By ‘Seye Akanmu-Bode
The biggest football competition in Africa starts this Friday as the 32nd biennial showpiece will be hosted by Egypt. It would be recalled that Cameroon was the initial host but CAF substituted Cameroon with Egypt as the former couldn’t meet up with the expected facilities needed to host a big event as the AFCON.
This edition is particularly novel because:
- it is taking place in June as against January which used to cause country vs club row.
- it features 24 teams for the first time to accommodate more countries.
So, starting from June 21 to July 19, four cities in Egypt will play host to best of African football. The cities are: Cairo, Ismailia, Alexandra and Suez.
This special series on the AFCON 2019 takes a look at the historical facts, the participating teams, players to watch out for and the likely qualifiers from each group including the overall favourites to win the diadem.
- Egypt won the first edition in 1957
- Ghana’s Charles K.Gyamfi was the first coach to win the tournament three times.
- Hassan Shehata of Egypt is the only man to have won on three consecutive occasions. 2006,2008 and 2010.
- Egypt has the most wins (7) and they boast the record of being the only team to have it on 3 consecutive occasions.
- Herve Renard of France is the only man to have won with two different countries, Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015.
- Hossam Hassan of Egypt in 2006 became the oldest scorer in AFCON history. He did it at 39 years and174 days old.
- Shiva N’zigou of Gabon in 2010 at 16 Years and 93 days old became the youngest scorer.
- Samuel Eto’o Fils is the highest all-time scorer with 18 goals. He achieved this from 2000-2010 with the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. Ivorian Laurent Pokou held the record for many years.
- Egypt goalkeeper, Essam El Hadary became the oldest player at 44 years and 21 days to feature in the AFCON in the 2017 final against Cameroon. He was on the losing side though.
- Nigeria holds the record of most semifinals appearances: 14 out of 19 participations!
GROUPS AND THE LIKELY QUALIFIERS
A: Egypt, DR Congo, Uganda, Zambia.
Qualifiers: Egypt and Zambia.
B: Nigeria, Guinea, Madagascar, Burundi.
Qualifiers: Nigeria and Guinea.
C: Senegal, Algeria, Kenya, Tanzania.
Qualifiers: Senegal and Algeria.
D: Morocco, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Namibia.
Qualifiers: Ivory Coast and Morocco.
E: Tunisia, Mali, Mauretania ,Angola.
Qualifiers: Tunisia and Mali.
F: Cameroon, Ghana, Benin, Guinea Bissau.
Qualifiers: Ghana and Cameroon.
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Egypt: Mohammed Salah, Ahmed Hegazi, Ahmed El Mohamady, Mohammed Elneny
Senegal: Sadio Mane,Kalidou Koulibaly,Idrissa Gana Gueye, Keita Balde,Ismaila Sarr.
Ghana: Kwado Asamoah, Thomas Partey, Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew.
Morocco: Hakim Ziyech, Achraf Hakimi ,Medhi Banatia.
Ivory Coast: Serge Aurier, Nicola Pepe, Wilfred Zaha.
Guinea: Naby Keita.
Nigeria: Wilfred Ndidi, Ahmed Musa, Alex Iwobi, Odion Ighalo.
Algeria: Riyad Mahrez.
Cameroon: Andre Onana, Kana-Biyik.
Final Verdict: The winner is still expected to come from the pool of previous winners except of course ,The Teranga Lions of Senegal who could upset the tradional winners. Debutants like Madagascar, Burundi and Mauretania can push their luck far but it can’t be farther from the second round.
Egypt, as the record winner of this tournament will be the team other nations would love to avoid. With a vociferous and partisan crowd behind them, the Sallah inspired team will go all out to clinch the trophy for the 8th time. Don’t forget that Egypt has hosted the AFCON before now 4 times (most host) and won 3 times. Who says they can’t do it again as the pain of losing the 2017 finals to Cameroon still hurt them.
Senegal on paper looks the most balanced team with an array of great players from top clubs in Europe. Sadio Mane and the best Serie A defender, Kalidou Koulibaly ‘K2’ are expected to motivate the Teranga Lions to go for their first AFCON victory.
Nigeria had missed out on two consecutive editions before now. The last time we participated, 2013, we won. The boys can thus be confident of that fact. The young talents in the team such as Ndidi, Chukwueze, Onyekuru are expected to compliment the experience of captain John Obi Mikel, Ahmed Musa, Iwobi and Odion Ighalo.