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Football: Former champions eye CAF Cup glory


There are five former African champions among the 16 hopefuls entering the final qualifying round this weekend for the CAF Confederation Cup.

And FAR Rabat and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast, Etoile Sahel of Tunisia and Ismaily of Egypt are favoured to win two-leg ties and reach play-offs against CAF Champions League last-16 losers.

CS Sfaxien of Tunisia have also experienced continental glory, being the only club to successfully defend the Confederation Cup, the second-tier African club competition loosely modelled on the Europa League.

Also in action will be US Bitam of Gabon, who scored a record 17 goals in a preliminary tie, and Liga Muculmana of Mozambique, whose 7-1 thrashing of Nigerian visitors Lobi Stars in Maputo was totally unexpected.

Sonito scored four of those goals to be joint leading scorer in the Cup this season with five, having also been in target in a preliminary triumph over Gaborone United of Botswana.

Josimar is the other Mozambican sharp-shooter with three goals to his credit and it will be interesting to see how the duo fare at home against the usually tight Wydad defence.

Wydad have a deadly marksman of their own in Ivorian import Boblay Anderson Allegne, whose three goals were instrumenetal in the ultimately comfortable passage past AS Douanes of Togo in the last round.

FAR became the first African champions from Morocco in 1985, won the second Confederation Cup eight years ago and were runners-up to Etoile Sahel the following year after a fiery final.

The Moroccans and opponents Azam of Tanzania, who enjoy home advantage first, took similar jittery routes to the round of 16 with one-goal overall victories against Al-Nasr of Libya and Barrack Young Controllers of Liberia.

ASEC, the nursery where many Ivory Coast stars were developed, have promised far more than they achieved since conquering Africa in 1998, and made hard work of eliminating modest Rail Kadiogo of Burkina Faso this month.

They host LLB Academic, the first Burundi club to get this far, and anything less than a convincing win will raise questions about their ability to atone for recent disappointingly early exits.

Etoile make the long journey from Mediterranean resort Sousse to Huambo in central Angola for a showdown with Recreativo Caala, who fired six unanswered goals past Malians US Bougouni to reach the second round.

Ismaily also play away, but their journey is much shorter to neighbouring Sudan for a tussle with Al-Ahly Shandy, who reached the mini-league phase last year at the first attempt.