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African teams in weekend clash for AFCON 2013 spots

posted 12 Oct 2012, 13:33 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 12 Oct 2012, 13:34 ]

AFCON title holders Zambia face Ugandan Cranes to fight for a chance to play in the tournament next year. Togo will also be meeting Gabon in another of the weekend's crucial Africa Cup of nations qualifying clashes.

 ENTEBBEUGANDA (OCTOBER 11, 2012) (REUTERS) -  Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) champions Zambia arrived in Kampala on Thursday (October 11) ahead of a crucial qualifier against Uganda slated for Saturday (October 13).

Zambia's Chipolopolo must win this final battle for a chance to defend their title atAfrica's top football tournament set for South Africa next year.

Uganda who lost to Zambia 1-0 in the first leg will have to win a 2-goal difference to make it to South Africa.

Injured Chipolopolo captain, Christopher Katongo, who may be watching from the sidelines, played down the home advantage that Uganda's Cranes hope will inspire its players, saying it was anyone's game to win.

"Looking at our history, we break those histories you know, it is not about how they have good record at home, what is important is 90 minutes, if they can do it we can do it also, so it is 50-50," he said.

A strong contingent of Zambia supporters travelled with the players to give support from the stands.

"Zambia is going to carry the day by 2:0 or if they try their best, the Ugandans will just draw may be Zero Zero or 1:1 if they are lucky," said Lameck Mwilo from Zambia.

Ugandan players and fans are also gearing up for Saturday's match which has raised hopes that the Cranes could make it to AFCON for the first time since 1978.

Uganda, which celebrated 50 years of independence from colonial rule just three days ago, missed out on last year's finals after drawing 0-0 with Kenya in qualifiers.

They hope the excitement of the jubilee celebrations and the nationalist mood in the country will inspire players.

"We are going to do the same way we have been doing, in all the games we have been playing at home, we have always been putting in everything, and we have always been having a good crowd here and I think that has always been motivating us, you know, whenever we play, and if goes well, I think we shall have a good game, we shall score goals on Saturday, due to the fact that we are playing at home," said Andrew Mwesiga, the Cranes' captain.

Togo who were initially banned from the 2012 and 2013 AFCON tournaments after they withdrew from the championship in 2010 following an attack on their team bus that killed two people while they were travelling through the Angolan province of Cabinda, will faceGabon's Panthers in Lome.

The ban against Togo was lifted in 2010. Togo star striker Emmanuel Adebayor made a come back in the first leg of the qualifiers, when Togo drew 1-1 against Gabon, after he quit international football following the attack on the team.

Coach Didier Six says the memory of the attack stays with the players but they are enthusiastic and are giving their all to make it to the finals in South Africa.

"It is difficult, and we still have ways to go. When I took over, the team was traumatised by the incident. They were traumatised by many things. We managed to restore some positivity. Sheyi (Emmanuel Adebayor) is back with us. He brought a lot to the table," said six.

Gabon is fielding a hungry side, after co-hosting at this year's tournament and losing toMali in a penalty shoot-out in the quarter finals.

Togo's players say they are ready to prove their abilities at the second leg.

"I think they (Gabon's team) were also surprised in the first leg of the competition back home. We tried to do everything possible to try to get a draw and it's what we got. Now the hard part I think is that they will be coming to Lome looking for revenge and they have yet to accept the draw that resulted from the match in Libreville. They did not expect it, but we are ready, and it's out of the question for us to work hard the first time and not try to emulate it this time round," said Serge Gakpe, Togolese player.

"I can see their enthusiasm, the Sparrow Hawks are already motivated. They are there on the field, as you can see. They are motivated and I hope we can qualify for CAN, we can also reach the finals," said supporter, Alexis Kodjo.

Only 15 teams will be going to South Africa, with Bafana Bafana being the 16th because it automatically qualifies as the host.