Africa Soccer Bonanza Kicks

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(Didier Drogba couldn’t do much in Germany. Maybe he’ll take Cote
D’Ivoire further in Africa Cup).

A range of what promise to be appetizing fixtures are on card this weekend as generations of new and old faces in coaches and players’ feature at the opening qualification games of the 26th African Cup of Nations.

It’s been dubbed “ACN-Ghana-2008.� Stars, who spice up several leagues out of their native African countries, will return home to bolster their teams for the continent’s most prestigious event. The opening rounds of group matches are to be played between September 3rd and 5th 2006 with the final rounds ending between September 7th to 9th

Forty-seven countries out of 51 member countries with the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) will compete in 12 groups to qualify for 15 out of the 16 places at the 2008 finals. Automatic qualification is guaranteed to the team that tops each group, while the top three runners-up in the groups consisting of four teams will join them. This means that only one team has the chance of qualifying from Group 12, which has just three teams - Morocco, Zimbabwe and Malawi while Ghana qualify for the 2008 tournament as hosts. Only Djibouti pulled out of the tournament on August 17th for reasons unknown while Central African Republic, Djibouti, Guinea Bissau, Somalia, São Tomé e Príncipe
did not register to compete. 2006 Germany world cup finalists will be the focus as they continue to dominate the soccer scene.

With Ghana, already guaranteed of a place, Ivory Coast are also on holiday after their earlier scheduled opponents Djibouti pulled out. That leaves Togo, who hit headlines over pay wrangles at the German global showcase, which now will host Benin. Tunisia, the other team that finished without winning a single game in World Cup Germany, although had one of the most heavily attended matches, against Ukraine (72,000), will be visiting Mauritius while Angola start their campaign away to Swaziland.

Weekend fixtures follow, also with country continental ranking (in brackets) for August:

Group A Gabon (22) v Madagascar (41)
Group B Mauritania (45) v Botswana (26), Egypt (5) v Burundi (43)
Group C Uganda (24) v Lesotho (34), Nigeria (1) v Niger (46)
Group D Sudan (30) v Seychelles (37), Mauritius (39) v Tunisia (7)
Group E Rwanda (28) v Cameroon (2), Equatorial Guinea (21) v Liberia (36)
Group F Swaziland (40) v Angola (11), Kenya (31) v Eritrea (48)
Group G Tanzania (35) v Burkina Faso (16), Senegal (8) v Mozambique (32)
Group H Guinea (4) v Algeria (19), Gambia (44) v Cape Verde (25)
Group I Sierra Leone (41) v Mali (13), Togo (10) v Benin (27)
Group J Ethiopia (23) v Libya (18), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (14) v Namibia (38)
Group K South Africa (17) v Congo Brazzaville (28), Chad (33) v Zambia (12)
Group L Morocco (9) v Malawi (20)

Ssebaggala writes for The Black Star from Uganda.

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