Togo want Emmanuel Adebayor to come out of retirement and there were boosts for Nigeria and Angola, as the clocked ticked down to the start of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
Tottenham Hotspur striker Adebayor said he was once again retiring from international football after a bonus row following a 1-0 friendly victory in Morocco last month.
Adebayor, 28, scored the winner against the Atlas Lions and also netted in both legs of the qualifier against Gabon that sealed a place at the January 19-February 10 tournament in South Africa.
His absence would be a massive blow to the Sparrowhawks, who were drawn with title favourites Ivory Coast and former champions Algeria and Tunisia.
“I am doing everything I can to get Emmanuel back,” Togo coach Didier Six told the country’s media.
“He is a world-class footballer and captain of the national team.
“Emmanuel will have the final word on the matter but I will put all my strength into getting him to change his mind. He is very important to our ambitions.”
Previous Adebayor retirements stemmed from unpaid bonuses and the alleged poor treatment of the national team when travelling around the continent – a complaint not unique to Togolese footballers.
Former Liberia and African superstar George Weah repeatedly slammed officials who booked first-class seats while footballers were confined to economy class for long flights.
Nigerian sports minister Bolaji Abdullahi says it will be difficult for the Super Eagles to win a third Cup of Nations title next year as coach Stephen Keshi is building a new team.
“It will not be easy for Stephen to be building and contesting at the same time. The government do not expect much from the team because it is still a new one,” the minister told Nigerian reporters.
“I want to make it clear that they have not been given any targets by us. The coach and players need support from every Nigerian, and the government will give whatever support they need.”
Nigeria and defending champions Zambia are expected to advance from Nelspruit-based Group C at the expense of Burkina Faso and Ethiopia, and the runners-ups could face title favourites Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals.
Angola followed up a disappointing weekend draw against 10-man Gambia by defeating Cameroon 1-0 in the second of three friendlies scheduled for this week with Rwanda providing the opposition in Luanda Saturday.
Midfielder Mabina was the match-winner at Tundavala Stadium in south-western city Lubango, scoring nine minutes after half-time in a match between teams lacking Europe-based stars.
The Black Antelopes are in Group A with South Africa, Morocco and debutants Cape Verde Islands and want to improve on a poor 2012 Cup of Nations showing that led to a first round exit.
Mali have arranged friendlies against Bahrain in Manama on December 23 and 26 as they prepare to tackle Group B favourites Ghana, Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Port Elizabeth.