Tanzania, Burundi seek to complete East Africa’s record haul at Afcon finals
Burundi and Tanzania are looking to complete a dream record four nations at a major continental soccer showpiece for East Africa if they can join Uganda and Kenya in Egypt for the summer tournament.
FOOTBALL | Burundi and Tanzania are looking to complete a dream record four nations at a major continental soccer showpiece for East Africa if they can join Uganda and Kenya in Egypt for the summer tournament.
Confederation of African Football (Caf) expanded the 16-team Nations Cup by half the numbers but with Uganda and Kenya already qualified going into the penultimate round, it means East Africa could take up half of the added slots in the 24-nation tournament.
Kenya will be in Ghana on Saturday for a match of pride in which the two teams will battle for top of the table honours both having qualified. Sierra Leone was thrown out of the group after two rounds, costing Ethiopia points and helping Kenya who had lost to them.
Also playing on Saturday will be Rwanda, whose citizens will continue to focus on the political tension with Uganda at a time the continent has shifted attention to the beautiful game.
Rwanda are bottom of Group H having managed just 2 points from five outings and travel to Abidjan to face Ivory Coast, who need at least a draw to guarantee their ticket to Egypt in the summer.
While Rwandans will be jaded on Saturday, across their southern borders in Burundi, the atmosphere will be euphoric as ‘Les Hirondelles dans la guerre’ (The Swallows) welcome the Gabonese Panthers to Bujumbura.
Olivier Niyungeko’s team need avoid a defeat against Antonio Camacho’s side that will arrive with Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Swallows will hope that West Brom United forward Saido Berahino and Fiston Abdul Razak are in the fine home that led to the demolition of South Sudan in the last encounter.
Should Burundi book their ticket with the draw or win they need, attention will turn to Sunday in Dar es Salaam where Tanzanians will be ruing why fate had drawn them against neighbours Uganda when all the other countries from the bloc had separate groups.
The Taifa Stars face a do-or-die duel against already qualified Uganda Cranes in a Group L that is wide open. Lesotho in second with 5 points play away to Cape Verde, who have 4 points and sit at the bottom of the table.
Unlike Tanzania who need Mbwana Samatta to fire across all cylinders, the Likuena (Crocodiles) of Lesotho only need a draw and result from Uganda, while Cape Verdians must win and tie the rest of their hope on Uganda avoiding a defeat to Tanzania.
Any other time, the Tanzanians would have been confident of getting the result they need and leave the rest to Cape Verde to stop Lesotho. But in this fixture, Uganda Cranes are the only nation yet to concede a goal, a pride the nation wants to see Africa’s best goalkeeper Denis Onyango fly to Egypt with.
Uganda were the sole representative for the block at 2017 Nations Cup finals in Gabon and are making back to back appearance and their third in modern era after 1978 heroics in Ghana.
Kenya have featured in Afcon the most and will be in Egypt for the sixth time since 1972. This will be their first appearance since 2004 as they seek to revive the ‘glory’ days when they made three successive appearance in the biennial finals from 1988 to 1992.
Tanzania trace their sniff at the semblance of the Afcon finals back to 1970 while Rwanda last featured in Tunisia in 2004 on the back of a humiliating defeat of Uganda Cranes in Namboole.