Stuart Baxter. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Stuart Baxter. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Bafana Bafana’s chances of playing in the African Nations Cup finals got a 50% boost with confirmation by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) that the top two teams in each group will qualify for the new expanded tournament in 2019.

Previously only the winner and the three best runners-up in the 12 qualifying groups were set to qualify for the finals in Cameroon.

But now that Caf have decided that the finals will be expanded to 24 teams instead of 16‚ it has been confirmed that two in each of the 12 qualifying groups advance — except in Group B, which includes host nation Cameroon.

Cameroon are guaranteed a place in the finals as hosts‚ so only one of the other three teams in the group – the Comoros Islands‚ Malawi or Morocco — will go to the tournament.

SA compete in Group E with Libya‚ Nigeria and the Seychelles, and with an away win over the Super Eagles already under their belt‚ Bafana now have to all but implode not to make the list of 2019 finalists.

Bafana missed out on the 2017 event in Gabon and in Equatorial Guinea in 2015, and did not get past the first round despite former coach Shakes Mashaba telling the African press before the first game that the South Africans would win the tournament.

The increase in the size of the Nations Cup finals field was confirmed by the CAF executive committee on Thursday after being proposed by a two-day symposium on the future of football in Africa that was hosted in Rabat‚ Morocco last week.

Please sign in or register to comment.