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Huge boost for Bafana in 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers

Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos.
Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos.

Bafana Bafana’s qualification for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations received a huge boost as their Group K opponents Zimbabwe have been expelled from the competition.

The Confederation of African Football (Caf) said due to Zimbabwe and Kenya having failed to have their Fifa suspensions lifted they will “not participate in the Africa Cup of Nations Ivory Coast 2023 qualifiers”.

The two countries were suspended in relation to government interference in the sport.

With two teams qualifying from each group, and Morocco and SA the favourites in Group K, and Liberia theoretically are the whipping boys, that leaves a path clear for Bafana to reach Ivory Coast 2023 — barring a not uncharacteristic choke from the national team.

Caf said: “Caf had included them [Kenya and Zimbabwe] in the official draw in April on condition that the suspension be lifted two weeks before their first match day.

“Kenya and Zimbabwe, suspended for political interference, have not yet met the criteria required by the Fifa Congress as a prerequisite for lifting their suspension.”

Caf said the suspensions mean:

* The two associations, the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) and the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa), will be considered losers and eliminated from the competition.

* Groups C and K will be composed only of three teams and the order of the matches will be maintained in accordance with the match schedule that has been communicated to the teams after the draw.

* The first and runner-up teams of those groups will qualify to the final tournament.

Bafana's qualification campaign starts with their match against Morocco in Rabat on June 9. SA are placed 69th in the latest Fifa rankings, Morocco are 24th and Liberia are 149th.

Kenya’s exit leaves Cameroon, Burundi and Namibia to contest Group C.