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Tricky clashes for Nigeria, South Africa

AFP
Published : Oct 6, 2016, 11:35 pm IST
Updated : Oct 6, 2016, 11:35 pm IST

Africa Cup of Nations flops Nigeria and South Africa face tricky matches in Zambia and Burkina Faso this weekend when the group phase of 2018 World Cup qualifying kicks off.

Algeria will bank on star Riyad Mahrez (left) to fire against Cameroon. (Photo: AFP)
 Algeria will bank on star Riyad Mahrez (left) to fire against Cameroon. (Photo: AFP)

Africa Cup of Nations flops Nigeria and South Africa face tricky matches in Zambia and Burkina Faso this weekend when the group phase of 2018 World Cup qualifying kicks off.

The Super Eagles and Bafana Bafana (The Boys) will be notable absentees at the African showpiece in Gabon during January and February after losing out to Egypt and Cameroon.

So the former Cup of Nations title-holders want to seek redemption by filling two of the five African places at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Five-time World Cup qualifiers Nigeria appear to have the tougher task after being placed with Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia, undoubtedly the ‘group of death’ among five four-team mini-leagues.

But it is not going to be much easier for South Africa as they try to top a section including in-form Senegal, confident Burkina Faso and Cape Verde, a team ranked No. 1 in Africa for part of this year.

Veteran Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene scoffs at media suggestions that the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) are in Group B just to make up the numbers.

“When the media say you are no-hopers and certain to finish last, that motivates you,” he warned Nigeria ahead of a Saturday showdown in central city Ndola.

Caretaker Zambia coach Wedson Nyirenda rewarded ZESCO United for reaching the CAF Champions League semi-finals against the odds by including seven of their stars.

Injuries have ruled out English Premier League pair Isaac Success and Victor Moses, but Manchester City teenage star Kelechi Iheanacho is poised to trouble Mweene.

Cameroon will be up against it in Blida, a city where Algeria are virtually invincible and scored seven goals each against Ethiopia and Tanzania within the past 12 months.

A home draw with lowly Gambia followed by an away loss at football middleweights Mauritania left Bafana with a Cup of Nations mountain to scale, and they never looked like reaching the summit.

Winger Gervinho will be the only survivor of the Ivory Coast ‘golden generation’ on show against Mali in Bouake after the recent retirement of talisman Yaya Toure and the resting of rusty Salomon Kalou.

Location: South Africa, Gauteng, Johannesburg