By Mark Gleeson
The start of the group phase of the World Cup qualifiers might have been postponed but African national teams will be busy over the first two weeks of June.
Many teams have organised friendly internationals to prepare for September’s belated kick off of the Qatar 2022 group campaign.
There is one competitive encounter when Sierra Leone host Benin in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, held over from March when Benin refused to play in Freetown after having five of their key players declared Covid-19 positive by the local medical officer.
The re-scheduled game is scheduled between June 12-14 but the Confederation of African Football have yet to fix the details.
Benin, who need a draw to qualify for next January’s finals, must do without two injured regulars – Sessi d’Almeida and Cedric Hountondji – while Emmanuel Imorou and David Kiki are suspended. The five players all 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 under-21 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 the 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 bevy of newcomers as he looks ahead to the hosting of the Cup of Nations final 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 get his first chance to look over the DRC squad after taking over as their new coach earlier in May. They camp in Tunis and play their hosts as well as Mali. English-born Pelly Ruddock Mapnzu, 27, gets a first call-up
Eswatini have only two foreign-based players – Felix Badenhorst and Justice Figuarado from South African clubs TS Galaxy – in their squad for a triangular tournament in Mozambique, where they take on the hosts as well as Lesotho.
The 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 the Ivory Coast, which includes a return for Leicester City’s Daniel Amartey.
Guinea have four games in Turkey and are taking a 23-man selection to Antalya to meet their Euro 2020-bound hosts, Togo, Kosovo and Niger. The 21-year-old defender Abdoulaye Sylla from Nantes is their only uncapped squad member.
Cote d’Ivoire 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 The 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 – 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 party for a friendly against Tanzania in Dar-es-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 striker Yves Bissouma. Coach Mohamed Magassouba has picked 34 players for the three games.
Mauritania play three friendlies and then stay on in Doha for an Arab Cup qualifier against Yemen and 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 European Champions League.
Horacio Goncalves’ first squad for Mozambique has omitted the like 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.
Danish-based midfielder Frank Onyeka and Galatasaray defender Valentin Ozornwafor are also fresh faces but the Super Eagles must do without the injured Samuel Chukwueze
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 European Champions League-winning goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
New South Africa coach Hugo Broos will miss his debut against Uganda on June 10 as he will be in his native Belgium waiting for a second Covid-19 vaccine.
But 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 – central defender Gustave Akueson and strikers Tchadenou Faride and Lithuania-based Serge Nyuidzi.
Tunisia coach Mondher Kebaier 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 Uganda’s new captain after the international retirement of 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 Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations in Mauritania this year in the selection.
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 Rangers. – BBC Sport
June 4: Cameroon v Nigeria, Rwanda v CAR
June 5: Cabo Verde v Brazil U23 Eswatini v Lesotho, The Gambia v The Comoros, Guinea v Togo, Cote d’Ivoire v Burkina Faso, Tunisia v DRC, Senegal v Zambia
June 6: Algeria v Mali,
June 7: Rwanda v CAR
June 8: Benin v Zambia, The Gambia v Togo, Guinea v Kosovo, Morocco v Ghana, Mozambique v Eswatini, Senegal v Cabo Verde
June 10: Guinea Bissau v Cabo Verde, SA v Uganda
June 11: DRC v Mali, The Gambia v Kosovo, Guinea v Niger, Mauritania v Liberia, The Sudan v Zambia, Tunisia v Algeria
June 12: Ghana v Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco v Burkina Faso
June 13: Tanzania v Malawi
June 16: Tunisia v Mali
June 17: Mauritania v Djibouti