Rivalries, veterans and group matches to watch as AFCON kicks off

Super Eagles starting XI - PREMIUM TIMES
Super Eagles starting XI - PREMIUM TIMES

The countdown to the 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations Cup (AFCON) has quickened as 24 teams jostle for the title of African kings. From Egypt, hosts and seven-time winners, to first-timers Madagascar,

Mauritania, and Burundi, the continent and indeed the world will catch African football fever starting from June 21 when AFCON 2019 kicks off.

Egypt meet Zimbabwe in the opening match of the competition.

Groups

ABCDEF
DR CongoBurundiAlgeriaCote d’IvoireAngolaBenin
EgyptGuineaKenyaMoroccoMaliCameroon
UgandaMadagascarSenegalNamibiaMauritaniaGhana
ZimbabweNigeriaTanzaniaSouth AfricaTunisiaGuinea-Bissau

Resumption of rivalries

Nigeria’s Super Eagles will once again face their West-African neighbours, Guinea, in Group B, eight years after they last met – at the qualifying stage for the 2012 Nations Cup. The 2-2 result at the Abuja Stadium was one reason the Eagles did not qualify for the tournament jointly hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Kenya and Tanzania will face off in Group C. Morocco will attempt to continue their recent winning status, having not conceded to the Elephants in their last three meetings. Group F is almost an all west-African affair with Ghana and Cameroon clashing. The last two meetings between the nine-times joint winners have seen the Black Stars dimmed by the Indomitable Lions.

Five must-watch matches in the group stage

26/06/19 Nigeria 15:30 Guinea

In 17 meetings since their first in 1960, the Super Eagles have won five, drawn seven and lost five against the Syli Nationale. Guinea stopped the Nigerians from making the final of the 1976 competition with Papa Camara’s 88th-minute equaliser. The Eagles also had their wings clipped from flying to the 2012 AFCON by an Ibrahima Traore’s equaliser 12 minutes into added time in the second half in Abuja. Watch out for late goals in this one.

26/06/19 Egypt 21:00 Congo DR

In seven meetings since 1970, the Leopards have never stained the Pharaohs. Will the Congo DR celebrate a win against their tormentors where it will hurt the most?

27/06/19 Senegal 18:00 Algeria

The Teranga Lions of Senegal have largely played second fiddle to the Desert Foxes of Algeria since their first meeting in May 1977. In 21 confrontations, the Foxes have beaten the Lions 12 times while the Lions have only four victories to boast of. With an accomplished side, made up of world-class players and most pundits’ pick to emerge champions, the Lions have to overcome the Algeria hoodoo. Their last meeting was a 2-2 draw, which knocked Algeria out of the 2017 AFCON.

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28/06/19 Morocco 18:00 Cote d’Ivoire

Morocco and Cote d’Ivoire have met 19 times splitting their head-to-head record down the middle. Both countries have six wins each with seven draws; though, in the last three, the Atlas Lions have trampled upon the Elephants. Another human angle to this rivalry is that the Lions will be led to Egypt by a former coach of Cote d’Ivoire, Herve Renard, the only coach to have won two AFCON titles with different countries.

29/06/19 Cameroon 18:00 Ghana

Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions have the uncanny ability to win in difficult circumstances and their second group match against the Black Stars could fall into this category. The five-time Africa champions meet four-time champions, Ghana in what should be a cracker. In their eight head-to-head meetings, the Lions have claimed three victories and two losses but have the last two.

The Seven African countries with the most player market value

CountryTotal WorthStar PlayerWorth
Senegal$434 MillionSadio Mane$135 Million
Cote d’Ivoire$319 MillionNicolas Pepe$73 Million
Nigeria$221 MillionWilfred Ndidi$39 Million
Algeria$221 MillionRiyad Mahrez$67 Million
Egypt$220 MillionMohamed Salah$168 Million
Morocco$197 MillionHakim Ziyech$45 Million
Cameroon$145 MillionZambo Anguissa$28 Million

The veterans return [70 caps and above]

Many of the 24 countries on show in Egypt will have some players in tow, who can best be described as being long in the tooth. For the Super Eagles, Mikel Obi is back in the fold and attending his fourth AFCON, whilst nudging closer to the 110-cap record set by Joseph Yobo and Vincent Enyeama. Ahmed Musa also joins in the veterans’ list having accumulated 81 caps though he will be attending just his second AFCON. The Cranes of Uganda have in tow 101-time capped Godfrey Walusimbi and he is joined by 26-year-old, Emmanuel Okwi, who has already been capped 70 times.

Hosts Egypt have the very experienced Ahmed El Mohamady, who will captain the Pharaohs and has made 88 appearances for his country while Arsenal midfielder, Mohamed El Neny, is on 72 caps.

Returnee participants, Tanzania, have two defenders in the veteran stage – the 87-time capped Erasto Nyoni and Kelvin Yondani, who has featured 81 times for the Taifa Stars. Benin return to the AFCON stage after a seven-year absence led by the diminutive Stephane Sessegnon as veteran and captain, having won 74 caps in a national career spanning 15 years.

Cameroon, the defending champions, have 35-year-old goalkeeper, Carlos Kameni as their only veteran with 70 caps in his 18 years as an Indomitable Lion.

The Black Stars of Ghana found space for their record goalscorer, Asamoah Gyan. The 33-year-old has scored 51 goals in his 106 appearances and will be contesting in his fifth AFCON.

This promises to be a tournament that will deliver the best of African football to a truly global audience for the very first time.

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