The third round of qualification to the 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations concluded on Friday, as the road towards Côte d’Ivoire began to take shape.
After Back to back wins and South Africa’s draw against Liberia, Morocco is the only country to have so far qualified for the biennial showpiece as they top Group K with six points. With Zimbabwe having been locked out of the qualifiers, the group only has three teams.
Here is a summary of how things stand heading to match day six this coming week.
Guinea Bissau produced the biggest victory in the third round of matches, shocking Nigeria’s Super Eagles 1-0 in Abuja. The victory took the Djurtus to seven points, one ahead of the Super Eagles, and they can confirm their place in the tournament if they complete a double over Nigeria this coming week.
Sierra Leone is third with two points, one above Sao Tome and Principe, against who they played to a 2-2 draw. Sao Tome host the return fixture on Sunday and they can keep their hopes alive with victory.
Burkina Faso are flying in this group atfer edging Togo 1-0 to make it three wins in a row and top the group with maximum nine points.
They face the Sparrow Hawks in Lome this coming week and three points will assure them of a place in the final tournament.
Togo are bottom of the pile with just a single point from three matches.
Cape Verde are second in the group with four points, two ahead of eSwatini who held them to a 0-0 draw at home. In the next round, the islanders have to win to retain their qualification hopes.
Cameroon were held to a 1-1 draw by Namibia at home, but remain top of the three-team group with four points. Kenya, who were lined up to be in this group, did not participate in the qualifiers due to the then, FIFA suspension.
Namibia are second in the group with two points off back to back draws while Burundi have one point bottom of the table.
Namibia host the Indomitable Lions this coming week, in a match that both have to win. Cameroon will qualify with victory on enemy soil while Namibia will move top if they win at home.
This is one of the closely contested groups, with record champions Egypt sitting top with six points, same as second placed Guinea.
Egypt were 2-0 winners over Malawi in this round to go top, the latter dropping third with three points. They face off again in Blantyre this week.
Guinea kept their hopes of a qualification ticket alive, also with a 2-0 win over bottom side Ethiopia. They face off in the return tie this week, with the latter sitting at the base of the standings with three points off their shock 2-0 win over Egypt.
Ghana’s Black Stars needed a late goal to beat Angola 1-0 in Kumasi in the past round, and they sit top of the group with seven points, three ahead of the Palancas Negras.
The Ghanaians, under new coach Chris Hughton can earn a ticket to the tournament this week if they manage a win in Luanda.
Angola on their side, are in a must win situation to keep their hopes afloat.
The Central Africa Republic (CAR) are breathing down their necks, and their 3-0 victory over Madagascar put them on four points, only ranked lower because of goal difference.
Madagascar are bottom of the pile with one point and have their work cut out as they head for the return fixture away from home.
Algeria earned their third straight win and kept their unbeaten record intact to remain top of the group on nine points. They beat Niger 2-1 at home and will travel to Niamey for the return tie this week, needing just a point to qualify.
The Nigeriens are on two points and in a must win situation of their ambition to progress to the next round are to remain intact.
Tanzania are placed second in the group with four points after edging out Uganda 1-0 in the East African derby played in Cairo. The Taifa Stars host the Cranes, who are bottom of the group with just a point from a draw against Niger, in this week’s encounter.
Defeat will eventually blow away Uganda’s hopes of qualification while Tanzania, relying on their home ground advantage, can push a step closer to qualification if they win.
Mali is another team on a 100% record after their 2-0 win over Gambia took them to nine points. The victory at home was another crucial step to qualification, and just like Algeria, they can earn a ticket with a draw in the next match away to the Gambians on Tuesday.
Back to back losses have left Gambia fighting for their lives as they are third on three points.
South Sudan can dare dream of a first ever qualification after their shock 2-1 victory over Congo took them to second spot, above Gambia on goal difference.
Having won away and playing at home this week, the South Sudanese can elevate their dreams with a victory over the Congolese on Monday.
Ivory Coast, who are already qualified as hosts, lead the group with seven points. Only one more slot is available from this group, and Zambia’s Chipolopolo are training their guns on it, having beaten Lesotho 3-1 in Ndola to move second with six points.
They will enhance their chances if they can complete a home and away sweep of the Southern Africans.
Comoros, who lost 3-1 to the Ivorians are third on three points, and must win against The Elephants at home this week to remain in contention.
Gabon beat Sudan 1-0 to sail top of this group with seven points and keep their hopes intact. The Sudanese will have lots to do in the return fixture as they are third and on three points. Only victory will raise their hopes.
The Gabonese will seek maximum points which will assure them of qualification.
Meanwhile, after back to back defeats in the opening two games, DR Congo got themselves back on track with a 3-1 victory at home against Mauritania and another win this week will put them squarely into the mix.
Tunisia’s Carthage Eagles remained unbeaten after three matches, the 3-0 victory over Libya taking them to seven points. The Libyans are third in the group with three and as they prepare to play at home in the return fixture this week, victory will be essential.
Tunisia will qualify with three points in Benghazi while the Libyans are in a must win situation to salvage their hopes.
Equatorial Guinea’s 2-0 victory over Botswana meanwhile put them second with six points off two wins while the Southern Africans are bottom with just a point.
Playing at home this week, Botswana must beat the Equatoguineans to keep their chase into the final two matches of the group.
After South Africa lost a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Liberia at home, they have given themselves a mountainous task in getting to qualify. They have a single point from one draw and must beat Liberia in Monrovia for them to remain optimistic.
The result in Johannesburg was a blessing for Morocco who qualified to the 2023 AFCON as they are on six points already with two matches played.
Defending champions Senegal showed their might with a 5-1 thrashing of Mozambique, picking their third consecutive victory and one that puts them on the brink of qualification.
Just a single point in the return fixture away to the Mambas this week will confirm their place on the plane to Ivory Coast.
Mozambique are second with four points and playing in Maputo, they will be keen to make amends and keep their journey going.
Rwanda are third in the group after their 1-1 draw away to Benin who equalized late to force out the point. They will play their return match in Huye this week and hope the home ground advantage will aid them against the Squirrels.
A win for Rwanda will keep their hopes afloat while essentially diminishing those of Benin.
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