Zooming into Africa’s June international friendlies

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African countries are set for a busy international break.

The start of the group phase of the World Cup qualifiers might have been postponed, but African national teams will be busy in the first two weeks of June.

Many teams have organised friendly internationals to prepare for September’s delayed 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.

There is only one competitive encounter with Sierra Leone hosting Benin Republic in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. The game was pushed back from March when Benin refused to play in Freetown after having five of their key players declared Covid19 positive by the local medical officer.

Benin, who need a draw to qualify for next January’s finals, must do without two injured regulars with Sessi d’Almeida and Cedric Hountondji both ruled out while Emmanuel Imorou and David Kiki are suspended. The five players who were declared positive in March are also in the squad.

African champions Algeria are seeking to extend their 24-match unbeaten run in three friendlies, but coach Djamel Belmadi must do without Nations Cup hero Ismael Bennacer, who is having surgery on a foot injury.

Former Belgian U21 international Ahmed Touba is in line for a first cap as the Desert Foxes face Mauritania, Mali and Tunisia.

Six home-based players were named by Burkina Faso coach Kamou Malo for friendlies against Ivory Coast and Morocco. The 33-man squad also includes Edmond Tapsoba, the Bayer Leverkusen centre back touted for a transfer to the English Premier League next season.

All seems to be forgiven for Cameroon captain Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who was accused of skipping their last assignments in March, and is among 28 players to take on Nigeria in Austria.

Coach Toni Conceicao has named a number of newcomers as he looks ahead to the hosting of the Cup of Nations in January.

Cape Verde Islands Football Federation president Mario Semedo called an invitation to play Brazil’s powerful Olympic team at the Partizan Stadium in Belgrade on Saturday a “massive prestige for his country”. There are four new players in the Cape Verde squad.

Hector Cuper will be in charge of the DR Congo for the first time since taking over as their new coach earlier in May. They camp in Tunis and play their hosts as well as Mali. England-born Pelly Ruddock Mapnzu, 27, has gotten his first call-up to the squad.

Eswatini have only two foreign-based players namely Felix Badenhorst and Justice Figuarado from South African club TS Galaxy in their squad for a triangular tournament in Mozambique, where they take on the hosts as well as Lesotho.

Gambia have a 26-man squad for their camp in Turkey with nine new players who are candidates to make the Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon next January. They have three friendlies lined up against Comoros, Togo and Kosovo.

Ghana have a strong 30-man squad for similarly heavyweight clashes against Morocco and Ivory Coast, which includes a return for Leicester City’s Daniel Amartey.

Guinea have four games in Turkey and took a 23-man selection to Antalya. They already drew 0-0 with Turkey on Monday night and still have to play Togo, Kosovo and Niger.

Ivory Coast have called up 27-year-old Hassane Kamara for the first time as they play two matches against neighbours Burkina Faso and Ghana. Paris-born Kamara, who had previously been linked with Gambia, had a breakthrough season in Ligue 1 with Nice.

Lesotho have three players from colleges in the United States in their squad for a triangular tournament in Mozambique. The three are Kabai Mahlatsane, Napo Matsoso and Lesia Thetsane.

Silky midfielder Tawonga Chimodzi is back in the Malawi squad for the first time in nine years after being included by coach Meke Mwase in a 24-man squad for a friendly against Tanzania in Dares-Salaam.

Burly striker Moussa Marega is due to make his return to the Mali team for the first time since the last Cup of Nations finals for the friendly in Algeria and two in Tunisia.

There is also a return for Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Yves Bissouma. Coach Mohamed Magassouba has picked 34 players for the three games.

Mauritania play three friendlies and then stay on in Doha for a Arab Cup qualifier against Yemen and they have picked 25 players.

Coach Corentin Martins has Oumar Camara, from Sete in France, and El Hassan Houeibib, who plays club football in Iraq, as newcomers and also recalled Abdoul Ba and Adama Ba, who were missing when the country secured a Cup of Nations place in March.

Morocco have included Ilias Chair from Queens’ Park Rangers and Wydad Casablanca’s right wingback Ayoub El Amloud in their squad for the first time.

Coach Vahid Halilhodzic has picked a strong selection for friendlies against Ghana and Burkina Faso, including Hakim Ziyech, who was an unused substitute for Chelsea on Saturday as they won the Uefa Champions League.

Horacio Goncalves’ first squad for Mozambique has omitted the likes of Reinildo and Mexer after long seasons in Europe and focused mainly on local talent, but does have five players based at Portuguese clubs included for matches against Lesotho and Eswatini.

Terem Moffi, who scored 14 goals in Ligue 1 for Lorient this season, is called up for the first time by Nigeria for their friendly against Cameroon in Austria on Friday.

Denmark-based midfielder Frank Onyeka and Galatasaray defender Valentin Ozornwafor are also fresh faces, but the Super Eagles must do without injured Samuel Chukwueze and Joe Aribo.

Senegal coach Aliou Cisse has recalled Boulaye Dia (Reims), Habib Diallo (Strasbourg), Lamine Gassama (Goztepe) and Youssouf Sabaly (Bordeaux) for home games against Zambia and the Cape Verde Islands.

There are no newcomers in the squad that includes Sadio Mane and Chelsea’s Uefa Champions League winning goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.

New Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos will miss his debut game against Uganda on the 10th of June as he will be in his native Belgium waiting for a second Covid19 vaccination phase.

His assistants will take charge of a 19-man squad that has seen captain Thulani Hlatshwayo axed after Bafana Bafana’s failure to qualify for the Nations Cup finals.

Paulo Duarte will only take over as Togo’s new coach in August, meaning Jonas Komla is in charge for the two-week camp in Turkey.

There are three new faces in the squad namely central defender Gustave Akueson and strikers Tchadenou Faride and Lithuania-based, Serge Nyuidzi.

Tunisia coach Mondher Kebaier has named two England-based players in an expansive 29-man squad. Former French junior international Hannibal Mejbri, 18, who made his Manchester United debut on the last day of the season, and 19-year-old Arsenal reserve Omar Rekik, who played for the Netherlands at youth level.

There is also a first call up for Swedish-born winger Ali Youssef from BK Hacken, who is only 20.

Emmanuel Okwi has been appointed as Uganda’s new captain after the international retirement of veteran goalkeeper Denis Onyango. Coach Abdallah Mubiru has named 34 players for the trip to Johannesburg, saying he is looking to blend some of the players from the team that competed at the U20 Africa Cup of Nations in Mauritania earlier this year.

Zambia are allowing key players Patson Daka and Enock Mwepu time off as they consider moves away from Austrian champions RB Salzburg while Fashion Sakala is being allowed to rest ahead of his move from Belgium to Scottish champions Glasgow Rangers.

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By FARPost reporter

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