Group J: Tanzania's Simon Msuva says 'We need fans to support us'

Tanzania's Simon Msuva celebrating a goal at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations
Tanzania's Simon Msuva, who plays in Morocco, is determine to qualify for a second consecutive Africa Cup of Nations finals

Tanzania winger Simon Msuva says that the support of their fans can help them qualify for a second consecutive Africa Cup of Nations finals.

However for the first Nations Cup qualifier this month that support will have to be from afar as the Taifa Stars travel to Equatorial Guinea for a must-not-lose Group J game.

Equatorial Guinea know that a win on home soil will see them qualify for the finals for the first time thanks to their own feats, after two appearances as hosts in 2012 and 2015.

With Tunisia having already clinched one place from the group a loss to the Nzalang Nacional would mean Tanzania, aiming for just a third finals' appearance, are out of contention even before hosting Libya in their last qualifier.

"We need the fans to support us like they always have - their support is very important in propelling us - they make the journey bearable," the 27-year-old, who plays in Morocco for Wydad Casablanca, told BBC Sport Africa.

"I believe Tanzania has a huge chance to qualify to take part in the Cup of Nations for a second consecutive time. Qualifying for the last Afcon brought us so much glory - as players and to the nation as a whole.

"I cannot stop thinking about how difficult our next match will be. It's always tough playing away, we thrive at home but we will give it our all then look forward to our last match against Libya at home.

"The players are very dedicated to ensuring we qualify again and it will give the players immense pride. The memories from the last tournament are still alive."

Tunisia's Hamza Rafia celebrates scoring a goal on his debut for Juventus
Tunisia's Hamza Rafia celebrates scoring a goal on his debut for Juventus

There are a total of 48 qualifying matches in March, with all the teams involved playing twice, as the race to reach the delayed Nations Cup finals concludes.

So far Algeria, Senegal, Tunisia and Mali have qualified to join hosts Cameroon at the delayed finals leaving 19 places left to fill.

Tunisia have reached the finals from Group J while Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania and Libya are all still in with a chance of clinching the other spot.

The Carthage Eagles, who are set to play at their 15th consecutive finals and 20th overall, are top of the pool on 10 points with Equatorial Guinea second on six points, Tanzania are on four and Libya three.

Libya, who hosted the finals in 1982 and have since qualified on two more occasions (2006 and 2012), could play their first international match at home for seven years as they take on neighbours Tunisia.

One player who is looking to make a mark for the Carthage Eagles is midfielder Hamza Rafia, who made his international debut in 2019 but only made his senior club debut in January this year for Italian giants Juventus.

"Honestly, it's one step (the chance to play at the Nations Cup), I see it as the next step because I'm hoping to reach the top," the 21-year-old told BBC Sport Africa.

"So this is part of my objectives as a young man. But then you have to remember that this is just one stage before the World Cup.

"Of course, this is a big stage, and we will prepare ourselves for that and we will work hard for that."

On the final match day in late March Equatorial Guinea travel to play Tunisia while Tanzania take on visiting Libya.