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CS Sfaxien bank on World Cup winner Clausen

Johannesburg (AFP) – World Cup winner Nestor Clausen of Argentina will coach Tunisian club CS Sfaxien when they seek a record-extending fourth CAF Confederation Cup title next season.

The draws for the 2017 preliminary and first qualifying rounds in the second-tier African club competition are due to be made in Cairo Wednesday, according to several national football association officials.

Now 54, former defender Clausen was an unused substitute when a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina edged West Germany 3-2 in a thrilling 1986 World Cup final in Mexico City.

His coaching career began in 1999 and spans Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Switzerland, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The Mediterranean industrial city of Sfax is his first stop in Africa and the Argentine will discover that expectations among Sfaxien officials and supporters are extremely high.

Sfaxien came agonisingly close to winning the 2007 CAF Champions League, conceding a stoppage-time goal at home to lose the two-leg final against mighty Al Ahly of Egypt.

They fared better in lower-tier African club competitions, winning the now defunct CAF Cup for national league runners-up in 1998.

Apart from winning the Confederation Cup in 2007, 2008 and 2013, they also finished runners-up in 2010 to FUS Rabat of Morocco.

But their last Confederation Cup appearance, two seasons ago, was less impressive as the North African outfit failed to get beyond the group stage.

Given their overall record, though, they are sure to receive a bye into the round of 32, and an aggregate victory there will secure a play-offs place with a mini-league slot up for grabs.

Moghreb Fes of Morocco, who pipped Club Africain of Tunisia on penalties in the 2011 final, are the other former Confederation Cup title-holders in the line-up next season.

The other challengers include five former African champions — JS Kabylie and Mouloudia Alger of Algeria, ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast, CARA of Congo Brazzaville and Club Africain.

Kabylie (formerly JET) are back in Africa after a lengthy absence. They have won six titles, including the now defunct CAF Cup three times in a row.

Mouloudia, whose 1976 Champions League victory was the first by an Algerian club, will be keen to atone for some poor CAF results recently.

After many seasons in the doldrums, ASEC reached the Champions League group stage this year and won away to record eight-time title-holders Ahly.

Striker Yannick Zakri, a key figure in that campaign, has moved to African champions Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, where he is battling to secure a first-team place.

The Abidjan outfit replaced him with widely travelled Burkina Faso international Aristide Bance, an unmissable figure with his massive physique and blond mohawk hairstyle.

African champions in 1974, CARA are a shadow of their former selves and are unlikely to go far in a competition won by compatriots AC Leopards four seasons ago.

Having been crowned 1991 African champions, Club Africain became bridesmaids, finishing runners in the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup and the Confederation Cup. 

Like the Champions League, there will be increased prize money and a new format in the Confederation Cup next season.

Winners pocket $1.25 million (1.2 million euros), a 90 percent increase, runners-up $625,000, semi-finalists $450,000 and quarter-finalists $350,000.

The number of two-leg qualifying rounds has been trimmed from three to two ahead of home-and-away play-offs against Champions League last-32 losers. Quarter-finals will be staged for the first time.

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