Zimbabwe face Central Africa Republic (CAR) ranked 57th in the world in the first match of the team Mali play-off qualifier tournament which starts this Friday (today) for the last available slot for 2017 finals in Angola.

Chad, the CAR and Zimbabwe are set to do battle to complete this year’s 16-team FIBA Afrobasket line-up.

This additional qualifier will run from May 19-21 in the Malian capital city of Bamako, and the winner will replace the Republic of Congo, who withdrew from the hosting duties of the final round.

The CAR the highest ranked team in the qualifier, will open their quest to qualify for Africa’s flagship event by taking on Zimbabwe today.

The former African champions CAR will look to improve on their display two months ago when, playing in front of their home fans, they beat the Democratic Republic of Congo in the second game of FIBA Africa Zone 4 group but were unable to avoid a 161-144 defeat on aggregate in the two-game regional qualifier.

Although Chad ranked 89th have not featured at FIBA Afrobasket since their debut in 2011, the central Africans continue to make strides and, it came as no surprise that three months ago Chad forced Cameroon – the hosts of FIBA Africa Zone 4 Group D – to step up.

Eventually, Chad returned home with a 2-2 record thanks to two wins over Gabon, however, this time around, they look a lot more ambitious.

Zimbabwe, ranked 91st in the world head to Bamako aiming at securing their second straight appearance at FIBA Africa’s most important competition.

Zimbabwe’s 70-68 win over South Africa in last month’s FIBA Africa Zone 6 playoff was not good enough to avoid a 142-137 defeat on aggregate.

Although Zimbabwe will play in Bamako without Vitalis Chikoko, who suffered an injury a month ago, US based Freddie Manyawu, posted on social media that he is keen to help Zimbabwe make it to Angola in September for the Afrobasket finals but is understood to be negotiating a mega US$12 million deal to join NBA side Boston Celtics while Japan based Shiga Stars player Julian Mavhunga is also understood to be in the US for trials with Utah Jazz.

Innocent Sithole, who served as the team’s assistant coach, is now in charge of the team.

FIBA Afrobasket qualifiers tipped off with over 30 teams across eight groups all aiming to qualify for the final round now taking place in Angola from August 19-30.

The winner of the tournament between Zimbabwe, Chad and CAR will join Angola, Cameroon, Republic of Congo-Brazaville, Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Egypt, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, reigning champions Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia and Uganda.

The countries compete in the 16-team line-up that will battle for the coveted trophy in the summer.