Johannesburg — Cameroon have recalled Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana for a crucial Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) clash against Burundi, with the final matchday of qualifying kicking off on Wednesday.
He was suspended and sent home after playing for the Indomitable Lions in their opening 2022 World Cup match against Switzerland following a tactical disagreement with coach Rigobert Song.
But with Cameroon needing a win to be certain of qualifying for the 2023 AFCON in the Ivory Coast, Song has convinced Onana to come out of self-imposed international retirement.
Title-holders Senegal are among 15 countries who have qualified for the biennial African showpiece, and nine more places are up for grabs during the seven-day final round.
Here, AFP Sport looks at the six groups where qualifying slots are available.
Taking only one point from two matches against Namibia has put five-time champions Cameroon in a precarious position in a section reduced to three teams after Kenya were disqualified.
“Our backs are against the wall,” admits Song, a former Liverpool and West Ham United defender and two-time AFCON winner as a player.
With no international-standard stadium in Burundi, the Swallows were forced to host Cameroon in Tanzania when they last met and lost 1-0 with Karl Toko Ekambi scoring.
Central African Republic get a second chance to qualify for the first time, but they must defeat four-time champions Ghana in Kumasi to succeed.
Victory over Angola last June would have sealed a historic place for the Wild Beasts. However, goalkeeper Dominique Youfeigane was sent off and they conceded a late goal to lose 2-1.
A major blow for the Central Africans will be the absence of captain and midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, who was injured playing for new club Marseille.
Tanzania have a three-point advantage over Uganda in the contest to accompany already-qualified Algeria to the finals.
Home advantage should ensure Algeria beat Tanzania and Uganda would draw level on points if they beat Niger, who have moved a home fixture to Morocco as they lack a suitable venue.
With Tanzania and Uganda also equal on head-to-head records, second place would be decided by goal difference.
Mali are among the countries to secure places, leaving the Gambia and Congo Brazzaville to battle for the other qualifying spot.
The Gambians host the Congolese in Morocco because they are among numerous African nations unable to play at home due to sub-standard stadiums.
Gambia made an impressive AFCON debut in 2021, reaching the quarter-finals, and enjoy a three-point advantage over Congo, meaning a draw will seal qualification for the Scorpions.
This is the most hotly contested section with only three points separating the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania, Gabon and Sudan, and all in contention for two places.
DRC and Mauritania are the likely qualifiers as they will have home advantage over Sudan and Gabon respectively.
The Congolese have recovered well under French coach Sebastien Desabre after losing their first two qualifiers – at home to the Gabonese and away to the Sudanese.
A showdown between Mozambique and Benin in Maputo will determine who goes to the Ivory Coast with section winners Senegal.
Mozambique are two points ahead of Benin, so a draw will suffice while the visitors must win to secure a fifth appearance.
Guided by former Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr, Benin have yet to win on the field. They remained in contention after a draw became a 3-0 victory because Rwanda fielded an ineligible player.
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