African Football HQ: Africa Cup of Nations qualifying returns

We hope you’re as excited about the return of competitive international football in Africa as the AFHQ boys

After almost a year without competitive African international football, the Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign resumes this week with a series of tantalising double-headers across the continent this week.

Naturally, the qualifiers get the full African Football HQ treatment on the podcast this week, as Ed Dove and Malek Shafei pick out their matches to watch, players with a point to prove, potential giant-killings and some of the outside choices for the title itself.

Nigeria’s game against Sierra Leone is understandably one of the big attractions of the international break, as the Super Eagles look to bounce back following disappointing international break last time around.

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Obviously, they’ll be facing lesser opponents than the Algeria side who outclassed the West African giants last month, and Gernot Rohr will be boosted by the returns of Joe Aribo, Oghenekaro Etebo and Victor Osimhen, all of whom missed the October break.

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Ghana also welcome some returnees back to the fold, with Harrison Afful, John Boye and Abdul Rahman Baba among some of the familiar faces to come back into the Black Stars set-up.

Dove highlights Baba as one of the player to watch during the international break.

The Chelsea left-back—yes, he’s still at the Stamford Bridge heavyweights—has endured a miserable time with injuries since the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations when he was injured on the dire turf of Port Gentil.

Various subsequent loan moves haven’t truly worked out, and Baba remains at Chelsea, unwanted and un-used.

Still, for some reason, C.K. Akonnor decided that the wideman could still have a role to play for the national side—despite some concern back home—but what kind of impact can he have in their double-header against Sudan?

We also focus on the Ivory Coast’s meetings with Madagascar.

The islanders were the surprise package of the 2019 Afcon campaign, first securing a maiden qualification and then defeating Nigeria en route to the quarter-finals.

They certainly have it in their arsenal to down the Elephants, who have already dropped valuable points in their surprise loss against Ethiopia a year ago; but will the 2015 champions be the biggest side to miss out on the biennial showpiece.

Shafei is confident that they’ll make the cut, and believes that, with the likes of Nicolas Pepe, Wilfried Zaha, Maxwel Cornet, Gervinho, Christian Kouame and Jeremie Boga, they might have the most exciting roster in the continent.

Add to that West Ham United striker Sebastien Haller, who’s set to make his debut against Madagascar, and the Elephants have an irresistible strength in depth.

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