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 By Mark Gleeson

Africa's elite seek to seal place in Nations Cup to join Gabon, Morocco

Cameroon will be looking to avoid any missteps in their quest for African Nations' Cup qualification.
Cameroon will hope to add their name to the finals list.

At least four more countries, and perhaps a few more, will shortly add their names to the list of finalists for next year's African Nations Cup tournament in Gabon.

This weekend the preliminary competition reaches the penultimate round and with the hosts and Morocco the only sides confirmed to date, 14 places still have to be decided.

Algeria, Egypt, Ghana and Senegal already have a foot in the finals but will confirm their participation in next January's tournament after what should be routine success at the weekend, even if they are all playing away.

Cameroon are also likely to add their name to the list, just days after a meritorious performance in Nantes where only a brilliant free kick by Reunion-born Dimitri Payet denied them a credible draw against 2016 European Championship hosts France.

If the Indomitable Lions win in Nouakchott against hosts Mauritania, they too will add their name to the list of qualifiers, although the immediate task ahead of them is not as easy as Algeria, Egypt, Ghana and Senegal's respective missions.

If results go their way, then the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Zimbabwe could also secure their tickets.

It will add to the list of qualifiers but still leave many options in other group deciders for the final matchday in the qualifying campaign, which comes in early September.

Morocco booked their place in March already after beating the top ranked Cape Verde Islands home and away to keep up a 100 percent record, but face an intriguing inspection of their credentials against Libya. The game is being hosted in neutral Tunisia, at the same stadium where Morocco were narrowly beaten in the 2004 African Nations Cup final.

That appearance at the Rades Stadium on the outskirts of the Tunisian capital was the last time they came even remotely close to winning the continental championship; Morocco have consistently produced a conveyor belt of talent but been mystifyingly unable to galvanise together an effective unit.

Now the African football's coaching pinup boy Herve Renard has taken over, Morocco have taken on the aura of a side with title wining potential.

But there will be plenty of quality opposition in Gabon early next year, not least Senegal, who are another team full of seemingly endless quality and potential but who have consistently failed to deliver on their promise.

In 2012, Senegal went into the tournament (co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon) as the form side from the qualifiers and tripped over their own feet; they did not qualify for the 2013 finals and, last year, did not get past the first round, hastening the departure of coach Alain Giresse.

Now they will qualify again and have a chance to banish those blues. A point away in Bujumbura on Saturday against hosts Burundi will secure an unassailable lead in Group K fort Senegal. It has, admittedly, been an easy group for new coach Aliou Cisse and his team with lightweights Namibia and Niger the other protagonists.

Africa Cup of Nations winners Ivory Coast returned home with the trophy after beating Ghana in the final on penalties.

Ghana, too, would not have been stretched in the qualifiers: paired in Group H with Mauritius, Mozambique and Rwanda.

The Black Stars did drop points away against Mozambique in their last game in March but otherwise have coasted through the campaign. They play away in Mauritius on Sunday, taking to the Indian Ocean resort island the likes of the Ayew brothers and Thomas Partey, who was on the bench for Atletico Madrid in last Saturday's Champions League final.

Egypt will finish at the helm of Group G if they draw at minimum in Tanzania and finally end their long exile from the finals. The last game they played in the tournament was the 2010 final when substitute Mohamed Gedo scored late to beat Ghana 1-0 in Luanda.

Since then, they have failed to qualify for three successive tournaments, although with seven overall triumphs they still remain the continent's most successful national team.

Algeria's game in the Seychelles has been brought ahead to Thursday to accommodate TV demands. Algeria also need only draw against the continent's smallest nation -- with Riyad Mahrez and Yacine Brahimi are injured and Islam Slimani suspended -- but it took their charter nine hours to fly from one side of the continent to the other.

DR Congo will qualify if they win away in Madagascar on Sunday and the Central African Republic fail at the same time to win their home game in Group B against Angola.

Zimbabwe can book a first ANC finals spot for more than a decade if they beat Malawi at home on Sunday and Guinea lose at the same time in Swaziland. Mali are also knocking on the door as they should beat South Sudan away.

The fate of their nearest challengers in Group C, Benin, is still not sure as FIFA suspended the country at their recent congress in Mexico City and if the ban is not lifted by the weekend, then Benin will have to forfeit their game against Equatorial Guinea and, with it, any chance of making the finals.

Mark Gleeson covers African football for ESPN FC.


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