Cranes skipper Geoffrey Massa now shoulders the burden of guiding Uganda to the 2017 Nations Cup finals

The road to Gabon 2017 resumes in the coming days with the third and fourth matchdays in the group stage of Africa Cup of Nations qualifying WITH THE Uganda Cranes visiting Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou on Saturday as one of the crackers.

No less than 50 qualifying matches will be played across the continent, beginning on Wednesday 23 March and concluding the following Tuesday 29 March.

This promises to be a key set of matches, with teams paired together for double-header clashes. By the time the dust settles, we will have a much clearer picture of the identity of the 15 teams who will be joining hosts Gabon in next year’s AFCON.

The action gets underway on Wednesday, with the pick of the matches seeing former AFCON champions Zambia hosting Congo in Ndola – the pair will battle for dominance in Group E – while South Sudan will continue their first attempt to reach a major tournament when they host Benin.

Thursday’s matches include Ghana hosting Mozambique in Accra, Botswana looking to boost their hopes in Group D when they take on Comoros in Mitsamiouli, while Friday sees several high-profile clashes, the pick of which is undoubtedly Nigeria v Egypt in Kaduna. The Super Eagles trail the Pharaohs by two points in Group G and have labelled this clash an absolute must-win.

On the subject of must-win matches, South Africa need to take down Group M leaders Cameroon when the teams meet in Limbe on Saturday if they are to revive their hopes of qualifying for the 2017 tournament, while other heavyweights in action on the same day are DR Congo (at home to Angola in Group B) and the Group F clash between Cape Verde and Morocco.

Sunday sees the start of the reverse order matches, beginning with Ghana heading to Maputo to face the Mambas for the second time in less than four days.

On Tuesday 29 March, this block of qualifiers will wrap up on what promises to be a seismic day in African football. Uganda Cranes will welcome Burkina Faso at Namboole Stadium as Egypt host Nigeria in Alexandria, SA welcome Cameroon to Durban and Sudan host reigning AFCON champions Ivory Coast in Khartoum, in just three of the crunch matches on the card.

The final two matchdays in the group stage of qualifying will be played in early June and September.