Mauritania on the rise as Zebras struggle

BONGANI MALUNGA

When the draw for Group I of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers was made Angola and Burkina Faso were regarded as the frontrunners to lead the group while Botswana and Mauritania were expected to struggle.
The Angola national team has multiple AFCON appearances as well as one World Cup spell (in 2006) while Burkina Faso were finalists in the 2013 AFCON tournament, given both teams’ history they were fancied to dominate the group but Mauritania has flipped the script by becoming the surprise package in the AFCON Qualifiers.
Mauritania are the early pace setters in the group with two wins in the first two games. Ironically, they are the only team in the group yet to participate in an AFCON tournament but judging by their promising start they could end that drought if they maintain their excellent form.
They started the campaign with a 1-0 away win against Botswana at the Francistown Sports Complex in June last year. They followed up their good start with a 2-0 victory over Burkina Faso this past weekend, they are one of only five teams yet to concede a goal in the first two games. Other teams yet to concede are South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Benin.
Zebras, on the other hand, have had a contrasting spell in the qualifiers with two straight defeats in their two opening games against Mauritania and recently against Angola. Major David Bright’s side suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat against Angola in Luanda on Sunday, the solitary strike in the game came courtesy of Gelson in the first half.
Botswana could have conceded more had it not been for the saves made by goalkeeper Kabelo Dambe. Zebras’ next two games will be crucial in their effort to claw their way back into contention, they will face Burkina Faso on the 13th of October before travelling to Mauritania on November 16th. With only two slots leading up to the 2019 AFCON tournament the Zebras still stand a chance to qualify. The top two in every group will automatically qualify for the tournament after the conclusion of the qualification stage.

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