Defender Savio Kabugo celebrates after his 10th minute header in an Afcon qualifier against Ghana in 2014 In Kampala. (file photo).
By Allan Ssekamatte
Ghana 1 Uganda 1
Make no mistake about it. Uganda start this fixture as underdogs. That Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevich’s Cranes side are in the final phase of qualifiers for the World Cup in Russia is a victory in itself. The question then is how to build on their progress. Micho’s best approach in Tamale would be to tell the boys to play without pressure. After all, they have not lost on their last two trips to Ghana. This time the Cranes have the added advantage of playing Ghana minus the injured Andre Ayew, whereas Asamoah Gyan and Jordan Ayew are struggling for form. I know it’s a bold, perhaps jingoistic call, but I am backing Uganda to clinch a third consecutive draw.
Congo Brazzaville 1 Egypt 2
Hector Cuper takes seven-time African champions Egypt to Brazzaville in the other Group E fixture. The Pharaohs have been on the up and qualified for the Nations Cup in Gabon next year after overcoming a powerful Nigeria side. I am therefore tipping this resurgent Egypt to overcome the hosts. Narrow away win.
DR Congo 2 Libya 1
Democratic Republic of Congo are arguably Africa’s most improved team. On their day, they are capable of matching any African side, including the continent’s top ranked team Ivory Coast. Libyan football has been all over the place since the civil war. They stand no chance of stopping Yannick Bolassie in their Lubumbashi cauldron. Cast iron home win.
Tunisia 2 Guinea 0
The Carthage Eagles know they have to win all their home fixtures if they are to qualify for the World Cup finals for a third time. Lapa Bangoura’s Guinea are capable of being awkward opposition, as they showed in a 1-1 draw with Egypt last month. But I am backing Tunisia to make full use of their Monastir fortress.
Zambia 1 Nigeria 2
It is hard to believe Wedson Nyirenda’s Zambian Chipolopolo are not going to play at the CAN finals in Gabon. They face Africa’s most formidable strike force when they confront Victor Moses, Kelechi Iheanacho, Odion Ighalo and Ahmed Musa. If Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr deploys the correct line up, they will run away with this fixture.
Algeria 1 Cameroon 0
This tie evokes memories of the 1982 World Cup in Spain, when as Africa’s representatives, they stunned the globe with their ebullient football. Algeria start as favourites despite losing their number one African ranking to Ivory Coast. Leicester City pair Islam Slimani and Riyad Mahrez will provide the cutting edge.
Senegal 2 Cape Verde 0
Senegal were the only country to qualify for the Gabon 2017 finals without dropping a point. They are that serious. This means the Lions of Terranga are stonewall favourites to top Group D ahead of South Africa, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde. Napoli defensive stalwart Kalidou Koulibaly and Sadio Mane should propel Aliou Cisse’s Senegal side home.
B. Faso 1 S. Africa 1
As we all know, Burkina Faso is a team in decline. Despite topping Uganda on the way to Gabon, they were nothing special. South Africa should be good for a point if Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba can show faith in some of the Under-23 stars that played world class football at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.