 victory against Djibouti, while Eswatini displayed their dominance with a 3-0 win over Somalia.

The second leg promises to be fiercely contested, particularly for Chad, who will face a challenging encounter against Mauritius on the latter’s home turf.

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Coach Kevin Nicaise’s players are keen to defend their slender lead and secure their spot in the next phase of the qualifiers but the trainer admits they have an arduous task.

“We are far from perfect, far from being a top team in the world. We are in the construction phase. There are still things to work on and improve,” coach Nicaise said after their first-leg win.

“It is not overnight that we will be a top team in the world, we are aware of that, however we are working hard with the group and the staff to achieve this goal.”

Meanwhile, Liberia will host Djibouti, aiming to build on their first-leg success and seal their progression to the next round.

Eswatini will host Somalia with confidence, seeking to maintain their winning momentum and secure passage to the next stage of the tournament.

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South Sudan and Sao Tome and Principe will also face off in what is expected to be a closely contested encounter, following their goalless draw in the first leg.

With both teams eager for victory, the match promises to be a thrilling battle for supremacy.

-CAF

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Liberia and Eswatini take control of AFCON preliminary ties

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Liberia and Eswatini take control of AFCON preliminary ties

Liberia and Eswatini took commanding leads in their respective Africa Cup of Nations, Morocco 2025, preliminary round ties after claiming impressive away victories on Wednesday.

Liberia captain Murphy Dorley scored one of two first-half goals as the Lone Stars defeated hosts Djibouti 2-0 in the opening leg in  Marrakech.

Mohammed Sangare broke the deadlock from the penalty spot on 23 minutes before Dorley coolly slotted home Sebastian Teclar’s cross 12 minutes later.

Djibouti struggled to lay a glove on their more illustrious opponents as the Lone Star side kept them at bay to take two away goals into next week’s second leg in Monrovia.

Eswatini were also celebrating after demolishing Somalia 3-0 in the Moroccoan  city of El Jadida to put one foot in the group stage qualifiers.

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Striker Sabelo Ndzinisa was the hero, netting twice either side of Felicio Figuareido’s 40th minute opener for the visitors.

Somalia now face an uphill battle to qualify when they travel to the Mbombela Stadium in the South African city of Nelspruit for the return on March 26th.

The opening leg victories give Liberia and Eswatini a huge advantage heading into the second legs as they target a place in the group stage on the road to next year’s finals in Morocco.

Back from the locker room, Somalia still couldn’t play its game.

Worse, Eswatini widened the gap with Ginindza who scored his double of the evening in the 56th minute. 3-0, the score remained unchanged on the scoreboard until the final whistle.

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Victory for Eswatini which will still have to perform in the return leg to ensure its qualification for the qualifiers.

 

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Road to Morocco 2025 begins today

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Liberia and Eswatini take control of AFCON preliminary ties

Following last month’s grand closing to the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations held in Cote d’Ivoire where the hosts were crowned champions for the third time, Africa’s biggest competition is now shifting its focus to the 35th edition set to be held in Morocco next year.

A total of 52 Nations will be engaged to compete for a place in the 24-nation competition.

To mark the start of the qualifiers following the draw that was held in Cairo on 20 February 2024, eight lowest ranked nations will compete in the Preliminary Qualifiers starting on Wednesday, 20 March over a two-legged format that will decide the four nations that will join the other 44 African nations to make up the group stages of the qualifiers.

The CAF AFCON Morocco 2025 journey officially gets underway on Wednesday, 20 March with two fixtures as Somalia plays host to Eswatini, while Djibouti faces Liberia.

Two days later, Chad locks horns with Mauritius before Sao Tome and Principe takes on South Sudan.

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The return legs will conclude on Tuesday, 26 March with all matches set to take place on the day to officially decide the preliminary phase of the competition.

 

 AFCON Morocco 2025 Preliminary Qualifiers:

First Leg Fixtures:

Wednesday, 20 March 

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  • 18:00 GMT | Somalia – Eswatini
  • 22:00 GMT | Djibouti – Liberia

 

Friday, 22 March

  • 18:00 GMT | Chad – Mauritius
  • 19:00 GMT | Sao Tome and Principe – South Sudan

 

Return Leg Fixtures:

Tuesday, 26 March

  • 13:00 GMT | Eswatini – Somalia
  • 16:00 GMT | Liberia – Djibouti
  • 17:00 GMT | South Sudan – Sao Tome and Principe
  • 15:00 GMT | Mauritius – Chad
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