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AFCON

Nigeria, South Africa Among Quarter-finals Favourites In ‘crazy’ AFCON –

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Super Eagles Fly To Bouake On Tuesday -

Former champions Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa have earned the right to be favourites in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals on Friday and Saturday.

 

But, given a tournament in which seven of the top 10-ranked teams, led by 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco, have been eliminated, that tag could prove a curse.

Here, AFP Sport previews the ties with Guinea and Mali hoping to go one step further after previously being runners-up, while Angola and Cape Verde pursue first semi-finals appearances.

Napoli star Victor Osimhen came to the tournament as an acclaimed goal-scorer, but it is his incredible workrate in searing heat which epitomises the Nigerian title challenge.

Concerns about the William Troost-Ekong-marshalled defence have proven unfounded with only one goal conceded in four matches and, particularly against Cameroon, the Super Eagles impressed.

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Angola are one of the nations that have mocked the form book in the Ivory Coast, winning three straight matches after never managing more than one win at a time in eight other appearances.

Gelson Dala is the joint second-highest scorer with four goals and Mabululu has notched three ahead of a clash between the highest and lowest-ranked survivors.

DR Congo coach Sebastien Desabre said before the tournament that his target was a quarter-final spot for a country that won the tournament twice decades ago when known as Zaire.

Having achieved his primary goal, he can realistically believe that a first semi-final place since 2015 is possible, and once again their opponents could be the Cote d’Ivoire.

While the Congolese upset record seven-time champions Egypt after a penalty shootout, Mohamed Bayo snatched an added-time winner for Guinea over group-phase surprise side Equatorial Guinea.

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“It is not a gift to face us,” warned Guinea coach Kaba Diawara, who kept consistent Bundesliga scorer Serhou Guirassy on the bench for most of the last-16 encounter.

After scraping into the knockout stage as the third-placed qualifiers with the worst record, Ivory Coast stunned title-holders Senegal and are now been talked about as potential champions.

“We are not going to get carried away,” stressed Emerse Fae, given the task of coaching a senior team for the first time after the post-group phase sacking of Jean-Louis Gasset.

The return to fitness of Borussia Dortmund forward Sebastien Haller and Brighton winger Simon Adingra increase the attacking options, while Mali rely largely on Lassine Sinayoko for goals.

A Mali team coached by Abidjan-born Eric Chelle are seeking a first victory over Ivory Coast in the tournament having drawn one and lost four of previous Cup of Nations meetings.

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  • Cape Verde v South Africa

Cape Verde may be ranked 73rd in the world, but coach Pedro ‘Bubista’ Brito told his players before the Cup of Nations that he expected them to at least reach the semi-finals.

It seemed a tall order for a collection of footballers who play for mainly modest clubs across Europe, and were born there to a Cape Verdean parent, or had a grandparent from the island state.

But after they beat Ghana, then held record seven-time champions Egypt despite resting a number of first-choice players, South Africa have been warned not to underestimate the Blue Sharks.

“Our win over Morocco is history. Cape Verde are as determined as us to reach the semi-finals and we dare not underrate them,” said coach Hugo Broos, a 2017 AFCON winner with Cameroon.

-AFP

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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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