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2023 AFCON Qualifying Recap: Groups E-H

Group E

Analysis

  • It is difficult to praise or be critical of Ghana’s performance in their opening two matches. The Black Stars eased past a Madagascar side missing numerous starters before not looking at their best while drawing Central African Republic in Angola. Manager Otto Addo is still finding his feet but Ghanaian supporters should not overlook that Central African Republic is not the minnow they used to be.
  • Having Mohammed Kudus back healthy is massive for the Black Stars and he was influential across both games. The Ghanaian attack looked a lot more threatening with the Ajax playmaker fully fit compared to when Kudus had just returned from injury for the Qatar 2022 qualifying playoff against Nigeria.
  • Angola earned a massive point against a Madagascar side known for their fierce home advantage. The Palancas Negras are a team to watch, particularly their attack led by Gelson Dala and Leeds United winger Hélder Costa.
  • While Angola look likely to qualify for the AFCON their defense had a couple of notable lapses in concentration across both games that were responsible for both of the goals they conceded, most notably failing to be ready following a hydration break at Madagascar.
  • Madagascar was plagued by numerous absences and a notable lack of preparation in their 3-0 opener defeat to Ghana while not looking too much better in a 1-1 home draw against Angola. The Barea have plenty of work to do because right now it appears they may be in for a battle to avoid last place at this point.
  • Following their success at the 2017 AFCON where they advanced to the knockout stage on their debut appearance, Madagascar have notably struggled to transition from the successful veteran-led side. There are young talents in the squad but there will be a period of difficulties while they gain experience.
  • Central African Republic announced themselves as a program on the rise in 2021 with an appearance for the under-20 side at the 2021 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations before the senior team shocked Nigeria 1-0 in Lagos during 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying. Les Fauves are continuing to show they are a competent side after taking the lead at Angola and drawing Ghana.

Best Goal of the Week

Mohammed Kudus- Ghana vs. Central African Republic

Next Two Matchdays

Matchday 3

Ghana vs. Angola

Madagascar vs. Central African Republic

Matchday 4

Angola vs. Ghana

Central African Republic vs. Madagascar

Group F

Analysis

  • Algeria manager Djamel Belmadi recognized an excellent opportunity to bring in younger players to get experience in a weak qualifying group and the Fennecs look comfortable so far. Forward Adam Ounas, midfielders Ramiz Zerrouki and Adem Zorgane as well as defender Ahmed Touba all got extended looks against Uganda and Tanzania.
  • It is difficult to assess whether Algeria are still anywhere close to the level they were at during their African-record unbeaten streak but the 2-0 victory at Tanzania highlighted how to get three points on the road without dominating a match. Algeria were clinical in both defense and attack.
  • Niger will regret not getting a win against Tanzania in their home opener played in Benin but the Ménas look like the most talented side in the race with Uganda and Tanzania for second place. However, a lack of home advantage makes Niger unique in the group for the worst of reasons and they will need more results like the draw at Uganda.
  • Uganda continue to lack any sort of fluid play under manager Micho Sredojevic. The Cranes did excellently to press high and take the lead against Niger at home but tired in the second half and failed to keep possession, setting the stage for Niger’s comeback.
  • Tanzania have a superstar in forward Mbwana Samatta but he will need more support. Samatta’s fellow attackers depended on him too much in their home defeat to Algeria and that forces Samatta to act more as a creator rather than the excellent penalty box predator role he thrives in.
  • The two matches between Tanzania and Uganda in September will go a long way to determining who holds an edge to join likely group winners Algeria at the 2023 AFCON. Right now it appears that the Uganda side is in a bit of a crisis but they will host the first matchup, a must win before facing their neighbors in Dar es Salaam.

Best Goal of the Week

Youcef Belaïli- Algeria vs. Uganda

Next Two Matchdays

Matchday 3

Algeria vs. Niger

Uganda vs. Tanzania

Matchday 4

Niger vs. Algeria

Tanzania vs. Uganda

Group G

Analysis

  • There were plenty of questions about whether new Mali manager Éric Chelle was up to the task of leading Les Aigles but the former national team player did excellent in his first competitive fixtures. His substitutions against South Sudan were well-timed and made a massive difference.
  • The opening forty minutes of Mali’s 4-0 victory over Republic of Congo showed just how fearsome the Eagles can be at this level. Overwhelming speed and energy combined with the technical ability of a midfield playmaker in Yves Bissouma was absolutely devastating to the Congolese.
  • Gambia encountered difficulty against a tough South Sudan side in their opener but the Scorpions have proven they can find the winning edge in closely contested games.
  • However, Gambia really need to get their stadium situation sorted out because this is a very tough group and home advantage could help them earn crucial points in their doubleheader against Mali in September. The Gambian government has indicated that their stadium situation could be sorted out by then.
  • Republic of Congo showed their capabilities in a 1-0 home victory over Gambia and just how important home advantage could be in making the difference between third and second place in the group. Brazzaville was rocking last Wednesday and Paul Put’s team did well to bounce back from their disastrous opener against Mali.
  • South Sudan manager Stefano Cusin declared his team capable of qualifying and the Bright Stars have certainly proven they are in the picture despite the results not going their way so far. Expect Cusin’s physically bruising side to bounce back with urgency when they take on Republic of Congo twice in September.

Best Goal of the Week

El Bilal Touré- Mali vs. Republic of Congo

Next Two Matchdays

Matchday 3

Mali vs. Gambia

Republic of Congo vs. South Sudan

Matchday 4

Gambia vs. Mali

South Sudan vs. Republic of Congo

Group H

Analysis

  • This is going to be a more difficult group than anticipated for Ivory Coast, who have already qualified as hosts but will be very disappointed with a 0-0 draw against Lesotho in South Africa. The Elephants’ talented attack continues to underperform for long stretches and failed to find a way past a bunkered in opponent in Johannesburg.
  • Sebastien Haller struggled once again on national team duty for the Elephants, getting replaced after the hour mark against Zambia before remaining on the bench against Lesotho. The opportunities will likely continue for a bit longer but the Ajax striker will need to find his stride and live up to the high expectations.
  • Zambia’s attack looks devastating at times but the Chipolopolo are still trying to find their confidence after a poor 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign where their stars were unavailable at times due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. Edging out Comoros in their second match was a massive result that could be the catalyst for recently appointed manager Aljoša Asanović.
  • However, the Zambian defense needs to be sharper in front of goalkeeper Toaster Nsabata with the lone goal conceded against Comoros a result of sloppy communication and execution.
  • Comoros look like they are transitioning well following the departure of manager Amir Abdou after a dream run to the 2021 AFCON knockout stage on their debut. The team appears determined to prove that qualifying for the previous AFCON was no fluke.
  • Lesotho bunkered in and held on for dear life against Ivory Coast, earning their point with a 0-0 draw. After a few top-4 finishes in the COSAFA Cup over the past decade Lesotho’s goal will be to see if they can be a threat in attack at this level. Lesotho have not won a match in the AFCON qualifying group stage since defeating Tanzania 1-0 in November 2018.

Best Goal of the Week

Kings Kangwa- Zambia vs. Comoros

Next Two Matchdays

Matchday 3

Ivory Coast vs. Comoros

Zambia vs. Lesotho

Matchday 4

Comoros vs. Ivory Coast

Lesotho vs. Zambia

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