Tanzania desperate to break 38-year AFCON jinx

Emmanuel Amunike, now former Tanzania coach. EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

Tanzania are on the brink of ending their near four-decade wait for Africa Cup of Nations qualification, and will qualify for the tournament if they beat Lesotho at the Setsoto Stadium on Sunday

Heading into the Taifa Stars' final group game, the East Africans sit on five points, one clear of Cape Verde having played one match fewer.

The islanders were defeated 1-0 by Uganda on Saturday, and would be unable to catch Tanzania if Emmanuel Amunike's side defeat Lesotho on Sunday.

"The players know what's at stake, and we are going to fight to get maximum points because the game is like a final," Amunike told ESPN.

"We are one unit and we shall play as a team to get the results," he added. "The few days of camping in South Africa have helped the team adjust to conditions and also prepare better away from any interruption back in Tanzania.

"It has been 38 years since Tanzania last made it to the AFCON and we know this game against Lesotho could be the decider to get us there."

After failing to win in their first three matches, the Stars revived their qualification chances after a 2-0 home win over Cape Verde which sent them second on the group.

However, they face Lesotho without Mbwana Samatta, who is suspended for Sunday's game.

"The game against Lesotho is like a cup final for Tanzania," Leodegar Tenga, the last man to captain Tanzania to the AFCON, told ESPN. "My prayer is that the players remain focused and determined to die a little for the country.

"Making it back to the AFCON after 38 years of waiting would be great for the country. It would also motivate the younger players to learn that nothing is impossible through hard work.

"It is unfortunate that Samatta, who plays an important role in the team, will miss the game," he added. "The team will have to forget that we have been poor travellers for many years, and this time bring their A game to try and get a win."

Another CECAFA nation, Burundi, boosted their qualification hopes with a 5-2 victory over South Sudan in Juba on Friday.