By Bonface Osano,
Gabon will host 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), this was revealed on Wednesday April 8, 2015 at the CAF headquarters in Cairo;
The draw for the qualifiers was also conducted with 52 nations being put in 13 groups consisting of 4 teams each. The group winners and two best second placed teams join hosts Gabon for the finals.
The East African teams consisting of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia once again find themselves in tricky groups with Uganda being placed in a group that can be considered not very tough on paper, compared to the group they were in last time that comprised of West African giants of Ghana, Togo and Guinea.
Uganda is in group D together with 2013 finalists Burkina Faso, Botswana and Comoros, the Cranes have endured heartbreaks in their last three campaigns failing to make it on the last hurdle against Kenya, Zambia and Guinea respectively, and their fans will be hoping that the gods of football will smile their way this round.
Uganda crushed out the 2014 qualifiers going down 2-0 on the last day to Guinea hence finishing fourth, group leaders Ghana followed by Guinea moved to the final tournament.
Cranes coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic who has been rebuilding his team was handed a new contract earlier this month that will see him at the helm up to 2018; in their last international friendly this month they shocked giants 1-0 at home.
Ethiopia is grouped together with North African giants Algeria, Lesotho and Seychelles in group J. It is the second time in a row that the East Africans are finding themselves in the same group with Algeria, the Walias lost both ties home and away going down 5-2 on aggregate in the 2015 qualifiers, they finished last in the group that also had Mali and Malawi. North Africans are ranked 13th in the world and the best in Africa while Ethiopia is ranked distant 102nd.
Seychelles withdrew from the last qualifiers after their immigration authorities barred Sierra Leone team from entering the country due to the Ebola virus concerns.
Ethiopians are expected to go past Lesotho and the lowly ranked Seychelles in this group.
Tanzania is in group G together with 2013 champions Nigeria, 7 times winners Egypt and Chad, this is probably the toughest group compared to the groups the other East Africans are in.
Taifa Stars were bundled out of the 2015 qualifiers in the second round going down 4-3 on aggregate in the hands of Mozambique.
Coach Mart Nooij has his work cut out for him as he will be against the big boys of African football in his quest to take Taifa Stars to the maiden AFCON.
Rwanda is pooled in group H together with 2015 finalists Ghana, Mozambique and Mauritius. The last qualifiers left bad taste in the mouths of Rwandan fans after Amavubi were disqualified in the second round for fielding an eligible player against Congo.
Rwanda beat Congo via penalties 4-3 to qualify for group stages but were shocked when on August 17, 2014 CAF announced that Rwanda were disqualified for fielding an eligible player Daddy Birori in the tie, as it emerged that the player had been using a different name and Congolese passport when playing for his club side AS Vita, as a result Congo advanced to group stage.
Ghana who finished second in the 2015 AFCON will be the biggest obstacle to the East African’s dream of making it to 2017 continental showpiece, the Wasps are ranked 64th in the world while the Black Stars are ranked 24th .
Kenya is in group E same with Congo, Guinea Bissau and the 2012 winners Zambia; Harambee Stars were eliminated in the second round of the 2015 qualifiers by fellow underdogs Lesotho by 1-0 on aggregate.
Kenya last qualified for the continental showpiece in the year 2014 and the Harambee Stars will be hoping to repeat the same feat; they boast of Captain Victor Wanyama who plies his trade with the English premier league side Southampton United, the 25 years old has been pivotal in the Saints mid since joining from Scottish side Celtic.
Another player who will be watched keenly in this qualifiers is Zambian based Zesco United defender David ‘Calabar’ Owino, his experience in the Zambian league will be of great value to the Stars.
Despite boasting of one of the best leagues in Africa KPL that continues to attract players from far and wide, the Kenyan national team Harambee Stars’ performance has continued to deteriorate mainly because of what most agree is poor management and it will be seen whether Kenyan FA will finally get it right.
Burundi is pooled in group K same with Senegal, Niger and Namibia; the swallows bowed out in the preliminary rounds of the 2015 qualifies after suffering a 1-0 aggregate defeat against Botswana. Burundi is ranked poorly at number 126 in the FIFA rankings and together with Namibia ranked 113 are clearly the underdogs in this group.
Qualifying begins in June.
Afcon 2017 FULL DRAW
Group A: Tunisia, Togo, Liberia, Djibouti
Group B: Madagascar, DRC, Angola, CAR
Group C: Mali, Equatorial Guinea, Benin, South Sudan
Group D: Burkina Faso, Uganda, Botswana, Comoros
Group E: Zambia, Congo, Kenya, Guinea Bissau
Group F: Cape Verde, Morocco, Libya, Sao Tome
Group G: Nigeria, Egypt, Tanzania, Chad
Group H: Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Mauritius
Group I: Ivory Coast, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Gabon
Group J: Algeria, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Seychelles
Group K: Senegal, Niger, Nambia, Burundi
Group L: Guinea, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland
Group M: Cameroon, South Africa, Gambia, Mauritania
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