The scheduled back-to-back rounds of 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers have left a hole in the continent’s football schedule, but it’s still worth looking at which teams have already put themselves well on the path to securing a place at the finals in Cameroon.
We’ll start with reigning AFCON champions Algeria, who have racked up a full house of six points thus far in Group H, having overcome Southern African opponents Zambia (5-0 at home) and Botswana (1-0 away).
The Fennec Foxes’ coach Djamel Belmadi says they want to continued their fine run of form when international football resumes. “Our priority is to keep building the momentum we have,” explained the former Algerian international, “and then look to get strong results in the qualifiers for the 2021 AFCON and 2022 World Cup.”
Senegal, the beaten finalists in AFCON 2019, are also looking good in their group. The Teranga Lions have beaten Congo and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) to open up a three-point lead at the top of Group I. With talents such as Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koilibaly and Famara Diedhiou (who scored a hat-trick against Eswatini), Senegal’s opponent will be hard pressed to deny the West Africans a berth in Cameroon 2021.
On the subject of the Indomitable Lions, they are obviously qualified for the tournament as hosts, but continue to participate in the qualification tournament and find themselves level with Mozambique’s Mambas on four points in Group F.
Meanwhile, in Group L, Nigeria are the dominant force after wins over Benin and Lesotho in which striker Victor Osimhen showed he is ready to be the Super Eagles’ attacking spearhead by netting three of their six total goals.
Yet the Lille player says he is still happy to play an understudy role should Odion Ighalo come out of international retirement: “He is welcome anytime. Whether I am on the bench or I’m starting, it will be very good for me to try and watch him play and try to help the team also. He is welcome anytime, for me to be on the bench or playing, I have no problem with that.”
The other teams which have enjoyed perfect starts to their AFCON qualification campaign are Madagascar – who only made their debut in 2019 and currently sit proudly atop Group K ahead of Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and Niger – Ghana and Tunisia.
The Black Stars look to be entering an exciting phase under new coach CK Akonnor and will back themselves to finish atop Group C ahead of South Africa, Sudan and minnows Sao Tome & Principe, while the Carthage Eagles keep on rolling as one of the most consistent performers in African football and lead fellow North Africans Libya by three points in Group J.
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