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Bafana Bafana will know their Afcon 2023 destiny in March

FILE - Keagan Dolly, Katlego Mashego and Percy Tau during a Vafana Bafana training session. Photo: Thabang Lepule/Backpagepix

FILE - Keagan Dolly, Katlego Mashego and Percy Tau during a Vafana Bafana training session. Photo: Thabang Lepule/Backpagepix

Published Jan 24, 2022

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Cape Town - Bafana Bafana will know its destiny in the Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023 once the six aggregate winners of the preliminary round have been decided, at the end of March.

The preliminary round fixtures, with the first legs played at the home of the lower-ranked teams, will start on 21 March. The second-leg matches will start on 29 March. The 12 teams will be drawn from CAF's lowest-ranked teams.

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The six aggregate winners will join the 42 highest ranked teams into the group stage of the qualifiers. The 48 countries will be placed in 12 groups of four teams, and Bafana Bafana will join the Afcon 2023 action at that stage. The top two teams in each group (24 teams) will qualify for Afcon 2023.

The six match-ups are Eritrea v Botswana, Sao Tome and Principe v Mauritius, Djibouti v South Sudan, Seychelles v Lesotho, Somalia v Eswatini, Chad v Gambia.

Meanwhile, CAF's final qualifying round for the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 will see the celebrated Liverpool duo Sadio Mane (Senegal) and Mohamed Salah (Egypt) run out against each other. The Senegal-Egypt clash will be one of five match-ups to decide the five CAF teams that will play in Qatar later this year.

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The aggregate outcome will decide which of Mane and Salah will be playing at the 2022 global showpiece.

The other interesting pairing will be the clash between two African powerhouses, Nigeria and Ghana. Nigeria is presently in a rich form, and has been the most impressive team at the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

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Ghana, on the other hand, have been dumped out of the competition after failing to win any of their three group matches. They finished rock bottom in the group standings and suffered a humiliating 3-2 defeat at the hands of Afcon finals debutants Comoros.

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The third clash will see Afcon hosts Cameroon run out against Algeria, the reigning Afcon champions who have failed to reach the Round of 16 in Cameroon. Algeria was one of Afcon 2022 favourites after a spell of 34 games without defeat.

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Cameroon may well do Africa proud, given their experience of playing in the finals of the FIFA World Cup on seven occasions. In 1990 Cameroon reached the quarter-final and was defeated 3–2 by England.

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In what should be a highly competitive showdown, DR Congo will face Morocco.

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In the final qualifying clash, Tunisia will go up against Mali, the only team in the final qualifying round who have never played in the World Cup finals.

The matches (home and away) will be played in the last two weeks in March. It has been announced yet, but it is likely CAF will host all the matches in Qatar where VAR will be available.

@Herman_Gibbs

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