Permutations ahead of fourth round of AFCON qualifiers

Permutations ahead of fourth round of AFCON qualifiers
Source: kwese.espn.com
Date: 16-10-2018 Time: 11:10:08:am
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Eric Choupo-Moting celebrates a goal with his teammates during Cameroon's match against Malawi Alain Suffo/BackpagePix

The fourth round of qualification matches for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday, with some teams able to seal their berth in the finals with the expanded format of 24 teams.

The top two nations in each group will advance to the finals, at this stage slated for Cameroon, offering the chance for a number of nations to make their maiden trip to the continent's showpiece event.

KweséESPN looks through the permutations in each group ahead of the fourth round of qualifying.

GROUP A

An expected victory for Madagascar at home to Equatorial Guinea will see the islanders seal a first Nations Cup finals place, providing the country with arguably their greatest footballing moment.

Madagascar, who performed well at the 2018 COSAFA Cup, beat Equatorial Guinea 1-0 away at the weekend and should finish the job at home. If Senegal win way in Sudan as well then they will book their place in Cameroon, a third successive visit to the finals.

GROUP B

On the face of it, Cameroon have already qualified for the finals they will host, but with CAF yet to rubber-stamp their hosting and the threat it could be moved to Morocco, they will want to keep on winning.

Victory in Malawi, coupled with a win for Morocco in the Comoros will ensure Cameroon finish in the top two in the group with two games to spare. Morocco would still need a point from their remaining matches at home to Cameroon and way in Malawi.

GROUP C

Realistically this group has come down to a three-way shoot-out between leaders Mali (seven points), Burundi (five) and Gabon (four), with South Sudan (zero) having too much to do.

Burundi host Mali, where a victory for the visitors would move them to within one point of qualification, while Gabon will want to keep their tally ticking over with a win in South Sudan. It's all still up for grabs.

GROUP D

Algeria can put behind them some poor recent form and qualify for the Nations Cup finals if they get a win in Benin, who they beat 2-0 at home at the weekend. Togo travel to Gambia with both sides desperate to keep their hopes alive, with defeat leaving them likely out of the running.

GROUP E

If South Africa complete an expected victory in the Seychelles they will need just a single point from their remaining qualifiers - home to Nigeria in November and away in Libya next March.

If Nigeria get a victory over Libya in neutral Sfax, Tunisia, they will move five points ahead of the North Africans and would also require just a point to qualify as even if the Libyans match their points tally, the Super Eagles would advance on head-to-head. If Libya win, they would move up to second with an away trip to Seychelles and that home fixture against South Africa to come, two games they might feel would be winnable.

GROUP F

There are no games in this pool this week, but with CAF yet to rule on the status in the competition of Sierra Leone following their suspension by FIFA earlier this month, this group is tough to call. The likely scenario is that the Leone Stars will be removed from the competition and their results expunged, with the pool then featuring only Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia.

In that instance, the table would read Kenya (seven points from three games), Ghana (three points from two games) and Ethiopia (one point from three games), which would leave the Kenyans having already secured their spot in the finals for the first time since 2004, if Ethiopia don't beat Ghana in their fixture next month. However, it all remains speculation at this stage.

GROUP G

After their surprise success in DR Congo at the weekend, victory in Harare for Zimbabwe against the same opponents could qualify them for the finals, if the other match between Congo-Brazzaville and Liberia ends in a draw.

Liberia must win and then beat Zimbabwe at home in November to stay in contention, but the likely scenario in this group is that DR Congo and Congo-Brazzaville and playing for second spot.

GROUP H

A point for Guinea in Rwanda and a victory for Ivory Coast in the Central African Republic will see both teams qualify for the finals. It is hard to look past those two results.

GROUP I

Botswana are essentially out the running in this pool with no points from three matches, but Angola, Mauritania and Burkina Faso are locked on six points each and all still very much in the running.

Angola thumped Mauritania 4-1 at home at the weekend, but will find their opponents a much more difficult side in Nouakchott. If they are to be defeated, they will hope it is by a lesser margin than that so they retain the head-to-head edge.

Burkina Faso can keep their noses in front if they beat Botswana in Gaborone, with an away trip to Angola and a home clash against Mauritania to come.

GROUP J

Victory for Tunisia in Niger will seal their place in the finals in Cameroon, though a draw will also be enough if Swaziland don't beat Egypt. With an eight-point lead over Swaziland and Niger, it is inconceivable that Tunisia will not qualify at some stage, but they would like to wrap it all up with two rounds to spare as they seek to reach a 14th successive continental finals. Egypt will also qualify of they win and Tunisia don't lose to Niger.

GROUP K

A tight group that is headed by Guinea-Bissau with seven points from four games, followed by Namibia (four from three), Mozambique (four from three) and Zambia (four from four). The winner of Tuesday's clash between Namibia and Mozambique can put themselves in the driving seat, especially Namibia, as they won the reverse fixture 2-1 and can also take an advantage on head-to-head.

GROUP L

After a 39-year wait for a place at the main table, Uganda could qualify for a second successive Nations Cup finals if they get a victory over Lesotho and Tanzania fail to beat Cape Verde Islands. Both results look very likely, which would mean more celebration for fans of the Cranes.

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