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Predicting the entire 2019 African Cup of Nations

ANALYST
Feature
Modified 20 Dec 2019, 23:29 IST

The AFCON trophy
The AFCON trophy

The 2019 African Cup of Nations comes to us from the Land of the Pharaohs, Egypt, as 24 teams featuring Africa's finest battle for continental supremacy.

The event was originally scheduled to take place in Cameroon, but CAF gave the honour to Egypt instead due to concerns about infrastructural lapses, the Boko Haram insurgency, and the Anglophone crisis.

This will indeed be a tournament of firsts, as the participating teams have been expanded from 16 to 24, the tournament has been moved from winter to summer months, and VAR will be deployed at the continental showpiece.

The world will definitely be watching, as the participating teams have in their squads some of the finest footballers on the planet, such as Mohamed Salah, Riyad Mahrez, Wilfred Ndidi, Sadio Mane, and Alex Iwobi, just to mention a few.

Cameroon will certainly face stiff competition as they defend their title against seasoned campaigners like Ghana, Nigeria, and Egypt. In contrast, Madagascar, Burundi, and Mauritania make their maiden bows and it will be interesting to see how they fair against Africa's finest.

In this article, we take a look at each team and their chances at continental supremacy.


Egypt

Javier Aguirre's men will be looking to extend their continental domination, as the Pharaohs currently boast of seven triumphs. The Egyptians are pre-tournament favourites, and rightly so because of history as well as the backdrop of a home crowd giving them an advantage.

Egypt has hosted the tournament on four occasions previously, lifting the title on three of those occasions, and they certainly will be looking to make it four wins in five on home soil.

The Egyptian squad boasts of the irrepressible Mohamed Salah, and he certainly will be the man Javier Aguirre will be counting on for all the important answers. The Pharaohs have all it takes to go all the way this year.

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DR Congo

The Leopards may not be a renowned name in world football, but they can boast of a somewhat good track record on the African continent.

Florent Ibenge's side are two-time African Champions (1968, 1974), and this will be their 19th appearance at the showpiece. They have qualified for the fourth time in a row and have only lost 2 of their 13 AFCON matches since 2013 (W3 D8).

The Leopards are definitely an interesting team to look out for in Egypt.


Uganda

The Cranes of Uganda are appearing in a second consecutive final, and have been at the showpiece in just six previous occasions. Their best performance was in 1978 when they finished runners up to hosts Ghana.

They don't have what it takes to progress beyond the group stage.


Zimbabwe

The Warriors of Zimbabwe didn't qualify for AFCON 2019 until the last qualifying matchday, finishing top of their group with 11 points. They will be making a second consecutive appearance for the first time since their debut on the continental stage in 2004.

In all previous appearances, Zimbabwe has failed to qualify from the group stage. Expect a repeat performance.


Nigeria

The Gernot Rohr led Super Eagles will be making an appearance for the first time at AFCON since their triumph in 2013. Nigeria missed out on the 2015 & 2017 editions, therefore, they will be seeking to re-establish their dominance on the African continent.

The Nigerians are favourites to finish top of Group B, and in their ranks they have Odion Ighalo who finished top goalscorer in the qualifiers, netting 7 goals in total.

The Nigerians have the firepower to go all the way to the quarterfinals.


Burundi

Les Hirondelles will be making their maiden bow this year, finally ending a 43-year wait. Burundi qualified for this edition unbeaten, winning three and drawing four of their six matches.

In their ranks they have Fiston Abdul Razak, who scored six goals in qualifying, finishing just one goal shy of top scorer, Odion Ighalo. Razak fired four of those six goals past South Sudan away from home.

Their Group B opponents may be too hot for them to handle, expect a bottom place finish.


Guinea

AFCON 2015 quarterfinalists, Guinea, will be making a 12th appearance on the biennial stage. Their best outing was in 1976 when they finished runners up. Guinea has competed in 11 previous AFCON tournaments without a win, and that record is surpassed only by Senegal (14).

Syli Nationale qualified in impressive fashion, as they were unbeaten in six matches (W3 D3 L0), finishing atop a group which included continental heavyweights, Cote d'Ivoire.

The Guineans should qualify from Group B alongside Nigeria, but the quarterfinal stage will be a bridge too far for the West Africans.


Madagascar

Nicolas Dupuis' side will mark their first AFCON appearance this year, and they qualified in quite an impressive fashion.

Madagascar qualified for Egypt 2019 with two matches to spare! The Madagascar team was first to qualify for the tournament after 10 points (W3 D1) via a one-goal victory over Equatorial Guinea last October. However, going beyond the group stage may not be on the cards.


Algeria

Les Fennecs of Algeria haven't had a great time on the continental stage lately. They have been eliminated at the group stage in two of their last three appearances, winning just two games out of 10 across all three outings (W2 D3 L5).

They were last crowned winners in 1990 on home soil via a one-goal victory against the Super Eagles of Nigeria in the final. Les Fennecs' best finish in recent times was 4th place in 2010.

The Algerian squad for AFCON 2019 features heavy hitters such as Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez and FC Porto's Yacine Brahimi. The Desert Foxes are certainly among the favourites to proceed out of Group C. A quarterfinal berth seems likely.


Kenya

The Harambee Stars return to AFCON after a staggering 15-year hiatus! Coach Sebastien Migne's side enters this tournament on the back of a torrid history at the continental showpiece.

In all five previous outings, Kenya has crashed out at the group stage, which is, unfortunately, a tournament record. The Kenyans have won just one game in 14 matches (W1 D4 L9), with their only victory coming in their last outing against Burkina Faso in 2004.

The Kenyans may scrape through this time around, making a maiden appearance in the knockout phase.


Senegal

Aliou Cisse's side is considered a strong contingent with heavy hitters like Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Idrissa Gana Gueye in the travelling party.

The Teranga Lions have featured in 14 previous occasions, but are yet to surmount the mountain. Their best finish was in 2002 as they finished runners up to the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, losing 3-2 on penalties.

Senegal finished the qualifiers in strong fashion, amassing 16 points in total - more than any other side.

Aliou Cisse's side will be looking to captain Sadio Mane for inspiration in their quest for a first continental triumph. The Liverpool man was in blistering form during the just-concluded season, as he finished joint top on the Premier League scorer chart alongside Mohamed Salah & Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Expect a strong showing, but a semifinal finish may sadly be on the cards for the Teranga Lions once again.


Tanzania

It's been 39 years since we last saw Emmanuel Amuneke's Taifa Stars in the AFCON, with their lone and maiden outing occurring in 1980.

Tanzania left it very late as they secured a 3-0 win over Uganda on the final day of the qualifiers to book a place at the biennial event.

The Taifa Stars will need to step up this time around, as their previous appearance was dismal. They failed to win any match in 1980 and finished bottom of their group with just a point. A bottom place group finish seems likely.


Cote d'Ivoire

The two-time African champions come to AFCON 2019 on the back of a dismal showing last time out, as they were knocked out during the group stage in 2017.

Ibrahim Kamara's side will be looking to put to bed the ghosts of 2017, and with a travelling contingent featuring the likes of Nicolas Pepe, Wilfried Zaha, and Serge Aurier, the Ivorians certainly have the firepower to be considered one of the tournament's favourites.

They will mount a spirited campaign, but a semifinal finish is likely.


Morocco

The Atlas Lions of Morocco are one-time AFCON champions (1976), however, their record in recent times hasn't been encouraging. They have only managed to qualify from the group stage twice in their last eight outings (2004 & 2017). Their best outing since their lone 1976 triumph was in 2004, as they finished runners up to Tunisia.

The Moroccan team features a rich blend of performers this year, starting with the coach, Herve Renard. The Frenchman is a two-time AFCON champion (2012 & 2015), and his experience will be vital if Morocco is to perform satisfactorily this time out.

Also included in the travelling party are Ajax's Hakim Ziyech, Achraf Hakimi of Borussia Dortmund, and the experienced Medhi Benatia. Morocco has a good chance to advance beyond the group stage this time out.

The Atlas Lions have the firepower to progress beyond the round of 16, however, a quarterfinal finish may be in the stars.


Namibia

The Brave Warriors qualified in dramatic fashion, as they progressed on the final day due to a 2-2 draw involving Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau.

Namibia doesn't have a good track record in the tournament, because they have participated just twice (1998 & 2008) and weren't able to secure a win (D2 L4) in six games. With their AFCON group comprised of Ivory Coast, South Africa, and Morocco, their dismal AFCON form looks set to continue.


South Africa

Stuart Baxter's side returns to the tournament after failing to secure qualification last time out. Bafana Bafana is in very a tough group, and they will be looking to surmount massive odds in order to book qualification against the likes of Morocco and Cote d'Ivoire.

The one time African Champions (1996) left it late in the qualifiers, booking a ticket via a 2-1 win over Libya away from home. The South Africans are likely to finish 3rd in their group, and may not advance beyond the last 16.


Angola

The Angolans return to AFCON after missing the 2015 and 2017 editions consecutively. The Srdjan Vasiljevic led side will be looking to improve their tournament record, having only progressed to the knockout phase twice in their seven previous appearances. A bottom place finish is likely.


Mali

Les Aigles of Mali is definitely one of the favourites to progress out of their group. The Mohamed Magassouba led side will be making a seventh consecutive bow on the premier African stage.

The Malians have been biennially known to be a persistent force in recent times, finishing third in 2012 and 2013. The Malians may go just beyond the group stage, bowing out in the round of 16.


Mauritania

The 2018 CAF Men's Team of the Year, Mauritania, will be making their maiden appearance at AFCON 2019. They are a relatively unknown factor and could throw a spanner in the works of the more fancied sides in the group such as Mali & Tunisia.

The Mauritanians just may scrape through to the round of 16, bowing out to a far superior force.


Tunisia

The Carthage Eagles have been regularly present at AFCON since 1994, and have progressed consistently to the quarterfinal stage in five of the last seven editions.

The Alain Giresse led side is made up of mostly European based stars, and the 1994 champions are expected to book their ticket out of Group E, alongside Mali. A round of 16 ouster may await the Carthage Eagles.


Benin

The Squirrels will make their fourth AFCON appearance this year, qualifying for the continental showpiece for the first time in nine years.

The travelling party of Benin is led by the experienced Stephane Sessegnon, and he will be looking to extend his record 21 goals for his nation.

The Squirrels aren't expected to advance beyond the group stage, as they will face stiff competition from the likes of Ghana and defending champions, Cameroon. However, they may find themselves against a far superior force in the round of 16.


Guinea Bissau

The African Wild Dogs of Guinea Bissau will make their second appearance at the biennial event this year. Last time out, they didn't progress from the group stage, losing twice and drawing once.

They will be looking to do better than 2017, however, with the likes of Cameroon, Ghana, and Benin in the group, that will be a tall order. They are likely to finish bottom of the group.


Ghana

The Black Stars of Ghana are definitely one of the tournament's favourites. Kwesi Appiah's side is adequately stocked with exciting talents, such as Thomas Partey, Kwadwo Asamoah, Jordan Ayew, and Andre 'Dede' Ayew.

The Ghanaian team has a good track record at AFCON, despite not winning the event since 1982. They have finished amongst the top 4 in each of their last seven African Cup of Nations appearances, and have finished runners up more times than any other nation (5).

Although Kwesi Appiah's men couldn't secure a win in their last two tune-up friendlies, expect them to finish top of their group and mount a spirited challenge all the way to the final.


Cameroon

Defending champions, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, are without a shadow of doubt one of the most prestigious footballing teams on the African continent.

They are five-time winners (1984, 1988, 2000, 2002, 2017), and will be looking to successfully defend their crown for the second time in their illustrious history.

The Clarence Seedorf led side doesn't have as many stars as the Cameroonian teams of yesteryears, but they should be capable of qualifying from their group in the top two, and perhaps defend their crown all the way to the quarterfinals.


Group A


Matchday 1

Egypt 2-0 Zimbabwe

DR Congo 1-0 Uganda

Matchday 2

Uganda 3-1 Zimbabwe

Egypt 2-1 DR Congo

Matchday 3

Uganda 0-4 Egypt

Zimbabwe 1-3 DR Congo

Table - 1st Egypt, 2nd DR Congo, 3rd Uganda, 4th Zimbabwe


Group B


Matchday 1

Nigeria 3-0 Burundi

Guinea 2-2 Madagascar

Matchday 2

Nigeria 1-0 Guinea

Madagascar 1-1 Burundi

Matchday 3

Madagascar 1-4 Nigeria

Burundi 1-3 Guinea

Table - 1st Nigeria, 2nd Guinea, 3rd Madagascar, 4th Burundi


Group C


Matchday 1

Senegal 2-0 Tanzania

Algeria 3-1 Kenya

Matchday 2

Senegal 1-0 Algeria

Kenya 4-2 Tanzania

Matchday 3

Kenya 1-2 Senegal

Tanzania 0-2 Algeria

Table - 1st Senegal, 2nd Algeria, 3rd Kenya, 4th Tanzania


Group D


Matchday 1

Morocco 4-0 Namibia

Cote d'Ivoire 3-1 South Africa

Matchday 2

Morocco 1-2 Cote d'Ivoire

South Africa 1-0 Namibia

Matchday 3

South Africa 1-1 Morocco

Namibia 0-5 Cote d'Ivoire

Table - 1st Cote d'Ivoire, 2nd Morocco, 3rd South Africa, 4th Namibia


Group E


Matchday 1

Tunisia 2-0 Angola

Mali 1-1 Mauritania

Matchday 2

Tunisia 2-2 Mali

Mauritania 3-1 Angola

Matchday 3

Mauritania 1-4 Tunisia

Angola 0-2 Mali

Table - 1st Tunisia, 2nd Mali, 3rd Mauritania, 4th Angola


Group F


Matchday 1

Cameroon 3-1 Guinea Bissau

Ghana 2-0 Benin

Matchday 2

Cameroon 1-2 Ghana

Benin 3-2 Guinea Bissau

Matchday 3

Benin 1-2 Cameroon

Guinea Bissau 2-4 Ghana

Table - 1st Ghana, 2nd Cameroon, 3rd Benin, 4th Guinea Bissau

Note: 4 third placed teams qualify due to superior head to head (Group C: Kenya, Group D: South Africa, Group E: Mauritania, Group F: Benin).


Round of 16

DR Congo 2 - 3 Algeria

Cote d'Ivoire 4 - 1 Mauritania

Nigeria 2 - 1 Kenya

Ghana 1 - 1 Mali (Ghana progress on penalties)

Tunisia 0 - 1 Morocco

Senegal 3 - 0 Benin

Guinea 1 - 4 Cameroon

Egypt 3 - 1 South Africa

Quarterfinals

Algeria 1 - 2 Cote d'Ivoire

Nigeria 0 - 1 Ghana

Morocco 1 vs 3 Senegal

Cameroon 1 - 2 Egypt

Semifinals

Cote d'Ivoire 2 - 4 Ghana

Senegal 2 - 2 Egypt (Egypt advance on penalties)

Third-place

Cote d'Ivoire 1-3 Senegal

Final

Ghana 0-1 Egypt

Published 19 Jun 2019, 12:37 IST
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