posted by www.equatorialguineaonline.com
As the race for places at the Equatorial Guinea-Gabon 2012 Nations Cup continues, many African teams will be itching to get the better of their opponents as a means of inching closer to the biennial African event which Wleh Bedell describes as intriguing fixtures on the continent this weekend.
The ball starts to roll in group A on Saturday, with third place Zimbabwe Warriors hoping to get the better of the visiting Eagles of Mali at the Rufaro Stadium. This is a match the hosts coach, Norman Mapeza describes as a ‘do or die’. But, there is some bad news for his side as the recalled midfielder Edrom Nyandoro is out due to injury and defender Noel Kaleke is as well out injured.
The Malians known as the Eagles that will be without UEFA champions’ league winner Seydou Keita as a result of being overlooked once more have been training in South Africa and will be hoping to improve their standings on the log with a positive result. The Malians won the corresponding fixture at home 1-0. In the group’s other match, the Lone Star of Liberia will be hoping to revive their faint hope of qualification when they do a blending of young and old players against the group leaders, the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde at the SKD. While the Lone Star will be yearning for an outright win, the visitors will be happy with a draw which will give them a great chance of qualifying for the first ever African Nations Cup finals. Liberia lost the corresponding fixture away 2-4.
Group B brings to the fore leaders Sylli Nationale of Guinea that are coached by French man Michel Dussuyer locking horns with bottom side Berea of Madagascar that are under the tutelage of local coach Maurice Mosa. After a draw in the first leg tie away, the 1976 Nations Cup runners up will be hoping to get the maximum three points to cement their lead at the top. The next group match sees a rejuvenated Super Eagles of Nigeria with just one competitive match old Coach Samson Siasia serving as visitors to the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia, a team they trashed 3-0 in the corresponding fixture. The Nigerians, fresh from their 4-1 thrashing of a second string Argentinian side will be aiming to win against their hosts who are coached by German man Tom Sainfeit to prepare for an interesting contest with group leaders Guinea that pinned them away on match day one.
The Greens of Libya that are currently on top but are now troubled due to political crisis are away to pointless Les Coelantes of the Camoros Island in a tricky Group C pairing. The Libyans Brazilian coach Marcos Paqueta that is yet to be defeated will be hoping to maintain their great record in the group. After winning the previous meeting between both sides at the Libyans temporary home, Mali, the Greens should ensure they avoid complacency to move within touching distance of the finals. The other group match brings together the Chipolopolo of Zambia and the Black Antelopes of Mozambique.
Zambia’s Italian Coach Dario Bonetti will be without key players Jacob Mulenga of Dutch side FC Utrecht, Emmanuel Mayuka due to injury, TP Mazemba’s Given Singuluma also due to injury,Noah Chivuta as a result of suspension and Felix Katongo also due to injury. He has therefore called on Olympic striker Roger Kola as an option against Mozambique who they won against in the last fixture. However, Mozambique’s Dutch coach Mart Nooij will be lifting his charges to avoid a defeat this time round.
With Group D all square as all four teams have four points each, goals could be a determining factor for qualification in the months to come. The Wild Beasts of the Central African Republic under the technical stewardship of Jules Acorsi are ahead on superior goal difference and will welcome the Taifa Stars of Tanzania that are been guided by the Danish man Jan Borge Poulsen.
Then, it is the North African derby involving the 1976 champions Morocco Atlas Lions and the 1990 champions, Algeria Fennecs. Coaches, Abdelhak Benchika and Eric Gerets of Algeria and Morocco respectively know what all it would mean to get a win in such weighty pairing.
Unsung Senegal Lion Teranga with nine points from three matches are away to the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun whom they pinned in the last match by a solitary goal. Indigenous coach Amara Traore will be contending with a draw in unfamiliar territory as Papa Demba will be leading the onslaught. But, Samuel Eto’o Fils and co. should put forth a prodigious display to bring the visitors in check in Group E. The other match of the group brings second place Democratic Republic of Congo Samba engaging zero point Mauritius which will give Coach Akbar Paket plenty to think about as he attempts to win his first match. But, French man Robert Nouzaret says his side is not taken the game lightly. “Though we trashed them in the first leg in our home, we are not rating them off. We respect them and will play with much desire”, the former Ivorian coach hinted.
Group F leaders Burkina Faso Stallions that are leaders of the three teams group with six points are in a pairing with the Brave Warriors of Namibia that remain pointless, while the Scorpions of Gambia are on sabbatical in this round.
Reigning African champions Egypt Pharaohs could miss out as far as qualification for the finals is concerned next year if they fail to beat visiting Bafana Bafana of South Africa. After a 0-1 away loss, Hassan Shehata and his men will be aiming to punish the 1996 African champions at the 28, 500 capacity Military Academy Stadium. Without the talismanic playmaker Mohamed Abou Terika due to injury, the diminutive Ahmed Hassan should lead the plot against Pitso Mosimane’s boys who are in pole position in the group. In the other Group G contest, The Leone Stars of Sierra Leone will be aiming to avenge a defeat sustained at the hands of Niger’s Menna when the two West African sides come face to face in Freetown.
Didier Tebily Drogba Yves who did the damage to the little squirrels of Benin in the last match, courtesy of two spectacular strikes will lead the Elephants of the Ivory Coast away in Cotonou as his side aim to maintain their one hundred percent record. However, Sunderland industrious midfielder Stepahane Sesayong will be sharpening his skills to provide the ammunition upfront for the burly Razak Omotoyosi. In the other Group H duel, Burundi will host Rwanda’s Amavubis. It was the latter that won the previous melee 3-1, but will this time have to do without star man Didier Kavumbaju due to injury.
In Group I, the joint group leaders the Black Stars of Ghana with new Captain John Mensah, alias the Rock of Gibraltar, will be plotting another heavy win this time at home against the Red Devils of Congo that are third in the group. The other group pairing brings another joint leader Nile crocodile of Sudan sorting things out with minnows Swaziland that are still searching for their first point.
Group J brings to the fore group leaders Uganda Cranes going all out against Guinea Bissau while the Harambee Stars of Kenya that pinned the last Nations Cup hosts Angola Palanca Negras 2-1 at home will this time be away at the 11 November stadium to put up a brave fight against their Sunday’s hosts that are coached by Lito Vidigal.
With Group K winner, Botswana Zebras already known, the other group matches are expected to be tense as eight of the eleven zones will be striving to produce the best three runners-ups which certainly make the clashes at the various venues this weekend mouthwatering, eye catching and nerve wrecking.