The clash between Ivory Coast and Senegal headlines a bumper weekend of 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, while Zambia kick off the defence of their title at home against Uganda.
Ivory Coast have entered the last four installments of Africa’s biggest tournament as firm favourites, although they failed to live up to their billing on all four occasions, most recently losing on penalties to Chipolopolo in the 2012 final.
Senegal, meanwhile, proved to be the flops of AFCON 2012, losing all three of their group stage matches to send the team home with their tails between their legs.
However, the Teranga Lions have a new coach in Joseph Koto, who recently penned a new two-year contract.
Ghana will be looking to make the most of home ground advantage when they take on Malawi. The Black Stars came agonisingly close to a place in the previous installment’s final, losing to eventual champions Zambia in the semi-finals.
The Flames, meanwhile, will be hoping to bounce back from their failure to qualify for the 2012 showpiece, and enter the tie on the back of two successive wins over Chad and Zambia.
The Democratic Republic of Congo square up against 2012 co-hosts Equatorial Guinea. The Leopards, twice African kings, failed to qualify for the previous tournament, but enter this weekend’s tie having won three of their last four qualifying matches, scoring a total of 10 goals in that time.
Nzalang Nacional, meanwhile, did superbly well in what was their debut showing at the tournament, finishing second in Group A before going out in the quarter-finals after losing 3-0 to Ivory Coast.
Liberia face a tough task of qualifying as they face Nigeria. The Lone Stars have only ever qualified for the finals on two occasions, in 1996 and 2002, and they’ll be up against it once more as they take on a Super Eagles outfit that have lifted the title on two occasions, while finishing third in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010, although they were surprise absentees at the 2012 installment after failing to qualify.
Gabon take on Togo in the first-leg of their final qualifier, with the Panthers looking to go one better after being dumped out at the quarter-final stages of AFCON 2012.
The Sparrow Hawks failed to qualify for January’s installment and were also forced to withdraw from the 2010 tournament due to a rebel attack on the team bus prior to the finals. Didier Six’s men also just managed to squeak through the previous round after beating Kenya on the away goals rule.
Mali will be looking to go one better when they take on Botswana. The Eagles finished third in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, beating the latter in the quarter-finals before losing to Cote d’Ivoire in the semis, but restoring some pride as they beat Ghana 2-0 in the third place play-off.
The 2012 competition proved the Zebras’ debut showing, but they failed to make it past the first round as they finished bottom of Group D after failing to earn a single point.
Central African Republic face Burkina Faso in their first-leg tie. The Wild Beasts are yet to get their first taste of AFCON action after either failing to qualify or being disqualified during the previous qualification campaigns.
Herve Lougoundji’s men did, however, see off seven-time AFCON champions Egypt in the previous round, edging the Pharaohs 4-3 on aggregate.
The Stallions, meanwhile, will be hoping to improve on their previous showing which ended at the group stages, while their best ever result was their fourth-place finish at the 1998 showpiece.
Sierra Leone play host to Tunisia. The Leone Stars have not featured at the finals for the last 14 years, and they may go another two years before getting their chance as they face an Eagles of Carthage side that have made the quarter-finals three times in the last four tournaments, while they also boast a winners medal in 2004.
Sudan will be favourites to progress to the 2013 finals when they face Ethiopia. The Falcons of Jediane made it to the quarter-finals last time out before losing to eventual champions Zambia, while the Walya Antelopes have not made the finals since 1982.
Cameroon will be hoping to overcome the disappointment of missing out on AFCON 2012 when they take on Cape Verde. The Indomitable Lions were one of the surprise absentees at the previous tournament after failing to qualify, but they will be favourites to progress this time as they take on the Blue Sharks, who are yet to make it to the African showpiece’s finals.
For Sunday’s round of qualifying fixtures, click here.
Saturday’s AFCON 2013 Third Round Qualifiers:
Zambia v Uganda 15:00
Central African Republic v Burkina Faso 16:00
Congo DR v Equatorial Guinea 16:30
Gabon v Togo 16:30
Ghana v Malawi 17:00
Sierra Leone v Tunisia 18:30
Mali v Botswana 19:00
Cape Verde Islands v Cameroon 19:00
Sudan v Ethiopia 19:00
Ivory Coast v Senegal 19:00
Liberia v Nigeria 20:00
All times CAT (SA, GMT+2)
Posted: 07/09/12 11:20