Controversies dog qualifiers


LAGOS, October 8 – Nigeria's ban by FIFA and a row over Cameroon's decision to play their home game in Garoua, which has suffered a cholera epidemic, have dominated the second round of the qualifying tournament for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations this weekend.The Confederation of African Football (CAF) have now put off Nigeria’s Group B tie away in Guinea on Sunday until further notice after FIFA this week suspended the country from international football because of government interference in the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

There were already huge doubts over this match because at a time it looked like it would clash with Guinea’s general elections.

"All the players are unhappy over the ban because we know that this will affect us negatively," lamented Nigeria skipper Joseph Yobo after the team’s training in Abuja on Thursday.

It is now likely that the match will be played on November 17, which is a date set aside by FIFA for international friendly matches.

The Syli Stars of Guinea lead the standings after they defeated hosts Ethiopia 4-1 last month, while Nigeria beat Madagascar 2-0 in the southern coastal town of Calabar.

CAF also had to wade into a row over the choice of the northern town of Garoua for Saturday’s Group E match between Cameroon and regional rivals DR Congo after the visiting team raised concerns on account of the recent cholera epidemic there.

The match will go ahead in Garoua but as a precaution, both teams will have cholera vaccinations, officials disclosed.

There is a fierce rivalry between Cameroon and DR Congo as both teams have won 10 of their clashes, while two other games ended in draws.

Last month witnessed several shock results across Africa with Tanzania and Sierra Leone drawing away in Algeria and Egypt, respectively, while surprise packet Botswana beat Togo 2-1 and Senegal upstaged DR Congo 4-2 in Lubumbashi.

Both Algeria and seven-time winners Egypt will therefore be under pressure to win away from home this weekend.

Algeria face a tricky tie away in Central African Republic under new coach Abdelhak Benchikha, who replaced Rabah Saadane following the 1-1 draw in Blida.

"The players are very much aware of what is at stake on Sunday. They are very motivated. It is a match we have to win," stressed 47-year-old Benchikha, who won the Tunisian league title with Club Africain two years ago.

However, the 2004 Nations Cup winners will as a result of injury be without several of their stars including Wolfsburg midfielder Karim Ziani and England-based Adlene Guedioura, who scored in the draw with Tanzania.

The Pharaohs of Egypt would also be wary of their trip to Niger, who have proved to be a hard nut to crack in front of their fans.

"We are unbeatable at home and so are confident of getting nine points from our three matches in Niamey," warned Niger defender Harouna Ide, whose team lost 2-0 to South Africa in their opening qualifying game.

One other fascinating match will be the east African derby involving Kenya and Uganda in Nairobi.

In September, Kenya were upset 1-0 in Guinea Bissau on the day Uganda beat Angola 3-0 in Kampala.

A local businessman has promised group leaders Uganda a hefty bonus of about 700,000 dollars to qualify for the Nations Cup, 32 years since their last