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Half of Africa is in; including 4 East Africans

IN a very rare occurrence, four East African teams will, all at the same time, take part in African Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals. Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi will represent the region at the tournament in Egypt between June 21 and July 19

The 2019 AFCON qualifications were wrapped up on Sunday with Tanzania qualifying for the first time since 1980 and only for the second time. Tanzania beat already qualified Uganda 3-0 in a Group ‘L’ match at the National Stadium, Dar es Salaam. It was a day after Burundi in Group ‘C’ had clinched their first ever finals’ berth after a 1-0 win over Gabon in Bujumbura. Kenya, like Uganda had already booked their place and 0-1 Group ‘F’ loss to Ghana in Accra on Saturday night had no ramifications.

Top: Tanzania players celebrate their second goal against Uganda at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam. Above, the scorer, Erasto Nyoni picks his 'line' before successfully taking the penalty in the

Top: Tanzania players celebrate their second goal against Uganda at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam. Above, the scorer, Erasto Nyoni picks his ‘line’ before successfully taking the penalty in the 51st minute

The number of entries was increased from 16 to 24 in the AFCON finals and consequently nearly a half — 24/56 — CAF (African Football Confederation) affiliates will be in the finals. However, that does not take away anything from some teams that have brilliantly shot their way in including Burundi’s fellow debutants Mauritania.

And after all, don’t forget there are several past AFCON winners who will not be travelling to Egypt including Cecafa’s (Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations) Ethiopia – winners in 1962, Sudan – 1970; and Congo Brazzaville (‘72) and Zambia (2012). Other past AFCON finalists of pedigree missing this time include; Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Togo, Malawi, Rwanda.

In Bujumbura on Saturday, players carry the Burundi flag to their first ever AFCON Finals after defeating Gabon 1-0

In Bujumbura on Saturday, players carry the Burundi flag to their first ever AFCON Finals after defeating Gabon 1-0

At the AFCON finals, the Cecafa interest will be which nation will fly highest the region’s flag. With Uganda having set a precedent of reaching the 1978 final and losing 0-2 to Ghana, it will be a tough act to match. The underdogs will of course be first-timers Burundi and first-time returnees Taifa Stars of Tanzania whose only other appearance was in 1980.

Big rivals Uganda and Kenya will each try to consolidate their chase for the bragging rights of being the top dogs in the neighbourhood even though they still trail past winners Ethiopia and Sudan. Uganda had previous six appearances (‘62, ‘68, ‘74, ‘76, ‘78, 2017) and Kenya five (‘72, ‘88, ‘90, ‘92, 2004).

All 24 teams for the expanded 2019 AFCON are now known and the draw for the competition will be made by CAF on April 12 in Cairo, as a backdrop to the CAF Champions League quarter final, Al Ahly (Egypt) v Mamelodi Sundowns.

Pre-match, Burundi needed all the boost they could find and President Pierre Nkurunzisa (right) had high hopes

Pre-match, Burundi needed all the boost they could find and President Pierre Nkurunzisa (right) had high hopes

The qualified teams are: 1 Egypt, 2 Madagascar, 3 Tunisia, 4 Senegal, 5 Morocco, 6 Nigeria, 7 Uganda, 8 Mali, 9 Guinea, 10 Algeria, 11 Mauritania, 12 Cote d’Ivoire, 13 Kenya, 14 Ghana, 15 Angola, 16 Burundi, 17 Cameroon, 18 Guinea-Bissau, 19 Namibia, 20 Zimbabwe, 21 DRC, 22 Benin, 23 Tanzania, 24 South Africa.

Tanzania 3-0 Uganda

The Taifa Stars secured the victory they needed to join already-qualified Uganda at Egypt 2019 from Group ‘L’. Lesotho drew 0-0 in Cape Verde which confirmed Tanzania’s qualification as runners-up to Uganda in the group.

Uganda went into the derby in Tanzania having not conceded a single goal during their entire 2019 Nations Cup qualifying campaign. The record ended emphatically in Dar es Salaam in their sixth and final group fixture with Simon Msuva beating Denis Onyango in Uganda’s goal in the 21st minute.

Before a bursting National Stadium, Dar es Salaam crowd, Taifa Stars starters would not flinch. In the end they delivered, tearing apart Uganda

Before a bursting National Stadium, Dar es Salaam crowd, Taifa Stars starters would not flinch. In the end they delivered, tearing apart Uganda

Experienced Erasto Nyoni added a second after the break with Aggrey Morris making it 3-0 to Tanzania on a memorable day for the hosts. Despite the comfortable score line, it was still a nervous end to the match as Tanzania’s fans and players anxiously monitored news from Praia where – if Lesotho had won – their dream of qualifying would have ended.

The Taifa Stars, coached by former Nigeria winger Emmanuel Amunike, will now prepare for the Nations Cup finals where they will play after a 39-year absence. Both Lesotho and Cape Verde were eliminated.

Uganda Cranes line up against Taifa Stars at National Stadium, Dar es Salaam Sunday. Egypt-bound by this time thrashed 3-0 by Tanzania

Uganda Cranes line up against Taifa Stars at National Stadium, Dar es Salaam Sunday. Egypt-bound by this time thrashed 3-0 by Tanzania

TEAMS:

TANZANIA – 18 Aish Manula: 17 Erasto Nyoni, 6 Aggrey Morris, 29 Faisal Salum (John Bocco, 82’), 5 Kelvin Yondani, 27 Mudathir Yahya, — Farid Mussa (7 Hmid Mao), — Mbwana Samatta (captain), 12 Simon Happygod Msuva (11 Thomas Ulimwengu, 90’), 2 Gadiel Michael, — Hassan Kessy

Reserves not used – 20 Jonas Mkude, 25 Shiza Kichuya, — Rashid Mandawa, 4 Shaban Chilunda, 24 Zayd Yahya, 15 Ally Sonso, — Macheta Mnata, — Aaron Kalambo

Scorers: 12 Simon Msuva (21’), 17 Erasto Nyoni (51’), 6 Aggrey Morris (57’)

Coach: Emmanuel Amunike (Nigeria)

UGANDA – 18 Dennis Onyango: 15 Godfrey Walusimbi, 7 Emmanuel Okwi (13 Milton Karisa, 59’), 14 Nicholas Wadada, 17 Farouk Miya (9 Edrisa Lubega, 70’), — Krizestom Ntambi, 4 Taddeo Lwanga, 21 Allan Kyambadde, 3 Timothy Awanyi, 23 Moses Waiswa, 22 Patrick Kaddu (16 Muhammad Shabaan, 80’)

Reserves not used: — Robert Odongkara (gk), 19 Jamal Salim Magoola (gk); 2 Joseph Ochaya, 8 Khalid Aucho, 4 Murshid Jjuko, 10 Allan Okelo, 6 Ibrahim Saddam, — Halid Lwaliwa

Coach: Sebastien Desabre (France)

Harambee Stars of Kenya (red) make a defensive stand against Ghana in Accra on Sunday

Harambee Stars of Kenya (red) make a defensive stand against Ghana in Accra on Sunday

Ghana 1-0 Kenya

The Black Stars of Ghana beat the Harambee Stars of Kenya 1-0 to finish top of Group ‘F’ of the AFCON qualifiers. Prior to the game, both teams had already booked their tickets to the tournament, however pride was at stake as both teams went all out to win the game, but at the end it was the Ghanaians who picked all points.

Ghana, who were led by deputy captain Andre Ayew started the game on the front foot with the likes of Jordan Ayew, Christian Atsu and Mubarak Wakaso leading the attack. The Kenyans who by far came with a well-rehearsed strategy to possibly record a double over Ghana, eventually came out their shells and gave their hosts good run for their money.

.... of Harambee Stars keeps tabs on ... of Ghana in Accra on Sunday

Earlier, Dennis Odhiambo (right) of Harambee Stars keeps tabs on Thomas Paryet of Ghana in their first qualification meeting in Nairobi

With revenge on the minds of James Kwesi Appiah and his lads, Ghana kept pushing and probing for an opener, but their efforts were expertly dealt with by the Kenyan defence and action that saw the first half end goalless. Back from recess and the script remained the same for most parts of second half as the Black Stars continued to probe for the goal.

Their persistence was eventually rewarded with the goal a substitute Caleb Ekuban who came on for Jordan Ayew scored in the 83rd minute to send the teeming fans into a state of excitement. Incensed by their teeming fans, Ghana piled more pressure on Kenya in search of more goals, but they managed to hold on till the final whistle.

Ghana thus topped Group ‘F’ with nine points and Kenya placing second with seven points. Ethiopia came third with just a single point with Sierra Leone ending the qualifiers at the bottom with no points.

Reactions

James Kwesi Appiah (Ghana Head Coach)

“It was a difficult game and kudos to my boys for showing a never say die spirit from start to finish. Kenya is a very good side and playing them today, we all saw that they came with a different strategy to make things difficult for us, but at the end my boys did all they can and we won the game.

“From now till the AFCON we will work round the team to make sure that we take the best players, that is why in this game I invited some new players. We are going to be doing more of those and getting some games to study the boys before the tournament. But I am happy with the performance of my players.

“Topping the Group is a good feeling and it showed that indeed Ghana is a powerhouse in football so we taking that pride to the AFCON and make sure that we build upon it more before the competition.”

Sebastien Migne (Head coach- Kenya)

“We take a lot of positives from this game because we played well and the players gave a very good account of themselves. We came with the intension to win and top the Group. Our worst should have been a draw looking at the game we played, but sometimes these things happen in football.

“Going forward, I believe we have what it takes to make a strong challenge at the AFCON, so we go back to the drawing board and continue to work. We have about three months to go and by then I believe we will be a stronger team.”

Migne has praised his local-based players for their exploits, despite Kenya bowing to Ghana. The French tactician had four local-based players – Joash Onyango, Francis Kahata, Philemon Otieno and Dennis Odhiambo – in his starting line-up while four more – Bernard Otieno and Pistone Mutamba, were named on the substitute’s bench.

The coach believes the team picked vital lessons from the 1-0 defeat and he is keen to rectify the mistakes committed and make the team more competitive against the top sides in the continent.

Regular Ghana skipper Asamoah Gyan (left) had no part to play on the pitch on Sunday but he came out to support the Black Stars including coach James Kwesi Appiah (right)

Regular Ghana skipper Asamoah Gyan (left) had no part to play on the pitch on Sunday but he came out to support the Black Stars including coach James Kwesi Appiah (right)

Meanwhile overlooked Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan was at the Accra Sports Stadium to support the Black Stars beat Kenya. The Kayserispor striker was not invited for this final qualifier.

Gyan has not been in top shape for the Turkish top-flight side in recent times partly due to injuries. But that did not stop him from visiting his colleagues inside the dressing room and on the pitch hours to kickoff.

Gyan, who is the Ghana’s all-time leading scorer, is expected to make the squad to Egypt for the tournament if he is fit.

TEAMS:

GHANA – 1 Richard Ofori: 4 Daniel Opare, 15 John Boye, 2 Kasim Adams, 17 Lumor Agbenyenu, 10 Andre Ayew (6 Alfred Duncan, 87’), 9 Jordan Ayew (12 Ernest Asante, 76’), 11 Mubarak Wakaso, 7 Christian Atsu, 5 Thomas Partey, 14 Emmanuel Boateng’ (8 Caleb Ekuban, 62’),

Reserves not used – 16 Lawrence Ati, 19 Felix Annan, 20 Kwesi Appiah, — Alhassan Wakaso, 18 Jeff Schlupp, 26 Joseph Aidoo, 19 Nicholas Opoku

Scorer: 8 Caleb Ekuban (83’)

Coach: James Kwesi Appiah (Ghana)

KENYA – 18 Patrick Matasi: 2 Musa Mohammed, 3 Eric Ouma Otieno, 7 Joash Onyango, 20 Philemon Otieno (16 Paul Were Ooko, 86’), 12 Victor Wanyama (captain), 21 Dennis Odhiambo, 11 Francis Kahata, 6 Johanna Omolo, 10 Eric Johanna Omondi (13 Bernard Ochieng’, 77’), 19 Masud Juma (9 Pistone Mutamba, 62’)

Reserves not used – 1 Farouk Shikalo (gk), 23 Joe Oyemba (gk); 7 Allan Wanga, 15 David Owino, 8 Anthony ‘Teddy’ Okumu, 22 Brian Onyango, 14 Ismael Athuman

Coach: Sebastien Migne (France)

-Additional reporting by Correspondents, Agencies and CAF

 

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