AFCON 2019: defending champions Cameroon is seeking a place

The Indomitable Lions will be among the 24 finalists in Egypt provided they avoid defeat against the Comoros
indomitable lions
Thulani Hlatshwayo (R) from South Africa fights for the ball against Daniel Ndi from Cameroon during the African Cup of Nations 2017 qualifier match at the Moses Mabhida stadium on March 29, 2016 in Durban. (Photo by ANESH DEBIKY / AFP)

Defending champions Cameroon are among 21 countries hoping to fill one of 10 places up for grabs this weekend in the final 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

The Indomitable Lions will be among the 24 finalists in Egypt this June provided they avoid defeat at home against the Comoros in Yaounde.

Other hopefuls include South Africa and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang-captained Gabon while Burundi, the Gambia, Lesotho and the Comoros dream of qualifying for the first time.

There are eight groups where places are on the line ahead of the first Cup of Nations to feature 24 teams and the first in the modern era to be staged in mid-year.

Group B: Cameroon coach and former Dutch star Clarence Seedorf has lamented a poor goal return — three in five qualifiers — and he will lack suspended Karl Toko Ekambi.

The Villarreal striker, who scored twice in La Liga last weekend, is suspended and an injury rules out fellow attacker Vincent Aboubakar.

Only a win will suffice for the Comoros and they will lack suspended El Fardou Ben Nabouhane, their chief source of goals.

Group C: Gabon must win in Bujumbura to prevent Burundi creating history and the return of Arsenal star Aubameyang is a timely boost for the underperforming Panthers.

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Last year, he refused to visit South Sudan because of unhappiness with the condition of the chartered plane and injury ruled him out of the next qualifier, a home loss to Mali.

Aubameyang managed only one goal in other qualifiers while his Burundi equivalent, Abdul Razak Fiston, has netted six times.

Group D: Benin, Togo and the Gambia have varying chances of joining already-qualified Algeria at the biennial African football showcase.

The Gambians face a near-impossible task as they would have to win in Algeria and hope Benin and Togo draw 48 hours later.

A likelier scenario is Benin and Togo slugging it out in Cotonou with the home team needing a draw while the visitors, who may include veteran Emmanuel Adebayor, must win.

Group E: Three-time champions Nigeria are already through, leaving perennial underachievers South Africa and Libya to scrap for second place. 

A draw will suffice for South Africa, who started with a shock away win over Nigeria before a draw in the Seychelles against a team including a pastry chef set them back.

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Workman like Libya have to win and a stunning midweek win for their Olympic team over Nigeria has boosted morale. 

Group G: Leaders Zimbabwe, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and bottom-place Congo Brazzaville are all contenders for two places.

Zimbabwe and DR Congo have home advantage over generally poor travellers Congo and Liberia respectively and victories will ensure qualification.

Khama Billiat is set to be an attacking threat for Zimbabwe while the Congolese hope the pace of Yannick Bolasie and stealth of Cedric Bakambu can cause damage. 

Group I: Angola hold a two-point advantage over Burkina Faso in an intriguing two-team chase to join first-time qualifiers Mauritania.

The Angolans, whose winger Geraldo can unlock the tightest defences, are away to poorly performing Botswana and a win guarantees qualification.

But if they slip, 2017 Cup of Nations bronze medallists Burkina Faso can squeeze through by winning at home against Mauritania.

Group K: Traditional African football minnows Guinea-Bissau can make back-to-back Cup of Nations appearances provided they do not lose at home against Mozambique.

Namibia, away to already-eliminated Zambia, will also go to Egypt provided Guinea-Bissau do not lose.

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The section was expected to be won by 2012 champions Zambia, but three losses eliminated the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) and cost Belgian coach Sven Vandenbroeck his job. 

Group L: Uganda have booked their passage to the finals with an unbeaten record and outstanding veteran goalkeeper Denis Onyango has kept five clean sheets.

Lesotho lie second despite only one win and three goals from five outings and victory in Cape Verde will take the Crocodiles to the finals for the first time.  

If Cape Verde triumph, they will qualify unless unpredictable Tanzania obtain maximum points at home to Uganda in an east Africa showdown.   

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