Things learned from AFCON qualifiers this weekend

Mauritania, Guinea and Ivory Coast are among some of the countries that sealed qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations this weekend. Here are five things we learned.

Mahrez on fire

Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez scored two goals to lead his country to a 4-1 win over Togo and seal qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations next year. The Manchester City star has not had the best year, but he appears to have turned things around in recent weeks. He struggled for form at Leicester City last season as he angled for a move away from the club, and originally at the Etihad Stadium in the current campaign, after he finally got his transfer last summer.

After failing to register a goal or an assist in his first seven matches for Pep Guardiola’s men, Mahrez has scored six goals and directly set up a further four in 11 matches since. His two goals for Algeria is further demonstration of the rich vein of form he is currently in.

Nigeria complete comeback

Nigeria experienced a significantly low moment in 2017 when they failed to qualify for AFCON tournament that was hosted in Gabon. To a great extent, this failure was erased by their participation in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Missing two consecutive AFCON finals would have however been unthinkable for the Super Eagles.

They avoided that fate thanks to their 1-1 draw against South Africa on Saturday.

Uganda in ascendancy

Uganda beat Cape Verde 1-0 on Saturday to confirm their place in Cameroon 2019. This will be the second consecutive appearance at the finals for the Cranes, who now appear to be consistently getting better under manager Sébastien Desabre and his predecessor, Serb Milutin Sredojević. Their supremacy in Group L is emphatic; they lead the lot on 13 points, eight ahead of Lesotho and Tanzania.

Mauritania make history

Mauritania qualified for their first ever AFCON finals after they beat Botswana 2-1 in Nouakchott on Sunday. That victory was their fourth in five matches in Group I, and guaranteed them a top-two finish with one round of matches left to go. The Mauritanians join Madagascar, who also qualified for the tournament for the first time ever.

Ghana stay on course

Ghana beat Ethiopia 2-0 in Addis Ababa on Sunday to keep their qualification hopes on track. The Black Stars still have one match to play against Kenya in March next year. The exact fate of teams in the group still remains in the air, however, as they await FIFA’s final decision on the currently suspended Sierra Leone.