Real South Africa, Cameroon and Tunisia will qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations – wherever it takes place – this weekend if they win their penultimate qualifying games.
Algeria and Cape Verde have already qualified for the 2015 tournament whose original hosts Morocco were stripped of the rights to stage the January 17 to February 8 finals over concerns over Ebola.
South Africa are top of Group A with eight points and are playing for the first time since the murder of skipper Senzo Meyiwa.
If they beat Sudan today in Durban – the hometown of the slain Orlando Pirates goalkeeper – they will have an unassailable of 11 points.
“I think it’s going to be very important for us to win this game because it will be a befitting send-off for the late Senzo,” said coach ‘Shakes’ Mashaba, whose team could still earn an automatic passage to the Africa Cup should third-placed Nigeria fail to beat Congo in Pointe-Noire.
“One other thing we have been preaching is that the spirit of our late captain prevails in the team.
“Everybody has to have this mentality that we have to play to the best of our abilities like the late Senzo had been doing.”
Brilliant Khuzwayo, Darren Keet and Siyabonga Mpontshane are now battling to be named in goal for the late Meyiwa.
Striker Sibusiso Vilakazi has pulled out of the squad with a toe injury, while May Mahlangu said he is too tired to play for his country and he has subsequently been banned from the national team.
Bafana Bafana beat Sudan 3-0 in Omdurman in September in the first match between the two sides.
Congo and African champions Nigeria are also locked in a tussle in the same Group A with the Super Eagles in serious danger of missing out on the 16-team tournament after they lost to Congo and Sudan.
The Eagles, who have reinstated coach Stephen Keshi and recalled Villarreal striker Ikechukwu Uche, lost to Congo 3-2 at home in September and now need to win today by at least two clear goals to stay in the reckoning for automatic qualification.
“It’s always an honour to play for my country and I am ready to give my best,” declared Uche, who scored 14 goals in La Liga last season.
“I am not under any pressure to deliver, but the team spirit is high and as a team we would together do our best to qualify our country.”
Congo are second with seven points and have two match winners in Ferebory Dore, who has scored three goals in the qualifying series, and Spain-based star Thievy Bifouma, who netted a brace and provided an assist as the Red Devils stunned the star-studded Nigeria in Calabar.
Cameroon are expected to book their ticket from Group D with a win in Yaounde against second-placed DR Congo.
The four-time champions are on 10 points, four points clear of DRC who they beat 2-0 in the reverse fixture three months ago.
The Ivory Coast are expected to get their campaign back on track in the same group by doing the double over Sierra Leone in Abidjan after they defeated the Leone Stars 2-1 in September.
This match will be played in Abidjan because of the severity of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone. Tunisia also top Group G on 10 points and a win in Botswana on Friday will qualify them for their 17th appearance at the Nations Cup. They dominated the game when they hosted the southern Africans in Tunis but only won 2-1.
Senegal and Egypt are neck-and-neck on seven and six points respectively and both teams clash in Cairo on Saturday after the Teranga Lions won 2-0 in Dakar.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor