IAN GOROWA’s Warriors will have an early start at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) 2015 qualifiers in the second round in May following decisions on the qualification process released by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) yesterday.
Caf held an executive meeting in Cairo on Friday where decisions were made with four teams — Mauritania v Mauritius and Eritrea v South Sudan — playing in the first round of the preliminary phase next month.
The first leg will be staged on the weekend of April 11-13 with the return legs on 18-20 before the final draw is conducted on April 27 in Cairo. The top 21 teams, according to information released yesterday, will not be involved in the preliminaries.
And by failing to qualify for the Afcon finals in 2010, 2012 and 2013 and gaining only four points, the Warriors, ranked 32, will start the campaign in the second round in May. The second round, first legs will be played on the weekend of May 16-18 and the return on May 30 – June 1. The Warriors could play, among other countries, Botswana, Swaziland, Chan holders Libya, Uganda, Mozambique, Congo and Benin.
Fourteen teams will make it to the third round where they will engage in two-legged contests on July 18-20 and August 1-3 to leave seven teams. The seven teams will join the top seeded 21, who include reigning champions Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Angola, Egypt, South Africa and Cameroon to take part in the group phases.
There will be 14 winners; the third best-placed team and the hosts Morocco for next year finals that will be staged in the cities of Tangier, Agadir, Rabat and Marrakech from January 17 to February 7. The group phases will be played on these dates: September 5-6 and 10, October 10-11 and 15, November 14-15 and 19.
This programme means the Warriors need the March 5 international friendly for Gorowa to prepare the team as he has not used foreign-based players since taking over last August. And this also means the Premier Soccer League (PSL) will adjust their programme to suit the national cause.
The PSL is expected to start at the end of March after Dynamos and How Mine have completed their preliminary matches in the Champions League and Confederation Cup respectively.
The PSL is expected to stage the NetOne Charity Shield. If the Cosafa Castle Cup is staged in June, then Zifa would simply need another team and coach for that.
Zifa communications manager Xolisani Gwesela said they were in discussion with Gorowa over the preparations.
“We give a lot of significance to the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and as such we are already in the process of engaging the technical team as far as preparations are concerned. We are very optimistic that this class of Warriors will produce a solid performance for us to start at group stages next time,” he said.
“Nevertheless we will leave no stone unturned to ensure their qualification and we appeal to the corporate sector and individuals to help us in this pursuit of glory.”
The PSL is expected to have a mid-season break and resume, possibly in July with the NetOne Super Eight and later the annual Mbada Diamonds Cup. They still have to meet the November deadline set by Caf for registration of teams that will take part in the Champions League and the Confederation Cup next season.
This might also mean having midweek fixtures.