Onana recalled as Cameroon fight for Cup of Nations survival

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Cameroon have recalled Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana for a crucial Africa Cup of Nations 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 Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast, Song has convinced Onana to come out of self-imposed international retirement.

Title-holders Senegal are among 15 countries to qualify for the biennial African showpiece, and nine more places are up for grabs during the seven-day final round.

Here are six groups where qualifying slots are available.

Group C

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 Cup of Nations 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.

Group E

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.

Group F

Tanzania have a three-point advantage over Uganda in the contest to accompany already-qualified Algeria to the finals.

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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.

Group G

Mali is among the countries to secure places, leaving the Gambia and Congo Brazzaville to battle for the other qualifying spot.

The Gambians hosted the Congolese in Morocco because they are among numerous African nations that were unable to play at home due to sub-standard stadiums.

Gambia made an impressive Cup of Nations debut in 2021, reaching the quarter-finals, and enjoyed a three-point advantage over Congo, meaning a draw will seal qualification for the Scorpions.

Group I

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.

DR Congo 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.

Group L

A showdown between Mozambique and Benin in Maputo will determine who goes to Ivory Coast with the 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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