Kenya’s Harambee Stars will square it out with four time champions Ghana, neighbors Ethiopia and Sierra Leone in the qualifiers for the 2019 African Cup of Nations according to Thursday’s draw conducted in Libreville, Gabon.
Stars are hoping for a return to the most coveted football tournament on African soil for the first time since 2004 and though the draw looks tough on paper, Stanley Okumbi and his charges might fancy giving it a try.
Due to improved ranking, Kenya will this time round avoid the tedious two legged preliminary round.
South Sudan, Sao Tome, Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar and Djibouti will contest for three places from the preliminary round.
Kenya has mixed history with Ethiopia, but the most recent meeting was during the 2016 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers in 2015 which Ethiopia won.
The previous meetings at CECAFA Senior challenge levels have always ended in Kenya’s favor.
Kenya does not have recent competitive meetings with either Sierra Leone or Ghana.
The Ghanaians have however played neighbors Uganda and Rwanda in previous qualifiers and Kenya can rely on their struggles in the region to pounce.
Having failed to nail a slot in the 2017 edition at the expense of minnows Guinea Bissau coach Okumbi vowed to lead the Stars into the 2019 edition and he now has his work cut out.
Uganda drawn against Tanzania, Lesotho and Cape Verde
Neighbors Uganda and Tanzania have been locked in the same group. They will be up against Lesotho and Cape Verde in Group L.
The cranes qualified for the 2017 edition for for the first time in 39 years and may as well fancy their chances for 2019 in a group that looks manageable.
Group J will also be an interesting one to watch as it pits 2004 champions Tunisia against fellow North African rivals Egypt. They will be joined by Niger and Swaziland.
Group E will also see two giants clash with Nigeria and South Africa pooled together. Seychelles and Libya will compete in this group as well.
The preliminary round matches will be played in March while the group stage matches kicking off in June. Group winners from the 12 pools alongside the three best second placed teams will join hosts Cameroon for the final tournament.
2017 AFCON qualification groups
Group A: Sudan, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome/Madagascar
Group B : Morocco, Malawi, Cameroon, Comoros/Mauritania
Group C: Gabon, Burundi, Mali, Djibouti/South Sudan
Group D: Togo, Benin, Gambia, Algeria
Group E: South Africa, Seychelles, Nigeria, Libya
Group F: Ethiopia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ghana
Group G: DR Congo, Congo Brazaville, Zimbabwe, Liberia
Group H: Guinea, Ivory Coast, Central Africa Republic, Rwanda
Group I: Angola, Botswana, Mauritius, Burkina Faso
Group J: Egypt, Tunisia, Niger, Swaziland
Group K: Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Namibia, Zambia
Group L: Uganda, Tanzania, Lesotho, Cape Verde
Sports News Arena