The finalists for the Total African Nations Championship (CHAN) Kenya 2018 will be known this weekend when the second leg matches of the final round of the qualifiers take place.
Fourteen (14) places are up for grabs after Equatorial Guinea joined host Kenya for next year’s finals following the withdrawal of Gabon.
Amongst the teams battling for spots are holders DR Congo, aiming to become the only team to have participated at every edition of the tournament since its inception in 2009. The Leopards are unarguably the most successful side in the history of the competition having won the title twice, 2009 (in Cote d’Ivoire) and 2016 (in Rwanda).
To achieve that, the Leopards must overcome neighbours Congo, also eyeing their second outing after their only participation at the 2014 edition South Africa, where they failed to go past the group stage.
After a barren draw in the first leg last week in Brazzaville, the holders now handled by Mwinyi Zahera, who took over from Florent Ibenge, (coach of senior national team A), will be looking forward to complete the job in Kinshasa when they host ‘Les Diables Rouges’ on Saturday in the Central Zone qualifiers.
Zahera, famous for stints DR Congo giants, Motema Pembe, has kept faith with some members of the victorious ‘Class of 2016’ with the likes of Most Valuable Player Elia Meschak, Padou Bompunga, Nelson Munganga, Doxa Gikanji, Ley Matampi, Yannick Bangala and Makusu Mundele all part of his team in his quest to make it five out of five.
“I’m disappointed with the draw in Brazzaville. I was hoping to win there. I will rate the players seven out 10,” said Zahera, who has defended his choice of Motema Pembe forward Kazadi Kasengu over TP Mazembe’s Ben Malango, top scorer on the domestic front, to lead the attack.
In Yaounde, Cameroon are favoured to complete a double over Sao Tome to confirm their ticket to Kenya.
One thing for sure is the fact that the winner of the Namibia – Comoros clash in Windhoek, will be making a debut at the final tournament. After a 2-1 loss in the first leg in Moroni last week, at least a lone goal victory will be enough to see the Namibians qualifying for their first ever major continental championship since the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana.
The Brave Warriors will be without suspended defensive duo, Riaan Hanamub and Tiberius Lombard, but coach Ricardo Mannetti is optimistic his charges can rise to the occasion on Sunday.
“We know what we need to do. We have to at least win by 1-0, and that won’t be that easy but it’s a good advantage for us and we have a good chance of making it the hard way at home. It will be sweet if we manage to pull it off.
“We have players that understand what is expected of them and now is the time for them to come in and go down in history with qualification to the CHAN,” Mannetti was quoted by the Namibia Football Association website.
Other matches in the South Zone are Angola against Madagascar in Luanda and Zambia versus South Africa in Ndola both on Saturday.
In West B Zone, Ghana welcomes northern neighbours Burkina Faso to the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi. The two teams played out a 2-2 draw in Ouagadougou in the first leg.
Benin carry a lone goal advantage to Kano to face Nigeria with Cote d’Ivoire and Niger sorting things out in Abidjan.
Two places are at stake in the Central-East Zone where Rwanda faces an up uphill task against Uganda in Kigali after a 3-0 loss in Kampala last week whilst Sudan battles Ethiopia in El Obeid.
The first batch of qualified teams will be known on Friday in the North Zone with debutants Egypt playing as guest of Morocco in Rabat and Libya squaring Algeria in Sfax.
The final tournament will take place from 12 January to 4 February 2018 in Kenya.
19.08.2017 Kinshasa DR Congo vs Congo (0-0)
19.08.2017 Yaounde Cameroon vs Sao Tome (2-0)
19.08.2017 Kigali Rwanda vs Uganda (0-3)
19.08.2017 El Obeid Sudan vs Ethiopia (1-1)
18.08.2017 Sfax Libya vs Algeria (2-1)
18.08.2017 Rabat Morocco vs Egypt (1-1)
19.08.2017 Ndola Zambia vs South Africa (2-2)
19.08.2017 Luanda Angola vs Madagascar (0-0)
20.08.2017 Windhoek Namibia vs Comoros (1-2)
West A Zone
19.08.2017 Bamako Mali vs Mauritania (2-2)
22.08.2017 Conakry Guinea vs Senegal (1-3)
West B Zone
20.08.2017 Kumasi Ghana vs Burkina Faso (2-2)
19.08.2017 Kano Nigeria vs Benin (0-1)
19.08.2017 Abidjan Cote d’Ivoire vs Niger (1-2)