5 African Cup of Nations group stage games you just can’t miss

eric maxim choupo-moting cameroon afcon 2017 national squad burkina faso vs cameroon
The Cameroonians & the Burkinabes will be the first major showdown in the tournament
Kevin Macaringue

It’s finally January 2017, and European club football will still just be stirring up from a mid-winter slumber. Meanwhile, the African continent will be gripped in the fever of the biennial mid-summer football festival. In this year’s African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament, 16 countries will be battling it out in 4 cities.

As usual, some big names have not qualified for the finals of the tournament! Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia all miss out this time, falling right at the qualification stage.

For the 31st edition, Libya were scheduled to host the tournament, but due to the civil unrest, Gabon will play hosts to this year’s edition of the Cup of Nations. With the action set to begin on the 14th of January, let’s take a quick look at the fixtures that you simply can’t miss, and why.

AFCON 2017 Group A - Burkina Faso vs Cameroon

The very first day of football will start with a bang - the 2013 losing finalist, Burkina Faso, will face up against 4-time champions Cameroon. The Burkinabes will be looking to make a major statement of intent with this scalp - all the pressure is on Cameroon to show they’re not mere sleeping giants.

If Cameroon lose this opening tie, it could easily damage their momentum for the next two. Both teams have to put their best foot forward for this one!

Date: 14th January 2017Time: 09:30pm (IST)Venue: Stade de l’Amitie, Libreville

Burkina Faso Team Preview

Burkina Faso finished rock-bottom of their group in the 2015 edition, a gigantic fall from their 2013 finalist spot. For a number of reasons, they were not capable of reproducing their form. Was it a mere flash in the pan? They’ll be desperate to prove to the rest of Africa that they are the real deal.

Their qualification campaign was extremely tight, tying on 13 points with Uganda. The two teams ended the campaign almost identical - both scoring 6 and conceding 2 goals. The only tiebreaker was their head-to-head record, which the Burkinabes won virtue of a 1-0 victory in Kampala. Thus, they finished top of their group.

Provisional Squad

Goalkeepers: Abdoulaye Soulama, Germain Sanou, Daouda Diakité

Defenders: Mohammed Koffi, Henry Traoré, Bakary Koné, Mady Panandétiguiri, Paul Koulibaly

Midfielders: Wilfried Balima, Florent Rouamba, Issouf Ouattara, Préjuce Nakoulma, Wilfried Sanou, Abdoul Razack Traoré, Ali Rabo, Charles Kaboré, Djakaridja Koné, Jonathan Pitroïpa, Alain Traoré

Strikers: Aristide Bancé, Moumouni Dagano, Pierre Koulibaly, Wilfried Hughes Dah

Cameroon Team Preview

With 4 African trophies in their chest, Cameroon are one of the most successful African teams. However, it has been 14 long years since their last victorious AFCON trophy, a record they will be raring to end.

They finished at the summit of their qualification group, drawing 2 matches and winning the rest. Conceding just 2 whilst scoring 7, they look to be nearing the peak of their powers.

Provisional Squad

Goalkeepers: Fabrice Ondoa, Jules Goda, Georges Bokwé

Defenders: Nicolas Nkoulou, Henri Bedimo, Aurélien Chedjou, Ambroise Oyongo, Mohammed Djetei, Jonathan Ngwem, Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui, Adolphe Teikeu, Collins Fai, Ernest Mabouka

Midfielders: Edgar Salli, Georges Mandjeck, Franck Kom, Sébastien Siani, Frank Boya, Arnaud Djoum

Strikers: Vincent Aboubakar, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Benjamin Moukandjo, Clinton N'Jie, Jacques Zoua, Karl Toko Ekambi, Anatole Abang, Robert Ndip Tambe, Christian Bassogog

AFCON 2017 Group B - Tunisia vs Senegal

Sadio Mane Senegal AFCON 2017 national football squad Liverpool Southampton
Sadio Mane will be looking to make his name in the international game this month

Two of the tournament’s most attacking teams will face-off in what should be a very entertaining duel between to direct, forward-thinking sides. Both teams boast some remarkable talent in their ranks, and both teams have tons of pace in them. It could be one of the most open, thrilling ties in the whole tournament.

Date: 15th January 2017Time: 12:30am (IST) Venue: Stade de Franceville, Franceville

Tunisia Team Preview

The Tunisian national team were eliminated by the hosts last time around as the Equatorial Guinean hosts severely upset the apple cart after extra time. With a renewed vigour, they’ll be looking to get as far as possible this time round. A win in this fixture will show the entire continent that they really mean business this time around.

The Tunisian qualification campaign went quite well. They netted 8 past minnows Djibouti in the opening game, before being beaten by Liberia and held by Togo. Even then, they managed to score a grand total of 16 goals and only let in 3. They too were their group winners, and deservedly so.

Provisional Squad

Goalkeepers: Aymen Mathlouthi, Rami Jeridi, Moez Ben Cherifia,

Defenders: Aymen Abdennour, Ali Maaloul, Hamza Mathlouthi, Mohamed Ali Yacoubi, Zied Boughattas, Chamseddine Dhaouadi, Hamdi Nagguez, Ghazi Abderrazzak, Oussama Haddadi, Yassine Meriah, Sliman Kchouk

Midfielders: Wahbi Khazri, Ferjani Sassi, Mohamed Amine Ben Amor, Saad Bguir, Hamza Lahmar, Youssef Msakni, Naïm Sliti, Larry Azouni

Forwards: Taha Yassine Khenissi, Ahmed Akaïchi

Senegal Team Preview

Despite the immense talent that courses through Senegalese history and the current squad, they have never finished beyond runners-up in Africa. With memorable players and squads having graced the World Cup, that might come as a major surprise. Will this be the year when the Senegalese finally etch their name on the African crown? Let’s see!

If the qualification rounds are any indication, then this is definitely the year. The Senegalese boast a 100% record, smashing every team they faced. They scored 13 goals and only conceded 2. Liverpool’s Sadio Mane was their standout star, just as he has been for his past two club sides. With 3 goals from the wings in qualification, he is one of Africa’s biggest talents.

Provisional Squad

Goalkeepers: Khadim N’Diaye, Abdoulaye Diallo, Pape Seydou N’Diaye

Defenders: Lamine Gassama, Cheikh M’Bengue, Kara Mbodj, Zargo Toure, Kalidou Koulibaly, Saliou Ciss

Midfielders: Idrissa Gana Gueye , Cheikhou Kouyate, Cheikh N’Doye, Papakouli Diop, Henri Saivet, Papa Alioune Ndiaye, Mohamed Diame

Forwards: Sadio Mane, Keita Balde Diao, Moussa Konate, Famara Diedhiou, Mame Biram Diouf, Ismaila Sarr (Metz), Moussa Sow

AFCON 2017 Group B - Algeria vs Tunisia

Riyad Mahrez Algeria AFCON 2017 national team Leicester City
Riyad Mahrez will want to show his entire continent just why he is such a hot property in Europe

Algeria and Tunisia have both won a single AFCON trophy, with Tunisia’s coming in 2004 and Algeria’s back in 1990. Both teams, however, are frequently part of Africa’s contingent for the FIFA World Cup, making this is an interesting match-up.

Date: 19th January 2017Time: 09:30pm (IST)Venue: Stade de Franceville, Franceville

Algeria Team Preview

Algeria will have been watching the English Premier League with great interest in 2016. Leicester City’s miraculous title win and subsequent drop in form will at least give them a glimmer of hope, boasting Islam Slimani and superstar Riyad Mahrez in their ranks. The duo has struggled this season but have the quality & experience to come up with the goods.

The Algerians enjoyed a stellar qualification campaign, drawing a single game and scoring 25 goals to finish a distant first. Soudani finished as their top-scorer with 7, whilst Slimani and Mahrez both made positive contributions to their efforts. If they carry on like this, they’ll be very hard to stop.

Provisional Squad

Goalkeepers: Rais M’Bolhi, Malik Asselah, Chemseddine Rahmani

Defenders: Mokhtar Belkhiter, Mohamed Rabie Meftah, Aissa Mandi, Hicham Belkaroui, Liassine Cadamuro, Mohamed Benyahia, Ramy Bensebaini, Faouzi Ghoulam, Djamel Mesbah

Midfielders: Adlene Guedioura, Saphir Taider, Nabil Bentaleb, Mehdi Abeid, Yacine Brahimi, Rachid Ghezzal

Forwards: Islam Slimani, Riyad Mahrez, Hilal Soudani El Arabi, Baghdad Bounedjah, Sofiane Hanni

Tunisia Team Preview

Tunisia will be looking to make a mighty impression in this tournament, having disappointed - for their standards - in the last. With this being their 18th finals appearance, the squad may be ready to go all-out for only their second trophy.

The qualification campaign was straightforward, with the Tunisians downing Togo, Liberia & Djibouti to finish as clear group winners.

Provisional Squad

Goalkeepers: Aymen Mathlouthi, Rami Jeridi, Moez Ben Cherifia,

Defenders: Aymen Abdennour, Ali Maaloul, Hamza Mathlouthi, Mohamed Ali Yacoubi, Zied Boughattas, Chamseddine Dhaouadi, Hamdi Nagguez, Ghazi Abderrazzak, Oussama Haddadi, Yassine Meriah, Sliman Kchouk

Midfielders: Wahbi Khazri, Ferjani Sassi, Mohamed Amine Ben Amor, Saad Bguir, Hamza Lahmar, Youssef Msakni, Naïm Sliti, Larry Azouni

Forwards: Taha Yassine Khenissi, Ahmed Akaïchi

AFCON 2017 Group C - Ivory Coast vs DR Congo

Salomon Kalou Ivory Coast AFCON 2017 national team Schalke
Salomon Kalou will be leading the line for the Ivory Coast as they look to regain their continental crown

The defending champions Ivory Coast ended 23 years of heartbreak, near-misses and disappointments with a penalty-shootout victory over heavy favourites Ghana. Now, it looks like one of Africa’s biggest teams is finally living up to that billing. The Democratic Republic of Congo aren’t nearly that hyped, but they too have 2 African trophies, and will want to show Ivory Coast exactly why. It’s set to be a fearsome battle!

Date: 16th January 2017Time: 09:30pm (IST)Venue: Stade D’Oyem, Oyem

Ivory Coast Team Preview

The Ivory Coast have become a household name in international football this decade, boasting some of the biggest names to ever grace a football pitch. Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Kolo Toure are just some of the star-studded squads they’ve had.

Incredibly, they only won it in 2015 when many of those big names had already retired. Now, with several of Africa’s favourites not in great shape they could start a dynasty of dominance.

Their path to qualification was hardly stellar, however. They drew 3 matches and only won one, performing worse than several of the 2nd-placed teams in the qualification rounds.

Moreover, they only scored 3 goals, conceding 2 - but the fact that they still topped the group bodes well for a nation that has often failed to grind out the necessary results. If they keep up this form, they may take heart from Portugal’s unremarkable but ultimately successful run to the Euro 2016 title!

Provisional Squad

Goalkeepers: Sylvain Gbohuo, Badra Sangare , Mande Sayouba

Defenders: Serge Aurier, Mamadou Bagayoko, Eric Bailly , Simon Deli, Ousmane Viera Diarrassouba, Wilfried Kanon , Lamine Kone, Adama TraoreMidfielders: Victorien Angban, Cheik Doukoure , Franck Kessie, Yao Serge N’guessan, Geoffroy Serey Die, Jean Michael Ser

Forwards: Wilfried Bony, Max Gradel , Salomon Kalou, Jonathan Kodjia, Nicolas Pepe, Giovanni Sio, Wilfried Zaha

DR Congo Team Preview

The Democratic Republic of Congo will be looking to ally a potential peace deal in the region to some much-needed football cheer. After a decent showing last time around in the Equatorial Guinea, they’ll be looking to go much further this time.

Their qualification campaign was quite impressive. They won their opening game against minnows Madagascar unconvincingly, before the Central African Republic beat them 2-1. That seemed to completely galvanise the squad as they won all their remaining games scoring 14 and conceding 3. They come into this tournament on some hot form indeed!

Provisional Squad

Goalkeepers: Nicaise Mulopo Kudimbana, Ley Matampi, Joel Kiassumbua

Defenders: Chancel Mbemba, Gabriel Zakuan, Issama Mpeko, Joyce Lomalisa, Vital N’Simba , Fabrice N’Sakala, Chris Luyindama, Merveille Bope, Jordan Ikoko, Marcel Tisserand

Midfielders: Youssouf Mulumbu, Neeskens Kebano, Rémy Mulumba, Hervé Kage, Jacques Maghoma, Paul-José M’Poku, Jonathan Bijimine, Wilson Kamavuaka

Forwards: Cédric Bakambu, Dieumerci Mbokani, Benik Afobe, Firmin Mubele Ndombe, Junior Kabananga, Jordan Botaka, Meschack Elia, Jonathan Bolingi, Ricky Tulengi , Jeremy Bokila

AFCON 2017 Group D - Egypt vs Ghana

Andre Ayew Ghana AFCON 2017 National squad Swansea West Ham
Andre Ayew can’t hide his disappointment at not clinching an international trophy after 17 excruciating penalties

It simply doesn’t get any bigger than this - the all-time kings of the continent are back after a 6-year absence, and on matchday 3, they go up against their would-be usurpers. It will definitely be a feisty one, because both teams are favourites to go through to the last-16.

The history is amazing - these two countries have 11 African titles between them, (Egypt 7, Ghana 4), and they have faced each other in a couple of finals before. Ghana finished second to Ivory Coast by virtue of a single penalty - so near, yet so far. Egypt have not been stable enough to let their stars come back into the action. They are now.

Both teams will not leave anything on the pitch, and the odds of the champion coming from this tie are very high. This will be the do-or-die match of the group stage.

Date: 25th January 2017Time: 12:30am (IST)Venue: Stade de Port-Gentil, Port-Gentil

Egypt Team Preview

Egypt’s last appearance was the triumphant 2010 campaign in Angola, claiming an unprecedented hat-trick of African titles. However, due to the aftermath of the Arab Spring, they have not been able to field a team that could make it all the way here again. Until now.

They stormed through the qualification phase, only drawing one match (with Nigeria), scoring 12 goals and only conceding 2 to top their group. Now, they’ll be looking to bring back the form that saw them romp to three consecutive titles as one of the best teams in international football history.

Provisional Squad

Goalkeepers: Ahmed El-Shennawy, Essam El-Hadary, Sherif Ekramy, Mohamed Awad.

Defenders: Ahmed Fathi, Ahmed Elmohamady, Mohamed Abdel-Shafy, Karim Hafez, Hamada Tolba, Ahmed Hegazy, Saad Samir, Ahmed Dweidar, Ali Gabr, Omar Gaber.

Midfielders: Mohamed Elneny, Tarek Hamed, Ibrahim Salah, Abdallah El-Said, Amr Warda, Ramadan Sobhi, Mohamed Ibrahim, Mahmoud Hassan ‘Trezeguet’.

Forwards: Ahmed Hassan ‘Koka’, Ahmed Gomaa, Marwan Mohsen, Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim ‘Kahraba’, Mohamed Salah.

Ghana Team Preview

Ghana lost a heart-breaking penalty shoot-out against the Ivory Coast last time around in the Equatorial Guinea, after a heavily fought 0-0 draw. Despite not having won the trophy for almost 35 years, their sheer talent and experience always makes them favourites.

The Black Stars were equally impressive at the group stage, putting 7 past Mauritius in the curtain-raiser. Then, they edged past Rwanda and beat Mozambique at home before a 0-0 draw in the away fixture. With 14 goals scored and just 3 conceded, Ghana look a fearsome prospect, and the hurt from losing it last time around will be egging them on.

Provisional Squad

Goalkeepers: Razak Braimah, Adam Kwarasey, Richard Ofori

Defenders: Harrison Afful, Andy Yiadom, Baba Rahman, Frank Acheampong, John Boye, Jonathan Mensah, Daniel Amartey, Edwin Gyimah

Midfielders: Andre Ayew, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Afriyie Acquah, Thomas Partey Mubarak Wakaso, Christian Atsu, Ebenezer Ofori, Joseph Larweh Attamah

Forwards: Asamoah Gyan, Jordan Ayew, Abdul-Majeed Waris, Ebenezer Assifuah, Bernard Tekpetey, Rahpael Dwamena, Samuel Tetteh

Edited by Staff Editor


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