Egypt is hosting the Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) - the 32nd edition of Africa’s showpiece football event. The race would be on for the crown of Africa’s football champions. We look at the names and teams that are expected to make a mark in Africa’s football festival.
Any team with the fantastic Mohamed Salah in it will be a favourite. The talismanic striker can single-handedly paralyse opposition defenders. Him apart, the Pharaohs boast of talents like Mohamed El Neny and Ahmed Hegazi. Seven-time champions Egypt have the class, temperament, experience, and form to their advantage. They are serious contenders!
Reigning champions Cameroon have always managed a footballing coup. Right from the days of Roger Milla, the Indomitable Lions have managed to topple applecarts. They surprised Egypt in the final of Afcon-2017 final by squeezing out Salah. Will lightning strike twice in succession?
Since 2008, Ghana has featured in the top four in every Afcon. They seem to start big, but lose energy towards the end. This time, the Black Stars, however, seem to have all bases covered. They have recouped after having failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Most of their players have experience of playing in Europe — a rarity in African football.
Cote d’Ivoire’s golden phase in world football has passed. The current side shows promise but hasn’t done anything since winning the Afcon title in 2015. However, with players like Wilfried Zaha and Franck Kessié in their ranks, they can be a resurgent force. Will we see a stampede by the Elephants?
Nigeria is gambling with John Obi Mikel. One of Africa’s most experienced and successful players, Mikel controversially distanced himself from the Super Eagles squad after last year’s FIFA World Cup. The ace midfielder may either come back all guns blazing or fizzle out like a dud cracker. If he manages to hit the ground running, the Black Eagles may go the distance.
Although Morocco is placed in the ‘Group of Death’, it will be a surprise if they don’t cross the group stage. It boasts of a robust squad helmed by Head Coach Herve Renard. The Frenchman has already tasted championship success at Afcon in 2012 and 2015 with Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire respectively. Will he lead a third team to glory?
With Liverpool winger Sadio Mané in their ranks, Senegal is a threat to any team. The Teranga Lions had the maximum points (16) in the qualifying stage last year. They are talented, but over the years, seem to have the tendency of choking at crucial junctures. Can Senegal shake off crunch-time jitters to win their maiden Afcon title?
Tunisia was efficient during the qualification stages and topped their group. If the enigmatic Youssef Msakni gets going, Tunisia may reverse its trend of playing uninspiring football in the knock-outs. But will he recover from his knee injury in time is the question.
Historically speaking, Uganda doesn’t have a great record in Afcon. In this edition however, it is one unit that all teams will be wary of. Head Coach Sebastien Desabre has expertly stitched together a hard-working and stout outfit. A remarkable performance to defeat Egypt in the recent World Cup qualifying campaign is evidence of the same.
Mohamed ‘Mo’ Salah (Egypt), Alec Mudimu (Zimbabwe), John Obi Mikel (Nigeria), Sadio Mané (Senegal), Wilfried Zaha (Cote d’Ivoire), Hakim Ziyech (Morocco), Youssef Msakni (Tunisia), Simon Msuva (Tanzania), Asamoah Gyan (Ghana)