New coaches scramble to be ready for AFCON qualifiers

Javier Aguirre unveiled as Egypt's new coach EPA/KHALED ELFIQI

A bevy of new managerial appointments are scurrying to get to know their players, select their squads, and be ready in time for the next round of Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers now just three weeks away.

Algeria, Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Libya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Tunisia are among countries who will unveil new coaches on their respective benches during the qualifiers on September 8 and 9.

For most there is not much time to prepare, and when they assemble their players in the week leading up to the games it will be the first time they really get to know them - not the ideal situation at the start of what will be three hectic months of qualifiers to determine the 24-team field for the finals in Cameroon next year.

Cameroon qualify as hosts but are participating in the qualifiers nevertheless and their new coach, former Dutch international Clarence Seedorf, has been traveling in Europe to talk to players and already named his first quad, though not without controversy.

Seedorf came as a surprise selection in what is something of a gamble by the Cameroonians, who play in the Comoros Islands at the Stade Mitsamiouli on September 8.

World Cup finalists Egypt and Tunisia will both have new men in charge, although for Faouzi Benzarti it is a third stint with the Carthage Eagles and he will at least be well versed with the players he will pick.

He replaces Nabil Maaloul after a World Cup in Russia where Maaloul described Arab football as way behind world standard.

Benzarti, a veteran at the age of 68, abruptly quit his post at African champions Wydad Casablanca last month to take up the opportunity to return home.

Egypt have appointed Javier Aguirre, a former national coach of his native Mexico, as well as Japan. It will be his first exposure to African football when the Pharaohs take on Niger at home.

The Egyptian Football Association will be hoping he has the same impact as predecessor Hector Cuper, who took the team to the last Nations Cup finals in Libreville, and then a place at the World Cup for the first time in 28 years, although Aguirre, 59, insists he will be his own man.

Algeria attempted to entice Aguirre and Cuper among others before settling on former international Djamel Belmadi. His first words at his press conference earlier this week was: "Welcome to the lions' den?"

Former Barcelona and Nigerian international Emmanuel Amunike signed a two-year contract as the new national team coach of Tanzania earlier this month and starts his job against neighbours Uganda.

Amunike, 47, was a member of FIFA's five-man technical study group at the World Cup in Russia last month, working alongside Marco van Basten and Carlos Alberto Parreira.

Amunike's last coaching job was at club level in Sudan, but in 2015 he took Nigeria to the Under-17 World Cup title in Chile.

Another former world star who gets a break in African football is Valdo, who went to two World Cups with Brazil, won 45 caps, and played for Benfica and Paris Saint Germain. Now 54, he is the new coach of Congo, replacing Sebastien Migne, who in May signed a three-year deal to take over Kenya's Harambee Stars.

Valdo's appointment came just months after he had travelled to Brazzaville to take over as co-ordinator of Congo's juniors teams.

Michel Dussuyer, 59, is back as coach of Benin, where he worked from 2008 to 2010.

The Frenchman is something of a Nations Cup veteran, having taken Guinea to the quarter-finals in 2004, then worked as deputy to fellow Frenchman Henri Michel when the Ivory Coast were runners-up in 2006. In 2010 he coached Benin at the tournament in Angola.

He was back with Guinea in 2012, when they did not get out of the group stage, and again two years ago, when they got to the quarter-finals. He quit after a disappointing 2017 finals in Gabon for holders Ivory Coast.

Tom Saintfiet continues his whirlwind tour as a national team coach with his 10th appointment in 10 years as he takes charge of the Gambia when they play Algeria.

The 45-year-old Belgian was named coach of Malta in January, but was then fired within four months after allegedly applying to take over in Cameroon, but has rebounded back quickly in Banjul.

Abdel Amrouche was banned by the Confederation of African Football four years ago after allegedly spitting at the referee while coaching Kenya in the Comoros.

He has not worked with a team since, but will be on the bench for the first time when he takes Libya to Durban to play South Africa on September 8.

Abraham Mebratu has been appointed as the new coach for Ethiopia on a two-year deal. The 48-year-old formerly coached Yemen, who he qualified for next year's Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

Rwanda on Monday named Vincent Mashami to replace the German Antoine Hey as their new coach ahead of their crunch meeting with the Ivory Coast. He was previously the assistant coach of the Amavubi.

Ahcene Ait Abdelmalek took over as coach of South Sudan at the start of the year, but has his first game after nine months against Mali in Juba. They are in camp in neighbouring Sudan as they prepare for the game where they will be looking for only a second ever win in a Nations Cup qualifier.