The penultimate round of qualification games for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers showcased some exciting football from the continent with lots of goals and standout performances.
Group A remains a tight affair, as the 2-2 draw between Liberia and Togo ensures that qualification from this group will be decided in the final round of games to be played in September. Tunisia, who defeated Djibouti 3-0 on Friday are level on points with Liberia, and will host the Lone Stars in the group’s final game. Automatic qualification will be the reward for victory, but a draw would see Liberia go through, and leave Tunisia hoping for qualification as one of two overall second place finishers.
DR Congo earned my vote for the Best Team Performance as they thrashed Madagascar comprehensively 6-1, with their star man Yannick Bolasie putting the disappointment of the FA cup defeat firmly behind him. The win moves DR Congo closer to qualification in group B, but they will need to avoid defeat at home to second place Central African Republic in September to secure the automatic ticket.
FIFA has temporarily lifted the ban on the Benin Football Federation (FBF), after the governing body had suspended the team from international football following a decision by a local court in Benin preventing the FBF from conducting elections. This decision means that the scheduled game between Benin and Equatorial Guinea will now be played on the June 12, with Benin needing a win to keep the pressure on Mali, who defeated South Sudan 3-0 and top the group with 13 points.
Egypt’s Mohamed Salah walked away with the Match Ball as well as my pick for Star Performance.
The Stallions of Burkina Faso are in pole position, marginally, in group D ahead of Uganda, thanks to a slender 2-1 win over Botswana. Their 1-0 defeat of Uganda earlier in the qualifiers means that the Stallions top the group on the basis of a better head to head as both teams are locked on 10 points. Uganda plays host to the Comoros Islands in its final group game while the Burkinabes welcome Botswana.
Guinea-Bissau will be making its first appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations, and it booked its qualification in dramatic fashion. A 90th minute winner by Toni Silva broke the resolve of the Chipolopolo from Zambia, who had twice come back to level the match. The win, and Congo’s defeat to Kenya, assure the former Portuguese colony of top spot in group E.
Egypt’s Mohamed Salah walked away with the Match Ball as well as my pick for Star Performance as his team rubber-stamped their qualification from group G with 2-0 defeat away in Tanzania. The tricky winger was a constant thorn in the side of the home team and capped an excellent performance with a well taken free kick in the 58th minute. His compatriot and team keeper Essam El-Hadary pulled off a stunning save with the score at 0-0 to earn my Save of the Weekend.
Ivory Coast defeated Gabon 2-1 in a friendly game, as Sierra Leone beat Sudan 1-0 in the only official match played in group 1. New CAF regulations effective in 2015 require that AFCON host countries play a part in the qualification process, with their games counting as friendlies. The weekend results therefore leave group 1 wide open with a final winner-takes-all game to be held between Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone in September.
With 13 automatic qualifying places up for grabs, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, Zimbabwe and Cameroon have all secured automatic qualification from their respective groups. The Teranga lions of Senegal showed their dominance in group K with a 2-0 win away in Burundi. This result means they have won every game so far in the qualifying series and will be aiming to maintain their 100 per cent record when they host Namibia in September.
DR Congo vs Central African Republic
Ethiopia vs Seychelles
Equatorial Guinea vs South Sudan
South Africa vs Mauritania
Tunisia vs Liberia
Togo vs Djibouti
Malawi vs Swaziland
Mozambique vs Mauritius
Morocco vs Sao Tome and Principe
Nigeria vs Tanzania
Congo vs Guinea Bissau
Sudan vs Gabon
Senegal vs Namibia
Algeria vs Lesotho
Mali vs Benin
Angola vs Madagascar
Ghana vs Rwanda
Niger vs Burundi
Cape Verde vs Libya
Cameroon vs Gambia
Zambia vs Kenya
Ivory Coast vs Sierra Leone
Guinea vs Zimbabwe
Uganda vs Comoros
Burkina Faso vs Botswana
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