The first part of the qualifying phase involves six of the 49 teams engaged in the battle for the 15 tickets to join host Kenya for the final tournament of the fifth edition of the championship designed exclusively for footballers playing in their domestic leagues.
The only match in the Central-East Zone is between Somalia and South Sudan, which will take place at the Gouled Stadium in Djibouti, due to Somalia’s inability to host matches in their territory.
The Gouled Stadium is a familiar terrain for the South Sudanese, who suffered a 2-0 loss to Djibouti in a preliminary qualifier of the Total Africa Cup of Nations Cameroon 2019 last month. But the Bright Stars responded in grand style in the return leg at home with a 6-0 win to go through, a performance which should serve a source worry for the Ocean Stars.
This is the maiden participation of South Sudan in the qualifying phase following their admittance into international football in 2012 but Coach Bilal Felix and his charges are looking forward to scaling the initial hurdle.
Felix has included Kator FC striker James Moga, who scored a brace in the 6-0 drubbing of Djibouti in his 18-man squad for the trip to Djibouti. Also in the squad is veteran defender Thomas Atir, formerly on the books of Sudanese giants, El Hilal.
New Malawi coach Ronny Van Geneugden will have his first competitive taste of African football in the Southern Zone qualifiers as the Flames travel to Antananarivo as guests of Madagascar.
The Flames played out a barren draw against Kenya in a test match last Tuesday in Nairobi, a result that the Belgium-born trainer is convinced has gauged his side’s readiness for the test in the Indian Ocean island.
“I am very proud of the performance of the team. I think we gave a good performance. At half time we made some changes tactically and I think second half was much better. The substitutions changed the game and we were a better team,” Van Geneugden was quoted by the Football Association of Malawi website.
Mauritius will face Seychelles in the other Southern Zone clash in Belle Vue.
The return leg matches will take place next weekend, with the winners advancing to the next round in their respective zones.
Meanwhile, the final tournament is scheduled for 12 January to 4 February 2018 in Kenya.
22.04.2017 Somalia vs South Sudan
22.04.2017 Madagascar vs Malawi
22.04.2017 Mauritius vs Seychelles