Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers: Five matches to watch

Andre Ayew - Ghana
Goal’s Ed Dove picks out five Afcon qualifiers to watch during the midweek clashes across the continent

  1. Ghana vs South Africa

    Ghana vs South Africa

    These two African giants—and former Nations Cup winners—collide in an opening Group C clash which could well set the tone for their respective qualifying campaigns.

    While the pair will both be confident of qualifying (Sudan and Sao Tome e Principe complete the group) there’s a brittleness about both, and they must guard against complacency.

    Ghana, for example, were defeated by Kenya during the qualifying campaign for the last Nations Cup, and show little in the way of tangible improvement under Kwesi Appiah, while South Africa are something of an unknown quantity under new coach Molefi Ntseki.

    He began his reign with a 2-1 friendly triumph over Mali last month—a win that didn’t compensate for failure to progress in African Nations Championship qualification—and will be quietly confident of taking a point away in Cape Coast.
  2. Cameroon vs Cape Verde

    Cameroon vs Cape Verde

    One of several nations heading into a new era following a change of manager during the summer, Cameroon have much to prove following an underwhelming showing in Egypt, even if they don’t need to qualify for the Afcon as they advance as hosts.

    The team were late arrivals after a bonus row delayed their takeoff, and failed to convince under Clarence Seedorf before a Last 16 elimination by Nigeria.

    Toni Conceicao represents a perplexing replacement, with controversy shrouding his appointment and the decision-making procedure of Fecafoot, and he must be wary of a giant-killing when Cape Verde—who eliminated Nigeria at the Wafu Cup—come to Yaounde.
  3. Nigeria vs Benin

    Nigeria vs Benin

    The Super Eagles enjoyed their finest (and first) Nations Cup campaign since winning the tournament in 2013 when they reached the semi-finals in Egypt earlier this year, and there was no shame in their final four defeat by eventual winners Algeria.

    However, the jury’s still out on Gernot Rohr, despite the wealth of talent he has at his disposal.

    Odion Ighalo and John Obi Mikel have joined Victor Moses in putting international football behind him, and more than ever, the German coach needs to demonstrate he’s the man to get the best out of this talented, young collective.

    Benin are a team on the rise following their fine showing at the Nations Cup and their encouraging performances at the Wafu Cup, and they have the quality going forward to hurt the Super Eagles on the counter attack in Uyo.
  4. Egypt vs Kenya

    Egypt vs Kenya

    The Harambee Stars have got one of the toughest assignments of any African side during this international break, as they have to begin their Afcon campaign with an away trip to Alexandria.

    Kenya won many admirers during the last Nations Cup qualifying campaign under Sebastien Migne, but they were exposed at the top table, defeating Tanzania but failing to hold their own against Algeria and Senegal.

    Francis Kimanzi has now stepped into the breach, replacing the Frenchman, and while he has talent at his exposure, October’s defeat by Mozambique didn’t bode well.

    Kenyan football feels as though it’s on the brink of turmoil, and don’t expect things to get any better before they get tougher.
  5. Burkina Faso vs Uganda

    Burkina Faso vs Uganda

    The Cranes have completed a trio of intriguing and ambitious coaching appointments by turning to Northern Irish coach Johnny McKinstry as the successor to Sebastien Desabre.

    The former Rwanda boss has big shoes to fill, with the East Africans having come a long way since Milutin Sredojevic took over in 2013, but he has the energy and the dynamism to get the best out of this talented group of players.

    While the Cranes are on the rise, Burkina Faso have fallen a long way since finishing third at the Nations Cup in 2017, and they’ll be desperate to rain on Uganda’s parade to take command of Group B.