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2023 AFCON Qualifying Recap: Groups I-L

Group I

Analysis

  • Following a miserable 2021 AFCON that saw them go scoreless with seven goals conceded on their way out at the group stage, Mauritania look renewed under manager Amir Abdou. The architect of Comoros’ excellent debut appearance looks to be a brilliant hire with his knowledge of and experience in Mauritanian club football.
  • While their 0-0 draw at Gabon may have been aided by the Gabonese team’s travel difficulties and issues with their federation, Mauritania showed how formidable they are at home in their 3-0 victory over Sudan. Aboubakar Kamara continues to show he is a worthy talisman up top.
  • DR Congo parted ways with manager Héctor Cúper but it will take plenty of work to recover from a disastrous start. A home defeat to Gabon and an uninspiring performance in their road defeat to Sudan has Congolese supporters ready to hit the panic button.
  • After bringing back veteran forwards Dieumerci Mbokani and Cédric Bakambu to inspire the Leopards in 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying, the issues have arisen again for DR Congo’s transition period following their return to international retirement.
  • The top story for Gabon was administration issues with the Gabonese federation being called out by the leaders in the Panthers squad for failing to make timely arrangements for travel and accommodation. The players overcame those difficulties to somehow win against DR Congo in Kinshasa but the team looked notably tired and uninspired in their scoreless home draw against Mauritania.
  • Gabon proved they do not need European-based stars Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mario Lemina at the 2021 AFCON and that will remain the same moving forward. Aaron Boupendza, Jim Allevinah and Denis Bouanga are more than capable of carrying the attack along with veteran midfielders Guelor Kanga and André Biyogo Poko to keep the Panthers a team that should expect qualification
  • Sudan will once again likely be a team that is formidable at home but fails to earn points on the road. Manager Burhan Tia is doing well to rebuild the squad with younger players but his side will need to earn at least a couple of points in their road fixtures.

Best Goal of the Week

Aboubakar Kamara- Mauritania vs. Sudan

Next Two Matchdays

Matchday 3

DR Congo vs. Mauritania

Gabon vs. Sudan

Matchday 4

Mauritania vs. DR Congo

Sudan vs. Gabon

Group J

Analysis

  • Tunisia look like they have overcome some of the attacking struggles they showed earlier in the year and proved once again how reliable they are in qualification campaigns. The Carthage Eagles were unlucky not to get a win in Botswana with the chances they had in the first half and were clinical in a 4-0 home win over Equatorial Guinea.
  • The group favorites followed up their week in qualification with an impressive victory in the Kirin Cup in Japan. With a favorable group draw in Qatar things are coming together nicely for the Tunisian team.
  • Equatorial Guinea will be in a tug-of-war with Libya and potentially Botswana for the second spot. Based on what the Nzalang Nacional have accomplished with their run in the 2021 AFCON they have to be considered the slightest of favorites.
  • Libya look more capable under manager Corentin Martins who is known for inspiring middling sides to new heights as seen during his work with Mauritania. The issue with the Mediterranean Knights is finding the net regularly but having the return of home advantage proved beneficial during their win over Botswana.
  • Botswana will be somewhat satisfied with a point at home against group favorites Tunisia but the Zebras showed some of their potential in the second half and supporters are aspiring for a top-2 finish. The two matchups against Equatorial Guinea in September are an excellent opportunity to announce themselves.

Best Goal of the Week

Seifeddine Jaziri- Tunisia vs. Equatorial Guinea

Next Two Matchdays

Matchday 3

Tunisia vs. Libya

Equatorial Guinea vs. Botswana

Matchday 4

Libya vs. Tunisia

Botswana vs. Equatorial Guinea

Group K

Analysis

  • Morocco dominated South Africa for the majority of the match but showed that finishing is still an issue when it comes to the attack. The Atlas Lions could have had at least five goals against Bafana Bafana and supporters will keep demanding more of their strikers, particularly Youssef En-Nesyri.
  • Amine Harit’s return to the national team side is a breath of fresh air for Morocco with his dribbling and technical skill adding an extra dimension to the Atlas Lions midfield. Once Noussair Mazraoui returns this Atlas Lions team is capable of being Africa’s best.
  • South Africa played a solid game at Morocco but the reality is that this Bafana Bafana team has a long way to go under manager Hugo Broos. The midfield was consistently overrun and the team has a notable lack of chemistry due to many new members and few opportunities to play friendlies.
  • Bafana Bafana must take their September matchups against Liberia with the utmost seriousness. The three-team group favors South Africa but more disjointed performances makes them susceptible to a shock defeat or missed points against the Lone Star.
  • Liberia have only two competitive match victories over the last year but the Lone Star proved themselves to be a decent side in narrow 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying defeats to Cape Verde. If they can find a way to generate more in the attack they are very capable of stunning South Africa and taking the second qualification spot behind Morocco.

Best Goal of the Week

Ayoub El Kaabi- Morocco vs. South Africa

Next Two Matchdays

Matchday 3

South Africa vs. Liberia

Matchday 4

Liberia vs. South Africa

Group L

Analysis

  • What more can be said about Sadio Mané when he suits up for Senegal? The superstar was in peak form for the Lions of Teranga’s dominant victory over Benin and continues to inspire his teammates to produce more.
  • Indeed the narrow 1-0 victory over Rwanda was surprising in that Senegal failed to dominate a weaker opponent at home but credit must be given to the Rwandan team for their brave defending. Senegal have shown they can struggle at times when attempting to break down teams that are bunkered in.
  • The talent within the Mozambique squad points to the Mambas as a team that are capable of qualifying but difficult AFCON and World Cup qualifying draws as well as inconsistent performances have prevented success. This group looks like the favorable draw needed for Mozambique to make their first AFCON since 2010 and their road victory over Benin proved they are ready to grab their opportunity.
  • However, Mozambique do not have home advantage due to lacking a stadium that is up to standards and two matchups against Senegal in September make any point they can earn a bonus. Can developing star Geny Catamo make a big play to steal at least a point over two games against the reigning champions?
  • Benin’s campaign has been nothing short of a disaster. A team that made their name as a difficult team to break down in recent years under previous manager Michel Dussuyer do not look as defensively strong while they still the attacking edge that was a constant issue during Dussuyer’s tenure. Recent addition Tosin Aiyegun needs to find his footing to help support star forward Steve Mounié.
  • Rwanda look a bit more refreshed under new manager Carlos Alós but there is just not enough talent in the attack to inspire hopes that the Amavubi will threaten to qualify. They will continue to be a difficult team to break down though as seen against Senegal, keeping them competitive in games.

Best Goal of the Week

Geny Catamo- Mozambique vs. Benin

Next Two Matchdays

Matchday 3

Senegal vs. Mozambique

Benin vs. Rwanda

Matchday 4

Mozambique vs. Senegal

Rwanda vs. Benin

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