The road to the 18th edition of the Orange African U-20 Championship to be held in Algeria in 2013 begins this weekend with eight first round matches. Sixteen teams are in action as the early steps to see who will wrestle the crown currently in the hands of the Nigerians start across the continent. The Super Eaglets won the title last year in South Africa with Cameroon finishing in second place. Egypt and Mali finished third and fourth respectively while hosts South Africa, Gambia, Ghana and Lesotho were the other finalists. The marathon qualifying for “Algeria 2013” will end in October after fifty-eight games.
The first round looks open with a wide range of teams some with established record and others none at all in this competition. This scenario leaves an interesting prospect of finding out who reaches the second round.
Tunisia took to Qatar as part of their preparations from (12 April to 16 April). The North African side played in a tournament in Qatar drawing 2-2 with Aspire Academy, won another game 1-0 before going down 3-1 to Qatar during the final day. Tunisia is up against Libya in a match scheduled for Sunday at El Mensah.
On Saturday in Rabat, Morocco will play host to Mauritania. The Moroccans warmed up with a game against Libyans on April 14 which the former won by 2 goals to 1. Mauritania is back in competition after two year football dormancy on the continental scene. Mauritanian national team recently played Egypt in Dubai and lost 3-0. The national team is led by the French Patrice Neveu, the former Niger, Guinea and DR Congo coach. The junior team took part a few weeks ago, in Algeria, UNAF tournament beating Algeria (1-0) and drew 1-1 in the final with Tunisia before losing on penalties. Mauritania could thus provide a stern test to the Moroccans
Before welcoming Mozambique, Uganda played in Kigali in February and walked away with a draw (1-1). The Rwandan team included some players who participated in the FIFA 2011 U-17 World Cup. The Mozambican side did not impress during their last appearance in the regional COSAFA tournament at the end of last year but coach Calton Banze is not too worried. He believes that Guirrugo, Parkim, Jojo, and Denise Aurio Clesio have talent and can surprise in Kampala.
Rwanda has chosen to rely largely on players from Isonga of FC currently ranked sixth in the national championship when they travel to play Namibia in Windhoek. The Young Warriors of Zimbabwe have been preparing for their encounter with Botswana in Bulawayo where the match will be played. The Young Warriors are under a new coach Jairos Tapera and he first called a large number of players (50) from which he select the final team for the April 21 match. Tapera who enjoyed success with the Platinum FC two seasons ago said that the team will not be at its height of prowess as the players still need to learn to play together but he thinks that the current team is capable of progressing to the second round.
In Dar Es Salaam, Tanzanian team is regrouping ready to welcome Sudan on Saturday. Tanzanian coach Kim Poulsen will be using striker Thomas Ulimwengu who plays for TP Mazembe of Lubumbashi to strengthen the attack which is composed entirely of local players. It promises to be a bumper football fiesta as the journey to find seven qualifiers who join hosts Algeria for the finals in 2013 begins in earnest this weekend.
Round 1 fixtures
Tunisia – Libya
Morocco – Mauritania
Uganda – Mozambique
Chad – Sierra Leone
Namibia – Rwanda
Niger – Liberia
Tanzania – Sudan
Zimbabwe – Botswana