Road to Gabon starts this weekend

The road to the 2017 African Nations Cup finals kicks-off this weekend with a host of COSAFA nations in qualifier action.

Only the top teams in each of the 13 qualification pools will advance automatically to the finals in Gabon, along with the two best-placed runners-up.

That makes the competition intense for tams and a good start paramount.

Angola and Madagascar are both involved in Group B action with Palancas Negras hosting Central African Republic in Lubango on Saturday.

A day later and Madagascar, fresh from their excellent showing at the recent COSAFA Cup in South African last month, test that good form when they travel to DR Congo.

Two more COSAFA sides are in Group D and both are on the road. Botswana head north to Uganda on Saturday, while at the same time Comoros Islands are in Burkina Faso.

Zambia are arguably the favourites in Group E and they host Guinea-Bissau in their opener in Ndola on Saturday.

Mauritius have a very tough start in Group H when they travel to west Africa to face Ghana, while COSAFA Cup 2015 runners-up Mozambique host Rwanda in Maputo.

Seychelles have the most daunting task of the weekend as they make the journey to Africa’s top-ranked side Algeria on Saturday in Group J, while a day later Lesotho are in Ethiopia.

COSAFA Cup champions Namibia will be full of confidence as they journey to Niamey to face Niger in Group K on Sunday, their opponents defending a strong home record.

Group L contains three sides from the COSAFA region with a derby clash on Saturday as Malawi entertain Zimbabwe. Friday night sees Swaziland take on Guinea in neutral Morocco.

South Africa start their bid for a place in Gabon with a home Group M game against Gambia in Durban on Saturday.