The delayed sixth edition of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) kicked off on Saturday with hosts Cameroun’s narrow 1-0 victory against Zimbabwe in the opening game in Yaoundé.
The competition, reserved for only players from their respective local leagues, comes nine months later than originally planned due to the coronavirus outbreak.
16 countries are competing to dethrone defending champions Morocco who lifted the title on home soil in 2018.
Group C, ‘the toughest of the competition’ according to Rwanda Coach Vincent Mashami, begins today with Morocco taking on Togo while East African rivals Rwanda and Uganda compete against each other in Group C’s other fixture.
Morroco are one of the favorites to win the competition and anything short of winning the group would be a surprise,which would see them face a tougher opponent in the quarter-finals.
Houcine Ammouta’s squad features a number of players from the 2018 team including the best player and top scorer from the previous edition Ayoub El Kaabi,goalkeeper Anas Zniti and midfielder Walid El Karti.
Rwanda’s opening game against Uganda at Stade de la Réunification at 21:00 Kigali time is a crucial one.
So much rest on this East African derby with both sides desperate to open their campaigns with victories.
Uganda’s Jonathan McKinstry was assisted by Vincent Mashami back in 2016 when they led Amavubi to their lone quarterfinal appearance so far.
The two men face off tonight, knowing that a victory will earn them bragging rights at home while a defeat will pile pressure onto their squads.
Amavubi of Rwanda and the Cranes of Uganda have met 32 times with the Cranes securing 14 wins and eight draws.
These two sides last tussled in 2017 during CHAN qualifiers when the Cranes knocked out Rwanda on aggregate. Uganda won 3-0 in the first leg in Kampala before losing 2-0 in Kigali.
Rwanda, who are making their fourth appearance in the competition, will be hoping to at least emulate the performance from 2016 when they hosted the competition and reached the quarter-finals for the first time in the country’s history.
Rwanda lost 3-2 to Congo-Brazzaville in their only two warm-up games ahead of the tournament.
Uganda comes into the tournament carrying hopes of a place in the knockout stage for the first time, having had a successful pre-tournament in Douala, drawing 1-1 with Cameroon, before beating Zambia and Niger 2-0 and 3-0 respectively.
Togo, who are making first-ever appearances in the tournament, sealed their CHAN 2020 spot after knocking out Nigeria and will be ready to play spoiler as an underdog.
With only the best two going through to the knockouts, the real competition will be for the second spot with Rwanda and Uganda battling for qualification behind Morocco, who barring a meltdown, should proceed.
Group C fixtures
Maroc – Togo
Rwanda – Ouganda
Maroc – Rwanda
Ouganda – Togo
Ouganda – Maroc
Togo – Rwanda