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Zambia begin the defence of their Nations Cup crown


Reigning African champions Zambia will fancy their chances against Uganda but they will have to be careful they are not complacent. Uganda has an excellent home record.


In the previous qualifying round Uganda beat Congo-Brazzaville 4-0 to overturn a 3-1 defeat in the away leg.


Zambia defender Hichani Himoonde told BBC Sport: "There are no easy games for us, whoever we play they want to beat the champions. It's 11 v 11 and whoever plays the best will win. But I believe we will qualify for the finals."


Uganda coach Bobby Williamson said: "It's always good to have the away leg first, so we'll know what we have to do at home. It'll be great to get an away goal but the Zambians are well drilled and don't concede many so it will be tough for us.


"But we are capable of scoring goals in Kampala. We are pretty formidable at home and have not lost a game in my time here - and it goes back quite a long way before that."


However, Uganda will be without key strikers Geoffrey Massa and Brian Umony.


CAR v Burkina Faso (1400GMT/1500BST)


Central African Republic will be buoyant. They pulled off a huge shock in the last round when they dumped Egypt out of the competition - winning 3-2 in Alexandria and drawing 1-1 in Bangui.


Confidence will be high and they will be incentivised by the knowledge that they can make history by becoming the first CAR team to reach the Nations Cup finals.


Burkina Faso will want to qualify for the tournament in South Africa so they can try to erase the memory of losing all three of their group matches in the last Nations Cup in January.


However, their form going into the match is not great. They have not won since beating Equatorial Guinea a year ago. And in their first two 2014 World Cup qualifiers they lost to Gabon and drew with Congo-Brazzaville.


Cape Verde v Cameroon (1400GMT/1500BST)


Cameroon's build-up has been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding ex-skipper Samuel Eto’o, who was called up to the squad after the expiration of his eight-month ban but then refused to play for his national team. Sparta Prague striker Leonard Kweuke takes the place of Eto'o.


The four-time African champions will also be without in-form central defender Joel Matip, who suffered a knee injury when playing for his German club Schalke 04.


Cape Verde are a team on the rise, moving up the Fifa world rankings from a low of 182nd place in 2000 to their current ranking of 65. They are only four places below the Indomitable Lions.


And they might see this as their best chance to reach their first major finals, given that their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign has begun with defeats by Tunisia and Sierra Leone.


The countries have met only twice before, in 2008 when Cameroon beat Cape Verde 2-0 and 2-1 in qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup.


But this time could be tougher - and Cameroon is a team under pressure having failed to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup.


Gabon v Togo (1430GMT/1530BST)


Togo only squeezed past Kenya on away goals in the last round but they will face a Gabon side who go into the game off the back of a 3-0 defeat by South Africa.


Gabon, however, can draw on their performance at the 2012 Nations Cup where they won all of their group games and only exited the tournament on penalties at the quarter-finals stage to Mali.


And striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is in good form, having hit the back of the net last weekend for his French club Saint Etienne. He has scored three goals in his last four games.


Togo's recent Nations Cup history does not make for good reading. The failed to qualify for the last edition of the tournament and their appearance in 2010 was wrecked by tragedy after their team bus was attacked by gunmen as it travelled through Angola.


Perhaps it is time for a change in fortunes for the Sparrow Hawks.


Ghana v Malawi (1530GMT/1630BST)


Malawi suffered a 1-0 defeat by Liberia on Tuesday and must improve if they are to get a good result in Ghana, whose coach Kwesi Appiah has vowed to send out his team with an all-out attacking approach.


Asamoah Gyan will lead the much-fancied Black Stars against Malawi this weekend.


Appiah says he wants a big win that will make the return leg less difficult.


But Malawi will be no pushovers. They beat Zambia in July and before the match against Liberia they had lost only once in their last 10 matches.


The Flames missed out on the 2012 finals and will be aiming to shock the Black Stars, who in turn will be looking to improve on their fourth-place finish in South Africa.


Ghana will hope for a big performance from the likes of Emmanuel Clottey, who scored goals for Berekum Chelsea in this year's African Champions League.


Asamoah Gyan has been installed as Ghana's stand-in captain for the match.


Liberia v Nigeria (1600GMT/1700BST)


Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi is certainly not taking Liberia lightly.


He told BBC Sport: "Liberia is a good team with some good players. It is important that my players keep their concentration, stay focused and are committed."


And he is right to be wary, judging by the hosts' well-earned victory over Malawi on Tuesday in a warm-up for this match. In contrast, Nigeria was held to a 1-1 draw by the Flames in their 2014 World Cup qualifier in June.


And Nigeria are another big African name under pressure, having failed to qualify for the 2012 tournament.


If they are to get past Liberia, they will have do so without John Mikel Obi and Peter Odemwingie. Some people may consider Keshi's decision to leave them out of the squad a gamble that could backfire.


Sierra Leone v Tunisia (1630GMT/1730BST)


Sierra Leone almost got themselves into hot water when they called up a Nigerian player who appeared to be ineligible, but Victor Igbekoyi Kayode was dropped from the squad.


Having avoided that potential controversy, the Leone Stars will want to get off to a good start in this tie as they aim to qualify for the finals for the first time since 2000.


Tunisia has a solid Nations Cup pedigree. They have reached the quarter-finals stage three times in the last four tournaments, and travel to Sierra Leone in good form, having remained unbeaten in their last five games.


Ivory Coast v Senegal (1700GMT/1800BST)


Without doubt this is the tie of the round. One of the biggest names in African football will not be playing at the finals in South Africa next year, but will it be the Elephants or the Lions of Teranga who miss out?


Didier Drogba (left) and his teammates look on as Zambia win the 2012 Nations Cup on penalties.


Ivory Coast have handed a debut call-up to 20-year-old striker Sissoko Ibrahim, who is currently playing at Greek club Panathinaikos (on loan from German side Wolfsburg).


Otherwise, the entire 2012 Nations Cup squad remains intact, and they will be desperate to make up for the disappointment of finishing runners-up to shock winners Zambia in February.


Senegal are one of only three African countries to have made it to the quarter-finals of the World Cup, but perhaps surprisingly they have never won the Nations Cup.


In the last edition, they were dumped out at the group stage. They will be looking to the likes of in-form striker Papiss Cisse to fire them much further this time.


Mali v Botswana (1700GMT/1800BST)


Mali were another surprise package at the last Nations Cup finals as they finished third.


They will be eager to build on that performance and captain Mahamadou Diarra has been called up after a year's absence from international football. Midfielder Drissa Diakite recently joined Greek side Olympiakos and is bound to be on a high.


The match against the Zebras will be the first for Mali under new coach Patrice Carteron, who took over from fellow Frenchman Alain Giresse in July.


Botswana will be unfancied to progress, having managed only one win in their last eight matches.


Sudan v Ethiopia (1700GMT/1800BST)


Ethiopia progessed to the final round of qualifying courtesy of the away goals rule as they overcame Rwanda by the narrowest of margins after the sides shared a 1-1 aggregate draw.


Recent form suggests Sudan could prove useful. They have been beaten only once in their last seven games, and that defeat was to reigning African champions Zambia who they beat in a rematch four months later.


Source: BBC Sports