Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi should have no problems returning to the Africa Cup of Nations finals in 2021 in Cameroon, Cecafa secretary general Nicholas Musonye reckons.
“The draw is not easy for our teams. However, our member countries have picked up valuable experience playing in this Afcon finals that they can use to build up for a better showing in the next competition,” Musonye said in Cairo where he represented the council in the Confederation of African Football General Assembly on the eve of the 2019 finals that pitted Algeria against Senegal.
Kenya were placed in Group G together with Egypt, Togo and Comoros, while Uganda, the region’s top-ranked team are in Group B alongside Burkina Faso, Malawi and South Sudan/Seychelles in the 2021 Afcon qualifying draw conducted on Thursday night in Egypt.
Tanzania were drawn in Group J with Tunisia, Libya, Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea. Burundi are in Group E that also has Morocco, Mauritania and Central African Republic.
There are 12 groups that will eventually have four teams each after a preliminary round involving four sets of matches.
“This Afcon has shown that there are no big teams and small teams, or at least the gap has narrowed considerably. Look at how Burundi played against Nigeria, and how Uganda pushed Senegal all the way in one of best matches of the tournament, in my opinion,” said Musonye.
He urged the Cecafa member countries to strategise well and ensure they won all their home matches to stand a good chance of going through to the 2021 championships finals in Cameroon.
“We have the Senior Challenge Cup coming up in December. They can use that to help prepare for the qualifiers.”
The four preliminary ties will be played in October while the group phase will start in November.
The top two teams from each group will qualify except in Group F that has hosts Cameroon as a guaranteed participant and the highest ranked of the remaining three teams.
Making it to Cameroon is well within Kenya’s reach. Egypt are familiar opponents while Comoros is a country Harambee Stars took four points from in the 2015 Afcon qualifiers.
Harambee Stars last met Togo in 2012 trading victories in 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches. But Kenyans will fondly remember another Afcon qualifying fixture in 2002 when Harambee Stars crushed Togo 3-0. Togo though went on to qualify for the 2006 World Cup four years later.
The Kenya-Togo meeting will certainly be interesting, not least, because of the coaches involved. Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne has worked under fellow Frenchman, the legendary Claude Le Roy, who is now the coach of Togo. Migne, speaking in Cairo a couple of weeks ago, emotionally confessed that Le Roy was his mentor who had shaped his coaching philosophy.
Liberia v Chad; South Sudan v Seychelles; Mauritius v Sao Tome e Principe; Djibouti v Gambia (First, second legs: Oct 7-15)
Group A: Mali, Guinea, Namibia, Liberia/Chad
Group B: Burkina Faso, Uganda, Malawi, South Sudan/Seychelles
Group C: Ghana, South Africa, Sudan, Mauritius/Sao Tome
Group D: Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Angola, Djibouti/Gambia
Group E: Morocco, Mauritania, Central African Republic, Burundi
Group F: Cameroon (hosts), Cape Verde, Mozambique, Rwanda
Group G: Egypt, Kenya, Togo, Comoros
Group H: Algeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana
Group I: Senegal, Congo Brazzaville, Guinea-Bissau, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland)
Group J: Tunisia, Libya, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea
Group K: Ivory Coast, Niger, Madagascar, Ethiopia
Group L: Nigeria, Benin, Sierra Leone, Lesotho
Matchdays: Nov 11-19 (two rounds), Aug 31-Sept 8 2020 (two rounds), Oct 5-13, Nov 9-17
Note: Winners and runners-up qualify from each group except F, where Cameroon automatically qualify as hosts with highest placed of other three teams
Did not enter: Eritrea, Somalia