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2023 AFCON Qualifying Recap: Groups A-D

Group A

Analysis

  • Nigeria had a difficult time dealing with Sierra Leone but the response was positive from the team after going down early to the Leone Stars. Moses Simon continues to be at his best by creating opportunities for the Super Eagles forwards.
  • Super Eagles manager José Peseiro cannot take much away from a Nigeria national team record 10-0 victory over São Tomé and Príncipe but will be happy with the results this week following difficult friendly tests against Mexico and Ecuador. The favorable draw in Group A is a great opportunity for the new manager to bring his team along without too much pressure.
  • Sierra Leone continue to recruit more and more European-based players to join the cause and it is clear that there is promise as manager John Keister builds his team following the retirement of a couple of veteran leaders. Forwards Jonathan Morsay and Amadou Bagayoko are making an instant impact and add to a strong attack.
  • It was crucial for the Leone Stars to comeback and draw against Guinea-Bissau on Monday considering it was a home fixture despite being played in Guinea. If the team can get six points from their two September fixtures against São Tomé and Príncipe then the second match against Guinea-Bissau will have the urgency of a cup final.
  • Guinea-Bissau continue to show why they have qualified for the last three AFCON’s but may look back with regret at failing to wrap up a win on Monday against Sierra Leone. The quality in the squad remains strong but a lack of home field advantage makes their return match against Sierra Leone more uncertain.
  • With the introduction of Belgian-born forward Zinho Gano, Guinea-Bissau saw positive signs on his competitive debut and will hope that the giant marksman can show more signs of being the reliable goal scorer they crave.
  • São Tomé and Príncipe got off to a dream start by opening the scoring in their first match against Guinea-Bissau but morale was crushed with fifteen unanswered goals between their 5-1 defeat to the Djurtus and 10-0 clobbering at the hands of Nigeria. It will be interesting to see if they can muster up any kind of resistance in their next two matches against Sierra Leone.

Best Goal of the Week

Jonathan Morsay- Sierra Leone vs. Nigeria

Next Two Matchdays

Matchday 3

Nigeria vs. Guinea-Bissau

Sierra Leone vs. São Tomé and Príncipe

Matchday 4

Guinea-Bissau vs. Nigeria

São Tomé and Príncipe vs. Sierra Leone

Group B

Analysis

  • Burkina Faso continue to prove that they are more than a capable side even when missing star attackers like Bertrand Traoré and Lassina Traoré. FC Lorient forward Dango Ouattara took on the goal scoring responsibilities and the 20-year-old continues to make long strides for club and country.
  • Les Étalons look like they will have no issues progressing to the finals in Ivory Coast with a composed 2-0 victory over Group B rivals Cape Verde. Despite lacking home advantage for now, Burkina Faso will be optimistic they can take at least four points when they face Togo twice in September.
  • Togo manager Paulo Duarte will have a lot to prove when his team faces his former employer in Burkina Faso. His team looked dismayed by the end of the Sparrow Hawks’ 2-0 defeat to Cape Verde and a shock 2-2 home draw in their opener to Eswatini demoralized supporters hoping for a return to the AFCON.
  • Cape Verde responded excellently to their opening match defeat to Burkina Faso by being clinical in a 2-0 victory over Togo. The veterans in the Blue Sharks side still look reliable as ever with 33-year-old striker Júlio Tavares putting in a Man of the Match performance.
  • The key for Cape Verde manager Bubista is maintaining his team’s steady form while finding minutes for younger players. Bubista was more successful with this in the Togo victory with goalkeeper Sixten Mohlin and midfielder Deroy Duarte being introduced to the starting lineup.
  • Eswatini have proven they are a team that can be quite difficult from their performances in the COSAFA Cup and they earned their point on the road in Togo. There will be no easy points for their opponents and group favorites Burkina Faso had to dig deep to come back and win last Tuesday.

Best Goal of the Week

Siboniso Ngwenya- Eswatini vs. Togo

Next Two Matchdays

Matchday 3

Burkina Faso vs. Togo

Cape Verde vs. Eswatini

Matchday 4

Togo vs. Burkina Faso

Eswatini vs. Cape Verde

Group C

Analysis

  • The biggest headlines following this week’s matches in Group C was Cameroonian Football Federation president Samuel Eto’o giving a stern post-match talk to the Indomitable Lions in the locker room following their 1-0 victory over Burundi. It appears the team has responded positively to his strong criticism but we are seeing the tone that Eto’o is trying to set as an administrator.
  • Despite the criticism from Eto’o it was a decent performance from Cameroon. Burundi hardly had a look at goal and if Vincent Aboubakar finished better the result would have been more decisive. It appears the Indomitable Lions will remain in top spot without any threat.
  • Burundi will be delighted at snatching a late leveler in their opener against Namibia in South Africa as it sets up an opportunity for the Swallows to put a foot in the AFCON finals if they can defeat Namibia in the return match.
  • Keep in mind that Burundi was missing a couple of players due to injury including Turkish-based midfielder Youssouf Ndayishimiye. The 23-year-old will add a lot to the team if he is healthy when Burundi return to competitive action in 2023.
  • Namibia are certainly still in the chase for a top-2 spot despite their disappointing home draw against Burundi but the Brave Warriors need to keep their focus for the full ninety minutes. It still seems that the Namibian attack is not performing at the level it is capable of with South Africa based star attackers Peter Shalulile and Deon Hotto.
  • With home and away fixtures coming up in September against Cameroon, Namibia will need to aim for at least a point between the two games and chase a victory when they meet in the home fixture in South Africa. Any positive result will ease the pressure on their second matchup against Burundi on the road.

Best Goal of the Week

Peter Shalulile- Namibia vs. Burundi

Next Two Matchdays

Matchday 3

Cameroon vs. Namibia

Matchday 4

Namibia vs. Cameroon

Group D

Analysis

  • The atmosphere around the Egyptian Football Association is total crisis following the Pharaohs’ defeat to Ethiopia. If manager Ehab Galal and his team do not impress in a friendly against South Korea it looks like Galal will be out after two competitive games and the EFA will call in a foreign manager to salvage their campaign.
  • Egypt and Zamalek attacking midfielder Zizo has been the best player in the Egyptian Premier League this season but has yet to make an impact with the national team. Thursday’s defeat to Ethiopia highlighted the difference between an Egypt with their foreign based stars (Salah, Elneny and Trezeguet) and an Egypt team with mostly domestic league players.
  • Ethiopia have always produced quality attackers and midfielders to make the Walias a pleasing team to watch. The Egypt win showed how Ethiopia are probably the best national team in East Africa when they are at their best.
  • We will see if Ethiopia are for real when they face Guinea twice in September. A positive result in Conakry looks like a difficult proposition based on the atmosphere seen on Thursday in Guinea’s victory. Ethiopia’s usual weaknesses in defense and especially at goalkeeper will be heavily tested.
  • It is truly amazing how when Guinea are struggling to find a goal, Naby Keïta will step up and do everything by himself. The winner against Malawi at home in the video below is a great example of how valuable the Liverpool midfielder is to the Syli National.
  • Guinea deserved at least a point at struggling Egypt in their opener but still lack a dependable striker. Rennes forward Serhou Guirassy switched allegiance to Guinea and it looks like manager Kaba Diawara will continue to give him an extended look because of Mohamed Bayo’s failure to reproduce his club form for the national team.
  • Malawi have a quality side but the Flames under Mario Marinică can hardly keep a hold of the ball, being consistently out-possessed by large margins. Will depending on defense and direct play a suitable strategy to help Malawi to a top-2 finish in a difficult group?
  • Flames star striker Gabadinho Mhango will likely be getting regular playing time for new club AmaZulu after a miserable 2021-22 season with Orlando Pirates. This can only help the Flames by the time they face Egypt twice in September.

Best Goal of the Week

Naby Keïta- Guinea vs. Malawi

Next Two Matchdays

Matchday 3

Egypt vs. Malawi

Guinea vs. Ethiopia

Matchday 4

Malawi vs. Egypt

Ethiopia vs. Guinea

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