Nations Cup qualifiers take up World Cup slack

By Mark Gleeson

By Mark Gleeson

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Less than a week after the World Cup final, international football resumes across Africa this weekend with qualifiers for next year's African Nations Cup finals, maintaining the treadmill of world competition.

Sierra Leone, who this week suspended four players on suspicion of involvement in match fixing seven years ago, may be distracted as they face the Seychelles in Freetown on Saturday in one of seven second round, first leg qualifiers.

The surprise move against Ibrahim Kargbo and three others adds to the attention focussed on a competition already flirting with controversy after the expulsion of Equatorial Guinea for using an ineligible player.

Mauritania, defeated by Equatorial Guinea in the previous round, have been reinstated. They face Uganda in Kampala on Saturday.

Former Nations Cup runners-up Uganda lead a bid by 14 countries for a place in the group phase of the qualifiers, which starts in September.

Neighbours Kenya and Tanzania add to the challenge from east Africa. Kenya, however, must do without several first choice players who have been refused permission to play in Sunday’s match away against Lesotho because it falls outside FIFA's international match calendar.

The enforced absentees include French-based captain Denis Oliech and Norway-based goalkeeper Arnold Origi, but Victor Wanyama has been given permission by Southampton, of the English premier league, to play in Maseru.

Tanzania host Mozambique in Dar-es-Salaam on Sunday. They hope they can take advantage of new Dutch coach Mart Nooij's experience of four years in charge of Mozambique from 2007 to 2011.

The second legs of the ties will be played on the weekend of August 1-3. The seven winners advance to the group phase of the qualifiers.

Morocco hosts the Nations Cup finals tournament from Jan. 17 to Feb. 8 next year.