African National Teams Set To Resume Playing In October

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African national teams are set to resume playing this October, according to CAF, with a nine-day window available for friendly matches ahead of 2022 Cup of Nations qualifiers one month later.

No international matches have been possible in the continent this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, leading to new dates for both Cup of Nations and 2022 World Cup eliminators.

Clubs have also been badly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak with the semi-finals and finals of the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup, originally set for May, yet to be played.

Here, AFP Sport updates the positions regarding the main national team and club competitions in Africa.

World Cup

The two-leg preliminary round was completed last year before the pandemic took hold, leaving 40 contenders for five places at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

African champions Algeria, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia are seeded to win the 10 first-round groups.

Only Mali among the 10 favourites have not qualified before and the Eagles could face strong competition from Uganda and Kenya in Group D for the single final-round place.

Dates: First round: May 31-June 15 2021, Aug 30-Sept 7, Oct 4-12 (all two matchdays); play-offs: Nov 8-16 (two legs)

Africa Cup of Nations

Qualifying for the 2022 tournament in Cameroon will resume this November with two matchdays and be completed with two further rounds next March.

The biggest surprise during the opening two matchdays was the lacklustre form of record seven-time champions Egypt, who could only draw with Kenya and the Comoros.

Those setbacks left the Pharaohs, whose star is Liverpool sharpshooter Mohamed Salah, third in the Group G table ahead of home and away clashes with unpredictable Togo this year.

Dates: Nov 9-17, Mar 22-30 2021 (both two matchdays)

African Nations Championship

The biennial tournament for footballers playing in their country of birth was among the first victims of coronavirus and has been rescheduled for January in Cameroon.

Four venues in Douala, Limbe and Yaounde will host the 16 teams over 22 days with Morocco hoping to become the first nation to win back-to-back titles.

Togo will be the only debutants, having shocked 2019 runners-up Nigeria 4-3 on aggregate. Other casualties of regional qualifying included Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

Dates: January 2021 (dates to be announced)

CAF Champions League

The semi-finalists come from Egypt and Morocco, the first and third most successful countries in CAF club competitions with 34 and 17 titles respectively.

After considerable tinkering, CAF decided to stage two-leg semi-finals, with the venue for the single-match final dependant on who qualifies.

A Raja Casablanca-Wydad Casablanca final will be in Morocco, an Ahly-Zamalek final in Egypt and a neutral venue will be chosen should the title decider involve a club from each nation.

Dates: Semi-finals, first legs – Sept 25/26, second legs – Oct 2/3; final – single match date, venue to be announced

CAF Confederation Cup

The format for the African equivalent of the Europa League will differ from the CAF Champions League with single matches deciding both the semi-finals and the final.

Morocco will stage the ‘final four’ tournament and two clubs from the kingdom, Renaissance Berkane and Hassania Agadir, meet at the penultimate stage.

African debutants Pyramids of Egypt are in the other semi-final against Horoya of Guinea, the only non-north African survivors in either club competition.

Dates: Semi-finals – Sept 22; final – Sept 27 (all single matches hosted by Morocco).

AFP

Sanches, Eder Omitted From Portugal’s Confederation Cup Squad

Portugal coach Fernando Santos announced on Thursday his preliminary squad for the Confederations Cup in Russia this summer.

Santos said he didn’t expect his 23-man squad to change before the tournament with the team expected to face Cyprus at home in a friendly match on June 3 before a World Cup Qualifying game away to Latvia six days later.

The biggest omissions were midfielder Renato Sanches and forward Eder, two of the heroes from their triumphant Euro 2016 side, after a poor run of form at their respective clubs.

Sanches, 18 at the time, became a key player after he was given a starting place from the quarter-final onwards, while Guinea-Bissau-born Eder scored the winning goal in the final against France after he was brought on as a substitute.

The coach said his full focus was on the qualifier against Latvia and hopes he his players won’t be distracted by the upcoming tournament.

Portugal are drawn in Group A with their first match against North American champions Mexico on the 18th of June before they play hosts Russia on the 21st and end the group with a game against Oceania champions New Zealand on the 24th.

Group B pits world champions Germany against Asian champions Australia, African champions Cameroon and South American champions Chile.

CAF Continental Competitions Face Major Reforms

CAFEffective 2017, the CAF Champions League and the Confederation Cup will see major new reforms.

Sixteen clubs divided into four groups of four will participate at the group stages instead of the current eight at the pool stage.

The new format was one of the key highlights of the speech by CAF President, Issa Hayatou, in his address at the 38th CAF Ordinary General Assembly held on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico.

Hayatou also unveiled the CAF’s progression in the wake of the new reforms implemented by FIFA, now at its implementation phase.

Etoile And Enyimba To Play On Wednesday

EnyimbaThe return leg clash of the CAF Champions League between Tunisian club side, Etoile Du Sahel and Enyimba of Aba will be played on Wednesday in Sousse.

Enyimba won the first leg in Port Harcourt 3-0 courtesy of a hat-trick by Mfon Udoh.

The seven-time Nigeria champions will train under floodlights in Sousse on Tuesday night.

The overall winners of this tie will march on to the group stage of the Champions League, while the losers drop down to the second-tier Confederation Cup.

The game has been fixed for 6pm Nigerian time.

Enyimba advanced to the final round of qualifiers 6-3 on aggregate at the expense of Vital Ó of Burundi.

Despite losing 2-1 in the second leg, the Elephants of Aba progressed having defeated the Burundians 5-1 in Aba.

CAF Champions League: Enyimba Advance To Final Qualifying Round

Champions LeagueIn the CAF Champions League, Nigeria Premier League champions, Enyimba have advanced to the final round of qualifiers.

Despite losing 2-1 in the second leg to Vital Ó of Burundi, the Elephants of Aba progressed 6-3 on aggregate.

Ikechukwu Ibenegbu scored for Paul Aigbogun’s men in the 28th minute but went on to concede two goals in the game.

Enyimba need to cross the next hurdle that comes in order to make it to the money spinning stage of the CAF Champions League.

Mixed Fortunes

Meanwhile, Warri Wolves have crashed out of the CAF Champions League after failing to overturn a first leg deficit against El Merreikh of Sudan.

Peter Nieketen’s boys eventually lost the tie 2-0 on aggregate.

Nasarawa United also tasted the bitter pill of defeat in the CAF Confederation Cup after losing 4-1 to Algeria’s CS Constantine.

With this result the solid miners have been shown the exit door as the tie ended 4-2 on aggregate in favour of their opponents.

AFCON Qualifier: Egypt Names Five Foreign Professionals For Nigeria

AFCON qualifierAhead of their AFCON qualifier against Nigeria, Egypt Coach, Héctor Cúper, has called up five players overseas to join the national team’s training camp.

The Argentine tactician picked Mohamed Salah, Mohamed Elneny, Ahmed Hassan, Mahmoud Hassan and Amr Warda to join the Pharaohs’ camp which starts on March 20.

The foreign professionals will be joined by 18 home-based counterparts after the CAF Champions League and the Confederation Cup games at the weekend.

The 7-time African champions will head to Nigeria two days before the first leg of the AFCON qualifier on March 25 before the team returns to Egypt to get ready for the second leg on March 29.

Nigerians Hopeful Of Winning Confed Cup

Nigerians have are hopeful that despite initial challenges the Super Eagles can surprise the world by winning the FIFA Confederation Cup.

Three young Nigerians, who discussed the prospect of the Super Eagles in the ongoing Confed Cup Channels Television’s Rubbin’ Mind, said they have confidence that Coach Stephen Keshi would lead his team to victory.

The young sport analysts including Zuby Mgbehoma, Blessing Meteke and Osamudia Idehen recommended the best strategies to adopt in winning the competition and listed some key players that will help Nigeria grab the trophy.

Eagles’ Bonus Row: Maigari Lied, NFF Is Not Broke, Pundits Say

Few months after winning the African Nations Cup, the Nigerian Football governing body has said that it is broke and will need to cut down its spending.

The Confederations Cup-bound Super Eagles had refused to take a $2,500-a-man bonus for Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Namibia in Windhoek.
The members of the team had insisted on being paid the full win bonus of $5,000 each.

The African champions failed to fly to South Africa from Namibia on Thursday due to a row over win bonus for a World Cup qualifier as they were all held up in their hotel rooms in Namibia an hour to departure to Johannesburg.

The Super Eagles ought to have flown out of Windhoek to Johannesburg on Thursday afternoon, and be on their way to Sao Paulo, Brazil, minutes before 6pm South African time.

And they would have been in Sao Paulo by midnight and connect immediately to Belo Horizonte, venue of their opening match of the FIFA Confederations Cup against Tahiti on Monday.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president Aminu Maigari met with the team Wednesday night to explain to them that the organisation is broke and so the need to be prudent in their spending.

However, panellists on Channels Sport on Sunday including the Weekend Editor of SportsDay, Desmond Ekwueme, Jimmy Ogunlana and Yemi Bakara disagree with Mr Maigari’s position that the NFF is broke.

Mr Ekwueme described the disagreement between the Super Eagles’ players and the NFF as scandalous insisting that the purpose of winning the nation cup is to make money.

“Football is business. So if you are saying that after winning the nations cup, you don’t know that you have a brand – the trophy is a brand; the players are brand in their rights, even the NFF is a brand – so if you’re saying you don’t know you have a brand, somebody should just leave,” he said.

For Mr Bakare, the NFF is being dishonest.

“You say there’s no money and these boys are seeing you junketing around spending money lavishly,” he said.

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