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AFCON Qualifying Matchday 4 Recap: Groups G-L

     Matchday four brought us 24 Africa Cup of Nations qualification matches for the 2022 edition in Cameroon. The stage was set for teams to clinch early qualification, get themselves back into the hunt, or face the reality of elimination. For part 2 of Pan-Africa Football’s AFCON Qualifying Recap, here is a focus on Groups G-L.

Group G

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Matchday 4 Results

Comoros 2-1 Kenya  (Highlights)
Togo 1-3 Egypt  (Highlights)

Matchday 5 Fixtures

Kenya v Egypt on 22 March 2021
Comoros v Togo on 22 March 2021

Player of the Round

Mohamed Magdy “Afsha”- Egypt (Al Ahly [EGY])

Observations

  • Comoros continue their unexpected run to the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations by taking advantage of a weak group and playing fierce, well-organized football. Unless Kenya win out, Les Coelacantes will be making their debut in 2022.
  • Fans of Kenya’s Harambee Stars have been disappointed once again now that qualification is highly unlikely. The tone for the week was set in the first match versus Comoros when Kenya could not get a win despite playing a man up in the second half. It was unfortunate that key scorer Michael Olunga could not travel from his club in Japan due to Covid-19 protocols, but a team needs to overcome obstacles like these in the course of a qualification campaign.
  • Egypt are back to showing the form of a top CAF team, earning back-to-back victories over Togo. The Pharoahs showed no hesitation on the road in the second match, asserting themselves early to get a lead they would never relinquish. Considering there were seven starting lineup changes from the first match, Egyptian fans will be satisfied for now after worrying early results.
  • This has been a campaign to forget for Togo. The Sparrow Hawks have the talent that suggests they are capable of competing, but are still finding their way in the attack without the influence of legendary forward Emmanuel Adebayor. A bright spot is the emergence of 21-year-old Lyon goalkeeper Malcolm Barcola, who looks capable of being a key player for the long-term.

Group H

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Matchday 4 Results

Zimbabwe 2-2 Algeria  (Highlights)
Botswana 1-0 Zambia

Matchday 5 Fixtures

Zambia v Algeria on 22 March 2021
Botswana v Zimbabwe on 22 March 2021

Player of the Round

Knowledge Musona- Zimbabwe (KAS Eupen [BEL])

Observations

  • Zimbabwe-Algeria is a top contender for the best of match day four. Algeria might not have had their best performance, but Riyad Mahrez continued to show his class and the team hasn’t let the pandemic slow their stride. West Ham signing Said Benrahma will be getting further integrated into the team’s attack as well.
  • However, Zimbabwe was determined to get a result, and showed why they are capable of squaring up with the top sides in CAF on their best day. Warriors fans got to see the deadly trio of Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat, and Tino Kadewere play together in the second half, as well as highly hyped young striker Prince Dube. If Zimbabwe can see qualification out, they could be a real team to watch in Cameroon.
  • Botswana are overjoyed to have come out with three points this week. The Zebras turned in two resilient performances, and were rewarded in their second matchup at home against Zambia with a victory. They won’t be fancied to qualify, but coach Adel Amrouche has this team punching above its weight.
  • The Chipolopolo of Zambia just haven’t been able to put together a consistent performance over two halves in this campaign. Coach Micho Sredojevic attempted to build chemistry through multiple friendlies leading up to this week, but will see the results against Botswana as lost points. The young talent in the attack and midfield previously gave fans reason for hope, but poor performances make next match against group favorites Algeria a must win.

Group I

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Matchday 4 Results

Guinea-Bissau 0-1 Senegal  (Highlights)
Eswatini 0-0 Republic of Congo  (Highlights)

Matchday 5 Fixtures

Republic of Congo v Senegal on 22 March 2021
Eswatini v Guinea-Bissau on 22 March 2021

Player of the Round

Sadio Mané- Senegal (Liverpool [ENG])

Observations

  • The Teranga Lions of Senegal have faced very little resistance so far in their bid for qualification, with this last road match in Bissau their stiffest challenge so far. It was an underwhelming performance, but yet again Sadio Mané willed his team to victory by scoring after a slick passing combination in the penalty box with substitute Habib Diallo.
  • Guinea-Bissau certainly put in worthy performances against the Teranga Lions, but couldn’t sustain the defensive performance necessary to steal any points. The Djurtus will need to come up with a result at Eswatini to have any hope of qualifying, but could set up a thrilling finish at home against Republic of Congo if they can take care of business.
  • Republic of Congo may be disappointed to not get six points off cellar-dwellers Eswatini this week, but getting wins when playing at Eswatini has eluded teams of similar quality in the past. Former Brazilian international player and now coach Valdo has kept the team on course, but there still remains work to do to ensure qualification.
  • Minnows Eswatini did their part to make things difficult for Congo in both matches this week. The team, composed of mainly domestic-based players, did not have an opportunity to play competitive football until this week but earned their point.  

Group J

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Matchday 4 Results

Equatorial Guinea 1-0 Libya  (Highlights)
Tanzania 1-1 Tunisia  (Highlights)

Matchday 5 Fixtures

Libya v Tunisia on 22 March 2021
Equatorial Guinea v Tanzania on 22 March 2021

Player of the Round

Aishi Manula– Tanzania (Azam [TZA])

Observations

  • The attack of Tanzania finally came up with a much needed goal after a shaky defensive start to stop Tunisia’s perfect run in Group J. Will it be too little too late? The next match at Equatorial Guinea in March will determine the answer, but Taifa Stars fans will be relieved to see signs of life.
  • It seemed Tunisia had done enough by halftime of the match to clinch qualification, but that will have to wait until next year. Sporting a defense and midfield that has been mostly impenetrable during qualification, the question for Carthage Eagles fans will be if the team can generate goals against higher-level competition.
  • Equatorial Guinea had an excellent week, with the Nzalang gaining maximum points home and away against Libya. Looking rejuvenated with a strong central midfield featuring Pedro Obiang and Pepín, now the team can put all their focus on clinching an AFCON spot by winning at home against Tanzania.
  • The circumstances have always been unfavorable to Libya in recent times because of their inability to play home matches. The Mediterranean Knights seemed to have their campaign on track, but conceded two goals in second-half injury time to lose to Equatorial Guinea in the opening match this week. Following the road loss on matchday four, they now face a must win match against Tunisia. 

Group K

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Matchday 4 Results

Madagascar 1-1 Ivory Coast  (Highlights)
Ethiopia 3-0 Niger  (Highlights)

Matchday 5 Fixtures

Niger v Ivory Coast on 22 March 2021
Ethiopia v Madagascar on 22 March 2021

Player of the Round

Shimelis Bekele- Ethiopia (Misr Lel-Makkasa [EGY])

Observations

  • It was an entertaining pair of clashes between Ivory Coast and Madagascar this week. Although Ivory Coast claimed a win and a draw, the Barea of Madagascar continue to impress since their breakthrough at the 2019 AFCON. The team is well balanced with veteran leadership in defense as well as attack.
  • Ivory Coast haven’t been as dominant as the fanbase has come to expect from Les Élephants, but the star power is certainly there. Nicolas Pepe has yet to find his form at the international level and help take the Ivorians to the heights they are capable of. However, a bright spot is the emergence of Sebastien Haller as a strong #9 option up top who is good in the air.
  • The Walias of Ethiopia delivered a delightful performance at home to defeat Niger 3-0 and put themselves back into the qualification picture. Star midfielder Shimelis Bekele displayed his ingenuity when operating in tight spaces to assist on two of Ethiopia’s goals. Next up is a crucial home fixture against Madagascar where Ethiopia must get another three points.
  • It has been a struggle for Niger this campaign, although it would be fair to say that their 2-6 capitulation to Madagascar makes their record look worse than it is. The Ménas are still capable of playing the role of spoiler, but the door on qualification is shut barring a miracle.  

Group L

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Matchday 4 Results

Sierra Leone 0-0 Nigeria  (Highlights)
Lesotho 0-0 Benin  (Highlights)

Matchday 5 Fixtures

Benin v Nigeria on 22 March 2021
Lesotho v Sierra Leone on 22 March 2021

Player of the Round

Khaled Adénon- Benin (US Avranches [FRA])

Observations

  • In Freetown, the 0-0 draw between Nigeria and Sierra Leone in the second match was the polar opposite of the 4-4 thriller last Friday, but the panic remains for the Super Eagles leadership and fanbase. Assuring the support of revenge, Nigeria proceeded to miss a couple of golden opportunities to put qualification in the bag. The form is very worrying, but with a home match against Lesotho remaining on the schedule, the odds of a total meltdown remain low.
  • The 4-4 result energized the support of Sierra Leone, and even though a win didn’t come at home, there is still a chance if the Leone Stars can win out. The improvement in organization and ability to recruit players from abroad with Sierra Leonean heritage has boosted the team’s capabilities. Under new coach John Keister, the team will go into their remaining qualifiers with some momentum.
  • Under coach Michel Dussuyer, Benin have sacrificed attractive football to get the results needed, and are in a good position to book their AFCON ticket. Scoring only three goals in four matches and lacking a bit in attacking talent, Benin is embracing its defensive and pragmatic identity. 
  • Lesotho have provided stingy opposition and continued that trend in their matches against Benin. Sierra Leone will need a win when they come to Maseru next, and the artificial turf has been friendly to Lesotho when they encounter teams that think they will get an easy three points.

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