AFCON 2017 Qualifiers Preview

South Africa vs Gambia - Thabo Matlaba
It's do or die for Bafana Bafana when they travel to take on Gambia in the AFCON qualifiers.
The qualification stages of the AFCON 2017 are reaching boiling point with the penultimate set of fixtures scheduled for the coming weekend. It’s make or break time for nations hoping to make a final push in their respective groups, while those topping the pile will look to secure their path to the continental showpiece and take the pressure off the final fixtures. Let’s see if we can find some winners in the most unpredictable of encounters.

Friday 3 June

39/20 Gambia | Draw 19/10 | South Africa 16/10 (19:00)

Gambia have failed to win a match in their bid to qualify for AFCON 2017 with two draws and two defeats leaving the nation rock bottom of Group M. Bafana Bafana, however, are also without a victory and reside only a point above Gambia in the standings with three draws and one loss. Qualification is still mathematically possible for both, no matter how unlikely a proposition. If either side harbour hopes of making it to Gabon they will need to pick up all three points in this clash. Bafana Bafana have the better recent record of the two sides and despite a disappointing goalless draw with Gambia in Durban just under a year ago, are tipped to get the away win.

24/10 Kenya | 9/4 | Congo 23/20 (19:00)

Kenya will be hugely disappointed with their qualifying campaign so far and it’s all but mathematically impossible for the nation to compete in Gabon. Kenya have picked up just a single point from their four matches. Congo are yet to be beaten but have only won once, with three draws in Group E. These sides drew 1-1 in Congo in the reverse fixture and I wouldn’t bet against a repeat of that scoreline here. Instead of backing the draw, Both Teams to Score might be a more worthwhile punt at 21/20.

33/1 Djibouti | 13/1 | Tunisia 1/33 (19:00)

Minnows Djibouti have been totally outclassed in AFCON qualification, losing all four of their fixtures, conceding 16 goals and finding the back of the net only once. This is no surprise considering that Djibouti have lost 18 matches on the trot, one draw with Suban breaking up a losing streak that stretches all the way back to 2007. Tunisia occupy second spot in Group A and while not quite the African force they once were, will certainly have enough quality to pick apart Djibouti. Backing the away win is the only way to play this.

6/1 Libya | 26/10 | Morocco 5/10 (19:00)

Libya will feel that securing second spot in Group F is possible with the nation only three points behind Cape Verde going into the final two fixtures. It hasn’t been an ideal campaign for Libya, winning once and losing three times in qualifying so far. The biggest challenge that they will face is getting something from this match against a Moroccan side who has been flawless in qualifying. Morocco have won all four of their matches and look to be a certainty for Gabon 2017. They’re clearly the stronger of the two sides but with qualification all but 100% secured, could take the foot off the gas away from home. I’m tipping a draw in this fixture.

6/1 Burundi | 38/10 | Senegal 4/10 (19:00)

Burundi find themselves in a strong position following a resolute qualifying campaign to date. Currently second in Group K, Burundi have won twice and lost twice and have the likes of Niger and Namibia only three points behind them. They come up against the group’s strongest competitors in Senegal, who have won all four of their fixtures and are almost guaranteed a spot in the final competition. Burundi will struggle to get anything against a Senegal side in impressive form with quality in their ranks. Back the away win in this one.

Sadio Mane - Senegal

25/1 Seychelles | 13/2 | Algeria 1/8 (19:00)

Seychelles managed to pick up three points against Lesotho as well as a draw against Ethiopia and should other results go their way, could finish second in Group J. However, it will be a tough ask for the small nation and hosting a very strong Algerian side will be no picnic. Algeria top the group with 10 points and are ranked by FIFA as the best side in Africa. With a side punctuated by talent, they’ll be keen to seal their place in the African showpiece with a win here. Back Algeria to take all three points.

2/1 Liberia | 39/20 | 29/20 (19:00)

Liberia have given themselves every chance of qualification for AFCON 2017 with an excellent campaign to date. Three wins and one draw puts the side at the top of Group A with nine points, beating Tunisia and Djibouti (twice). They lost their opening match against Togo but a strong performance in this home fixture would almost seal their passage to the tournament. Togo are not far behind with seven points in a group that will likely only be settled with the final round of matches. This one has a draw written all over it.

13/2 Mauritania | 17/4 | Cameroon 7/20 (19:00)

Mauritania have defied expectations by taking up second spot in Group M ahead of South Africa and only a point behind Cameroon. Two wins, a draw and a loss has seen Mauritania a serious contender for qualification. However, much will ride on this match with group leaders Cameroon and the hosts will need to be at their absolute best after losing 1-0 in the reverse fixture. Cameroon, unbeaten with two wins and two draws, will be wary of complacency in this fixture as Mauritania have a strong record at home. Nevertheless, I’m tipping the away win in this one as Cameroon make their quality count.

Vincent Aboubakar - Cameroon

10/1 Mauritius | 47/10 | Ghana 1/4 (19:00)

Mauritius were thumped 5-0 by Rwanda in their last outing, having won 1-0 in the home leg. They’re the type of team that can compete when at their best but too often slump to heavy defeats. Another victory over Mozambique means that Mauritius are third in Group H, equal on points with Rwanda but trailing by some distance in goal difference. Ghana top the group with three wins and a draw and will comfortably secure qualification to the tournament with a win here. Don’t bet against it. Ghana destroyed Mauritius 7-1 in the reverse fixture. Back the away side to collect all three points.

AFCON Picks
South Africa WIN 16/10
Kenya BTTS 21/20
Tunisia WIN 1/33
Libya DRAW 26/10
Senegal WIN 4/10
Algeria WIN 1/8
Liberia DRAW 39/20
Cameroon WIN 7/20
Ghana WIN 1/4

Written by Rick John Henry