Thursday Jun 02, 2022. 11:00
Togo will be wary of Eswatini when they square off on matchday 1 of the group stages in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers at the Stade de Kegue on Friday.
Kick-off is at 6pm CAT (SA, GMT+2)
The Sparrowhawks last qualified for the biennial competition in 2017, having missed out on the subsequent two editions in Egypt (2019) and Cameroon (2021).
Paulo Duarte also failed to guide the West Africans to the 2022 World Cup after they finished runners-up to Senegal in Group H during the qualifying campaign with a record of two wins, two draws and two defeats.
Duarte’s side are unbeaten in their last six matches, however, after beating Sierra Leone 3-0 and playing out to a 1-1 draw with neighbours Benin during the previous international break in March.
Duarte has warned against writing off the Southern Africans, who have improved vastly since the two nations first met during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
The King’s Shield claimed a 2-1 win on home soil in June 2008 before being thrashed 6-0 in the away leg four months later.
“Everyone is neglecting Eswatini and it’s dangerous. It’s not the same team we beat before. They will take points from a lot of teams in our group,” the Portuguese tactician said.
Eswatini have yet to make an appearance at AFCON, although they put in a strong showing during the 2021 COSAFA Cup, losing to Senegal on penalties in the semi-finals after playing out to a 2-2 draw.
Dominic Kunene’s team finished third in the tournament, having beaten Mozambique in a shootout following a 1-1 draw and they got the better of the Mambas once more in a friendly on May 24, winning 1-0.
The King’s Shield recorded a 5-1 aggregate victory over Somalia in the preliminary round of the AFCON qualifiers and skipper Lindokuhle Mkhonta is looking to build on that during the group stages.
“We know what we did previously during such games; we have put pressure on ourselves and now we need to up our game and perform much better,” Mkhonta said.