MY AFCON PREDICTIONS (EVERY GROUP)
Hello lads and lasses, I am back, more excited than ever before considering Kenya is taking part in a major international tournament for the first time in 15 years and we will not be boring ourselves with the absolute joke of a tournament in the name of CECAFA, which we have been forced to bore ourselves to death with. I must say Nick Mwendwa has worked wonders since he took over the role of FKF president and with the appointment of Sebastian Migne, we are starting to see that Kenyan football is on the steady way up.Let’s take a look at every group stage, and I will be giving you my predictions on the outcome of each group.Let’s have a crack!
(ALL IMAGES COURTESY:GETTY)
GROUP A: Features DR Congo, Egypt, Uganda and Zambia
Group Fact: DR Congo meet Zimbabwe once again after being paired in the qualifiers, while the host nation goes in as joint top scorers during qualifying, Egypt, Uganda and Zimbabwe
This is one of a very few predictions that I am making that are relatively easy. To begin with, Egypt are the host nations and I could even go on and say that they will go on and win it because of this, but then again, who remembers Brazil’s 2014 World Cup tourney? They also have arguably one of the world’s best front men in Mohammed Salah and I think his presence is enough to galvanize the side’s hopes. I expect them to win this group easy. They were runners-up at the tourney two years ago and are the most successful team in the competition’s history with 7 titles.
-Key player-Mohamed Salah
I have put my money on this team to proceed as runners up because of their experience at the tournament. Their head to head record against Uganda and Zambia in recent history has not been as good but I expect them to proceed as runners up because of their good squad balance. They are ranked 49th in the latest Fifa rankings and that should be enough to give confidence to a squad boasting the likes of Yannick Bolasie, Cedrick Bakambu and Arthur Masuaku.
Key player-Yannick Bolasie
Kenya’s arch rivals and the best nation in East Africa according to the world rankings, I predict them to finish third but I was tied between DRC and Uganda. I think they will qualify as one of the best 3rd placed teams.Their goalkeeper Denis Onyango will be key in making sure this happens.
Key player:Denis Onyango
Zimbabwe appeared at the 2017 edition and didn’t do so well. Don’t get me wrong, they are a talented group of players but considering the group they are placed him, I think it’s asking for too much from them to get to the knockout stages. If all goes well, they have all the capability to do well at the tournament.
Key player:Khama Billiat
-This is the toughest group when it comes to selecting the order of the runners up positions.
GROUP B: Features Burundi, Guinea, Madagascar and Nigeria
FACT: Group B is hosting the new guests. The three time African Champions will be facing Guinea and the two tournament debutants Madagascar and Burundi!
Nigeria are back in the tourney for the first time since winning the 2013 edition under the late Steven Keshi.They have had their fair share of problems the last 5 years but they had a good world cup last year and considering they are facing 2 debutants, this should be like a duck to water for these sides. The likes of Ahmed Musa and Alex Iwobi are capable of producing superb individual brilliances that should take them far in the tourney.
Key player:Ahmed Musa
Madagascar are in this for the first time in their history but have been so brilliant the last couple of years I am making the bold prediction that they will finish ahead of Ghana in qualification. They really gave Mane’s Senegal a run for their money during the qualification phase and they have a big future ahead of them.
Key player:Jeremy Morel
I don’t know if Naby Keita is fit enough to guide his team through to the next round.The team may have a chance of going through just as they also may not stand a chance. A third placed finish is in order.
Key player:Naby Keita
Burundi are another set of debutants spearheaded by, good Christ, Sadio Berahino, a man who has scored 3 goals in as many years for Stoke and yet still calls himself a striker.This man was getting into the England squad ahead of Harry Kane 4 years ago. The deterioration he has made ever since he left West Brom has just been wanting.Anyway,I expect a swift flight back home for them within the next one week for them.They however have ra pacey winger in the name of Fiston Razak who has scored 6 from 6 qualifying games who could prove us wrong.Watch out!
Key Player:Fiston Razak
GROUP C: Features Algeria, Kenya, Senegal and Tanzania
Group fact: Harambee Stars were the joint strongest defense during qualifying, while the Lions of Teranga were unbeaten. The Desert Foxes come in on the back of a 6 game unbeaten run.Taifa Stars are coached by legend Emmanuel Amunike .This is the group to watch!
Senegal are arguably Africa’s most talented squad by a mile boasting the likes of Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly, Ismail Sarr and Mbaye Niang, to name a few.I expect them to win this group but not without a challenge from the other teams in this group.
Algeria has been relatively downhill since the World Cup in Brazil 5 years ago when they pushed the then eventual champions Germany to the wall. They still however boast the likes of Sofiane Feghouli, Yacine Brahimi and 2016 PFA player of the year Riyad Mahrez.I think they will also proceed to the knockout stages.I see them the tournament’s dark horses. Remember, the fact that the tourney being in Egypt gives them a home advantage.
Key player:Riyad Mahrez
Harambee Stars are back after a 15 year absence from Africa’s biggest competition. It has been a slow but steady revival for the Kenyans ever since Mwendwa took the helm of FKF presidency and I believe they could surprise many and even proceed as runners up, let alone third. They have Victor Wanyama who has been forming a terrific partnership with Denis Odhiambo of Sofapaka, talisman Michael Olunga and Ayub Timbe who was superb in their latest friendly with DRC last weekend. I personally believe they could proceed to the knockout stages which is a target they all have set.
Key player:Victor Wanyama
Tanzania is a team that is also back in the tourney after a long absence. They look promising but I don’t expect so much from them.
Key player:Mbwana Samatta
GROUP D: Features Ivory Coast, Morocco, Namibia and South Africa
Group D features a southern African derby between Bafana bafana and the Brave Warriors while the Orange Elephants and the Atlas Lions will face off in fiery match
Morocco also come to this tournament off the back of a good World Cup in Russia and boast the likes of Medhi Benatia and red hot playmaker Hakim Ziyech.They are making their 19th appearance in the tournament and have won it before in 1976.I think they are one of the favorites to take this title home considering they are even coached by AFCON specialist Herve Renard.
Key player:Hakim Ziyech
- Ivory Coast
The 2015 champions have been suffering of late thanks to the fact they miss Didier Drogba and the Toure brothers’ leadership. They however are still strong boasting an attack consisting the likes of Crystal Palace’s Wilfred Zaha and Nicholas Pepe of Lille. They should also go through, easy.
Key player:Wilfred Zaha
- South Africa
South Africa boasts one of the best leagues in Africa yet the national team struggles at such stages. They nearly never even made the tournament at the expense of Libya and were the last of the 24 teams to qualify. I favor them to proceed as one of the four best placed third placed teams though.
Key player:Keagan Dolly
Not so much is expected of the Brave Warriors and I don’t expect them to pull any real surprises at all
GROUP E: Angola, Mali, Mauritania and Tunisia
Group facts:Angola are back for the first time since 2013 having topped their group I in qualification.Tunisia also topped their qualification group which included favourites Egypt.Mali were also top of their qualification group and Mauritania are debutants,featuring in this tourney for the first time in their history
Tunisia is also one of Africa’s best sides and despite a poor world cup, the just have enough to see out the other teams in the group and should go through as winners. The likes of Wabhi Kazri should inspire them. The Eagles of Carthage have won the tournament before in 2004 and should have a good tournament
Key player:Wabhi Kazri
I don’t know much about the current Mali team but historically, have been doing quite well before especially during the likes of Sedyou Keita’s time in the squad. Their best finish was a runner-up place back in 1972.They should go through to the knockout stages though
Key player: Mousa Marega
Angola are another team I expect to get to the knockout stages and could even finish as runners-up.I don’t know much about them but based on the head to head record between teams in this group,I think they stand a chance of going through to the knockout stages.
Mauritania are also debutants at this edition of the tournament and I don’t expect so much from them to deliver but who knows? They may pull a Senegal at the 2002 world cup.
Key player: Khassa Camara
GROUP F: Benin, Cameroon, Ghana and Guinea-Bissau
Group facts:Benin are making a fourth appearance ever in this competition,with all their appearances having been in the 21st century.Ghana,the 2010 world cup quarter finalists conceded 2 goals during the whole qualification phase.Cameroon are coached by dutch legends Clarence Seedof and Patrick Kluivert and Guinea Bissau are making a second consecutive tournament,which also happens to be their second ever tourney.
Cameroon are the reigning champions and were the original hosts of the tournament but were stripped off the right to host the tournament and should have in fact been banned from taking part. They finished runners up in their qualification group and are coached by legend Clarence Seedorf.I expect them to go through to the knockout stages as group winners
They are the team that has the largest budget for qualification, a budget costing over eight million dollars. However, I watched them during qualification and they have a tendency to get complacent during a match. They should go through to the next round though.
Key player:Thomas Partey
Benin are also a team that has never really achieved much at such stages and I don’t think that record will be changing anytime soon .I don’t really expect them to go through to the next round though since it is a relatively easy group for Ghana and Cameroon
Key player:Steve Mounie
Again, I don’t expect much from this team and I don’t think they will pull surprises.
Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia and Cameroon
DR Congo, Madagascar, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Mali and Ghana
4 BEST THIRD PLACED TEAMS
Uganda, Kenya, South Africa and Angola.
That’s all lads, if you love the article, don’t forget to give it a like, share, a view and all that good stuff and as always, I’ll write for you some more in a while.(Also look out for my knock-out stage predictions soon)