The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign began on Friday following a build-up dominated by the deadly Ebola epidemnic and FIFA threats to ban several players.
The qualifiers determine the 15 places for the January 17 – February 8 tournament. Twenty-eight countries are participating in these matches, but due to the Ebola outbreak several nations including Guinea and Sierra Leono were required to change venues for the qualifying matches.
Sudan and South Africa played Friday in Khartoum with a 3-0 win for South Africa. Nigeria and Congo as well as Mali and Malawi will play on Saturday.
Egypt will start their qualifying campaign playing against Senegal and Tunisia on September 5 and 10 respectively.
Cameroon travels to Congo and Ivory Coast hosts Sierra Leone in the opening games.
Complications before matches
Defending African champion Nigeria, one of the teams hounded by disputes over money at the World Cup in Brazil, will open in Group A against the Republic of Congo, which only progressed after Rwanda was thrown out.
Algeria, a success for Africa in Brazil after making the second round, starts at Ethiopia in Group B but is reeling at home from the death of Ebosse at a match between the country’s top two teams from last season.
In a case described by the Confederation of African Football as “fraud,” Rwanda was disqualified for fielding a striker who was using a different name and a Congolese passport in club games.
Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba and Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o retired from international football after the World Cup.
Ghana cut Europe-based Michael Essien, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari from its squad because of their disciplinary problems at the World Cup. Ghana will play against Uganda in Group E without those three top players.
Guinea will open against Togo in neutral Morocco. Sierra Leone will play its first “home” game against Congo in Congo next week because of its struggle to find another country willing to host it.
The only reason its first game in Ivory Coast will go ahead on Saturday is because Sierra Leone guaranteed that it would bring a squad of only foreign-based players and promised that none of its group of 20 players and four coaches had been in an Ebola-affected region in the last 21 days.