The Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers swings back into action this week with a number of tasty clashes where most countries will be looking to book spots or move closer to qualifying for the tournament in Cameroon next year.
Among the highly anticipated matches of this round, South Africa host the Black Stars of Ghana at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg with the aim of edging closer to qualification. There is also the Southern African derby between Botswana and Zimbabwe in Francistown, Zambia against Algeria n Lusaka, Kenya against Egypt in Nairobi and Ivory Coast visiting Niger in Niamey.
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South Africa VS Ghana
A win for Bafana Bafana will almost certainly see them qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Cameroon next year. Their path will be made easier if third placed Sudan drop points in their match against São Tomé and Príncipe on Thursday. Getting all the three points is not going to be an mission for Bafana Bafana against the Ghana side that will also be looking to enhance their chances of qualifying.
Smart money is on South Africa to win largely because they are playing at home.
Pick: South Africa Wins 1.39 at BetXChange
Kenya VS Egypt
The Pharaohs will qualify to the Cup of Nations if they get all the three points against Kenya in Nairobi and they will do that with a match to spare. The good news for Egypt is that key midfielder Mohamed Elneny of Arsenal and attacker Trézéguet of Aston Villa in the English Premiership have been allowed to travel and they are going to be key for the ambitions of Egypt winning this match.
On the other hand, Kenya, who are struggling having drawn three and lost one of their four matches the other match, will refresh their faint ambitions of qualifying if they pull an upset and hand overwhelming favourites Egypt their first defeat of the group stages.
Pick: Egypt Wins 1.02 at BetXChange
Benin VS Nigeria
Qualification will be secured by the Super Eagles if they manage to take all the three points from unheralded but unpredictable Benin in Porto-Novo.
Benin, who have managed two wins and one draw in their last three matches, will not want to drop points at home considering that third placed Sierra Leone can still surpass them to second over the next two round of matches.
Advantage for Nigeria is that the English based duo of Fulham defender Ola Aina and attacker Alex Iwobi of Everton have been cleared by their teams to travel for this all important match where a win will be high on their agenda.
Pick: Nigeria Wins 1.39 at BetXChange
Congo VS Senegal
The Lions of Teranga have already qualified for the tournament in Cameroon next year after they won their first four matches but they will not take the feet off the pedal as they will be looking to complete the group stages with a 100 percent record.
On the other hand, Congo will significantly improve their chances of qualifying for the tournament with three points at home against the well oiled Senegal machine that will be led by dangerous Liverpool striker Sadio Mané.
Congo will find themselves in a precarious position if they drop points against Senegal and at the same time Guinea Bissau win against winless Eswatini in Mbabane.
Pick: Senegal Wins 0.93 at BetXChange
Niger VS Ivory Coast
The Elephants of Côte d’Ivoire travels to Niamey looking for three points that will significantly improve their chances of qualification against bottom of the log Niger in this group where the three top teams can still qualify.
Ivory Coast are tight on seven points from four matches with surprise packages Madagascar while unpredictable Ethiopia are breathing heavily down their necks with six points and placed third.
Ivory Coast will be favourites to walk away with all the three points against Niger who have lost three and won the other of their four matches and their chances of securing qualification are remote.
Pick: Ivory Coast Wins 0.74 at BetXChange
Zambia VS Algeria
Algeria have already qualified and they will be favorites to win in Lusaka against the Chipolopolo of Zambia who have struggled with three losses and one win during their four matches so far in the grop stages.
A win for the Desert Foxes of Algeria will see them pull away from second-placed Zimbabwe and hugely improve their chances of ending the qualification programme at the top of the standings.
Pick: Algeria Wins 1.03 at BetXChange
Botswana VS Zimbabwe
With Algeria having already qualified in Group H and also favourites to finish at the top, the race for second spot has turned out to be a two horse race between Southern African rivals Botswana and Zimbabwe.
They meet in what is expected to be a fiery encounter in Francistown where the winner will move to second spot and a significant advantage to go through with one match to go.
Pick: Zimbabwe Wins 1.69 at BetXChange