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East Africa closes in on record four nations at Afcon finals

Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi all on the brink of making Cameroon 2019 finals, with Rwanda the only country in the five-nation bloc needing a miracle to make it

FOOTBALL | The East African bloc is rearing to smell a sweet dream of having a record four nations at a major continental soccer showpiece.

Burundi’s 5-2 routine thumping of South Sudan in Juba on Friday did not only send the East African nation top of Group C but also confirmed the bloc could take up half of the eight slots Confederation of African Football (Caf) added in the expanded 24-nation tournament.

Should Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Kenya — whose qualification partly hinges on pending Caf decision–quality, it means the rest of the 49 nations on the continent will vie for the remaining four of the added slots.

Rwanda, who last featured in Afcon in Tunisia in 2004 on the back of a humiliating defeat of Uganda Cranes in Namboole, are the only blemish on the bloc, rooted at the bottom of Group H with just a point picked against Guinea. Their slim hopes lie in beating Central African Republic at home on Sunday and hoping that Guinea see off Ivory Coast.

And then another mountain would be for Rwanda to beat Ivory Coast in Abidjan in March if they are to qualify. A Herculean task.

Against a win-less South Sudan, Burundi were already sure of maximum points barring a shock result; all they went to Juba to confirm were by how many goals they would walk away with the three points.

A hat-trick from Fiston Abdul Razak led the rout of South Sudan despite the restive nation having taken a shock early lead through Atak Lual before they realised that a Burundian side led by former premier league striker Sido Berahino was too strong to contain.

Razzak, who plays for Algeria’s JS Kabylie, then hit his 20-minute hat-trick with goals in the 70th, 89th and 90th minutes to ensure Burundi joined Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania in putting one leg in Cameroon.

Burundi’s final group game is against Gabon in Bujumbura, and, depending on their final opponent’s result against Mali on Saturday, Burundi would just need a draw to qualify. Should Gabon beat Mali, however, the permutation will mean Burundi must win their final group game at home.

Cranes in dream land

In Kampala on Saturday, Uganda Cranes will hope to seal a record second qualification to the Nations Cup with routine win over visiting Cape Verde.

Uganda sits top of Group L with 10 points and need just a draw to guarantee their ticket with Tanzania praying on Cranes result and their own fate in Lesotho.

Victory for Uganda will also be victory for Tanzania provided the neighbours in the south can beat the toothless Crocodiles in Maseru on Sunday to gain an unassailable eight points over Cape Verde.

The Cape Verdeans know what awaits them at Mandela National Stadium, Namboole, with their campaign record that has no win of any kind on the road.

Having lost to Uganda at home in the opening reverse fixture, they must beat the Cranes and also hope Lesotho do them favours against Tanzania, the kind of double miracle that only happens in Mbonye’s rented church.

Kenya awaits boardroom decision

However, Kenya’s fate partly lies with the decision Caf will take on matches involving Sierra Leone. Caf on Monday postponed Kenya’s tie with Sierra Leone.

World football governing body Fifa suspended the Sierra Leone Football Association in October in a row over government interference, compelling Caf to suspend the Group F double header between Sierra Leone and Ghana.

“Seeing that Sierra Leone is still under suspension by Fifa, please note that the above mentioned match will not take place,” Caf deputy director of competitions Khaled Nassar said in a letter to the Football Kenya Federation on Monday.

Kenya lead the group with seven points from four games, followed by Ethiopia with four from as many games, while Ghana, with three from two matches, are tied in third with Sierra Leone which played two qualifiers before its suspension.

Ghana will do Kenya favours by beating Ethiopia at home on Sunday, although a draw would still favour the Kenyans as much. A win for Ethiopia, however, would throw the hanging group wide open.

As they stand

Group C

Team                                     P             W           D             L              GD          Pts

Burundi                                5             2             3             0             6             9

Mali                                       4             2             2             0             4             8

Gabon                                   4             2             1             1             3              7

South Sudan                       5             0             0             5             -13         0

Next Fixtures

Burundi vs Gabon

Gabon vs Mali

 

GROUP F

Team                                     P             W           D             L              GD          Pts

Kenya                                   4             2             1             1             3               7

Ethiopia                                4             1              1            2             -7             4

Ghana                                   2             1             0             1             4               3

Sierra Leone                       2             1             0             1             0               3

Next Fixtures

Kenya vs Sierra Leone pp

Ghana vs Ethiopia

 

Group H

Team                                     P             W           D             L              GD          Pts

Guinea                                  4             3             1             0             4             10

Cote d’Ivoire                       4             2             1             1             4             7

Central A. Republic          4              1             1             2             -4            4

Rwanda                               4             0             1             3              -4            1

Next Fixtures

Guinea vs Cote d’Ivore

Rwanda vs CAR

 

GROUP L

Team                                     P             W           D             L              GD          Pts

Uganda                                4             3             1             0             6              10

Tanzania                             4             1              2             1             -1            5

Cape Verde                         4              1              1             2             0             4

Lesotho                                4             0             2             2             -5            2

Next Fixtures

Uganda vs Cape Verde

Lesotho vs Tanzania

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