CAR are second in their group, with two qualifying games to play, just one point behind leaders Ghana and two ahead of Angola, who they face on Saturday.
Swiss coach Raoul Savoy is in his third spell with CAR and is confident his players will be able to cope with the pressure.
“We are not nervous. The squad are all professionals and we know that this game will be very important,” he told the BBC.
“We have had time to talk about it and the technical staff have tried to keep the nervousness out of the camp.
“I know some players will feel fear and some will be excited. So I think we have to manage each player personally but all of them have prepared for the game in the most responsible way.”
The landlocked country came close to qualifying for Afcon in 2012 when they beat Egypt in one of the biggest upsets in the history of the competition.
They then lost to Burkina Faso over two legs in the second qualifying round.
Les Fauves (Wild Beasts) went close again in 2021 but missed out after losing their final group game to Mauritania.
“Everything started two years ago when we started building a new team with a lot of young, and, at the beginning, local players. And we got a fantastic result in Lagos, when we beat Nigeria 1-0.
“I think the players then felt that maybe something is coming and if we kept working hard, with the help of the Federation and the sports minister then step by step we could rebuild.” said Savoy.
The qualification campaign started with a defeat to Angola but a draw with group favourites Ghana and two wins over Madagascar have left Savoy’s side needing three points from two games and on the cusp of reaching the finals in the Ivory Coast at the beginning of next year.
“We know exactly what we have to do. And it’s not the last game as we have another one in Ghana in September. So we have a joker. When it’s the end of qualifying and you have to win then you become more nervous but we have a second chance.”
Every game is an away game
Savoy, 50, has plenty of experience in Africa having taken charge of Ethiopia, Swaziland and Gambia.
Coaching Central African Republic has been challenging though – especially as every game is an away game.
The game against Angola will be played in Douala, Cameroon due to the lack of a suitable venue Central African Republic.
“I know a lot of fans are coming. They took to the road in a bus (on Wednesday),”he said.
“It’s not the same as playing at home but I know it’s crazy now in (the capital) Bangui, and I’m sure that everybody will be in front of a TV screens on Saturday afternoon.
“The players know the situation and they dream of playing at home one day but for now we have to focus on here (Douala) again.”
The team’s chances of reaching the finals next year have been boosted by the return of their star man Geoffrey Kondogbia who plays for Atletico Madrid in Spain.
The 30-year-old defensive midfielder, who made his CAR debut in 2018 after switching his allegiance from France, retired from international football last year but the captain is now back in the fold.
“Yeah, he didn’t retire very well. He was very excited to come back. And I loved the way he came back. He’s a smiling every day and talks to the young players and they are very happy to play with him.
“The guy is very open. He’s not somebody who can not talk and you become a better player because you want to raise your standard. To have this kind of player in your team is only positive.”
As for the game, Savoy thinks Angola will be the more nervous at the start.
“We have to be stronger and put them in a very bad situation at the beginning of the game, and show them that we want to win and qualify on Saturday evening,” he said.
“Playing for a draw is not the mentality.”