Despite breaking a 39-year jinx to book a ticket to Afcon, Tanzania’s Taifa Stars are yet to finalise their pre-tournament plans due to lack of adequate funds.
Nigerian coach Emmanuel Amunike, who replaced native Salum Mayanga at Taifa Stars bench last August, managed two draws and two wins in Group ‘L’ of the qualifiers to advance from the group alongside Uganda Cranes, whom they beat 3-0 in their final qualifying match.
“It’s a good draw, all we need is confidence in what we do but we need to work because we have to be realistic. All teams which have made it here are good,” admitted the 48-year-old Amunike, who won 1994 Afcon with Nigeria.
In 2007, Tanzania lost 4-0 to Senegal in the 2008 Afcon qualifiers and drew the reverse fixture 1-1. They got a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Algeria in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in Algiers, something they will be keen to avoid in Egypt.
The two teams drew 2-2 in the return leg in Dar es Salaam, but Taifa Stars again went down 4-1 to Desert Foxes in a friendly match last year.
Debutants Burundi are yet to get funding for Afcon preparations, but coach Olivier Niyungeko is hopeful of quick intervention from the government.
Captain Karim Nizigiyimana believes that they can battle the likes of Nigeria, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire and finish in the top two despite being underdogs.
“We played the likes of Gabon and Mali to qualify. Nothing is impossible if we put up a spirited fight because we’ve played Cote d’Ivoire before and we watched Guinea play Rwanda, so we know them,” said Nizigiyimana.
Burundi’s Swallows will count on Algeria-based striker Abdulrazak Fiston’s scoring touch to bang in the goals. During the qualifiers, the former Sofapaka man finished second on six goals behind top-scorer Nigerian Odion Ighalo (seven goals).
At the same time, Uganda will be out to put to use valuable lessons they picked at the 2017 edition in Gabon after making a second consecutive appearance.
They will be on a revenge mission against hosts Egypt who were in Group D at the 2017 Afcon. Pharaohs won 1-0 and lost by a similar margin in Kampala in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
“We have quality. We shall play with maximum effort and give 100 per cent to get a good result,” Uganda coach Sebastien Desabre offered.