It’s the Sports Gazette’s 2021 AFCON Group stage preview and in this piece, we will take a look at Group C which hosts Ghana, Morocco, Comoros and Gabon.
2010 AFCON was the last time Coach Milovan Rajevac led the Black Stars of Ghana to a continental tournament. The team made it to the finals but fell short as they lost to eventual champions, Egypt.
The former Red Star Belgrade manager left the team after the 2010 AFCON but returned in 2021 with to manage the 52nd ranked team in the world (8th in Africa) in Cameroon.
Rajevac worked with team captain Al Saad forward Andre Ayew and Columbus Crew defender Jonathan Mensah twelve years ago in Angola and this pre-existing relationship will prove crucial to the team as they begin their search for a fifth nations cup title.
Youth mixed with experience is the composition of the Ghanaian squad travelling to Cameroon. Alongside his older brother Andre Ayew, Crystal Palace forward Jordan Ayew headlines this squad.
Leicester City defender Daniel Amartey and Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey also have huge roles to play in any success Ghana intends to record at the tournament.
Dreams FC forward, seventeen-year-old Abdul Fatawu Issahaku is the breakout star to look out for in this team.
He has recorded four goals in five Ghanaian Premier League appearances so far this season as has been linked major European teams like Bayer Leverkusen and Sporting Lisbon.
The Black Stars 2021 AFCON campaign begins against Morocco on Monday, January 10.
The Ghanaian squad for AFCON 2021 reads:
Goalkeepers: Jojo Wolacott (Swindon Town, England), Abdul Manaf Nurudeen (Eupen, Belgium), Richard Attah (Hearts of Oak, Ghana), Lawrence Ati Zigi (St Gallen, Switzerland).
Defenders: Andy Yiadom (Reading, England), Baba Rahman (Reading, England), Philemon Baffuor (Dreams FC, Ghana), Gideon Mensah (Bordeaux, France), Daniel Amartey (Leicester City, England), Alexander Djiku (Strasbourg, France), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew, USA), Khalid Abdul Mumin (Vitoria Guimaraes, Portugal).
Midfielders: Baba Iddrissu (Real Mallorca, Spain), Edmund Addo (Sheriff Tiraspol, Moldova), Thomas Partey (Arsenal, England), Mubarak Wakaso (Shenzhen, China), Mohammed Kudus (Ajax, Netherlands), Daniel Kofi Kyere (St. Pauli, Germany), David Abagna (Real Tamale United, Ghana).
Forwards: Abdul Fatawu Issahaku (Dreams FC, Ghana), Samuel Owusu (Al Fayha, Saudi Arabia), Kamaldeen Suleymana (Rennes, France), Andre Ayew (Al Sadd SC. Qatar), Joseph Paintsil (Genk, Belgium), Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace, England), Richmond Boakye Yiadom (Beitar Jerusalem, Israel), Maxwell Abbey Quaye (Great Olympics, Ghana), Benjamin Tetteh (Malatyaspor, Turkey).
Coach Vahid Halilhodzic’s refusal to call up Chelsea forward Hakim Ziyech remains a surprise to many but the relationship between the player and the manager has been on edge since Ziyech failed to honor a call up against Ghana in June 2021.
Although Morocco will be without Ziyech in Cameroon, the Atlas Lions squad that lost at the quarter finals of the 2021 Arab Cup to eventual winners Algeria could build a great team around its current mix of young faces and just about enough experience.
The team will also miss the services of veteran goalkeeper Munir Mohamedi but equally experienced Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, Wolverhampton defender Romain Saiss and PSG’s Achraf Hakimi are key members of this team. Sevilla forward Yousef EN-Nesyri will be the point man for the Atlas Lions in Cameroon.
1976 AFCON winners Morocco are highest ranked in this group – 2nd in Africa and 28th in the world but one could wonder if this translate to on-field successes without their star man Ziyech.
Team selection list includes:
Goalkeepers: Yassine Bounou (Sevilla, Spain), Monir El Kajoui, (Hatayspor, Turkey), Anas Zniti (Raja Casablanca, Morocco).
Defenders: Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Sofiane Alakouch (Metz, France), Souffian El Karouani (NEC Nijmegen, Netherlands), Adam Masina (Watford, England), Sofian Chakla (OH Leuven, Belgium), Samy Mmaee (Ferencvaros, Hungary), Romain Saiss (Wolves, England), Nayef Aguerd (Rennes, France), Badr Benoun (Al Ahly, Egypt), Mohamed Chibi (AS Far, Morocco).
Midfielders: Aymen Barkok (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany), Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina, Italy), Faycal Fajr (Sivaspor, Turkey), Azzedine Ounahi (Angers, France), Ilias Chair (Queens Park Rangers, England), Imran Louza (Watford, England), Selim Amallah (Standard Liege, Belgium).
Forwards: Munir El Haddadi (Sevilla, Spain), Zakaria Aboukhlal (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Abde Ezzalzouli (Barcelona, Spain), Sofiane Boufal (Angers, France), Ryan Mmaee (Ferencvaros, Hungary), Youssef En-Nesyri (Sevilla, Spain), Ayoub El Kaabi (Hatayspor, Turkey), Soufiane Rahimi (Al Ain, UAE).
Missed the preview for Group A ? click here – https://sportsgazette.co.uk/afcon-2021-preview-road-to-yaounde-pt-2/
The East African Country are debutants at this tournament. If anyone expects upset in Group C, Comoros could just be the most likely candidates to cause upsets.
Although Les Coelacantes are the lowest ranked team (132nd in the world and 38th in Africa) in this group but exploits during the qualification stage including defeating Kenya and holding Egypt to a goalless draw show that they indeed are not here to make up the numbers.
Coach Amir Abdou includes former Marseille right back Abdallah Ali Mohamed, AC Ajaccio duo Chaker Alhadhur and Mohamed Youssouf as well as Auxerre midfielder Iyad Mohamed in this promising squad.
Guingamp’s Youssouf M’Ch
angama will be the star man in this side with lots of experience both on the international and club level which will be crucial to the team’s exploits.
Comoros’ first ever AFCON game will be against Gabon in Yaounde, Cameroon on the 10th of January.
Squad players are:
Goalkeepers: Salim Ben Boina (Endoume, France) Ali Ahamada (Unattached), Moyadh Ousseni (Frejus, France).
Defenders: Nadjim Abdou (FC Martigues, France), Bendjaloud Youssouf (Chateauroux, France), Abdallah Ali Mohamed (Stade Lausanne, Switzerland) Kassim Mdahoma (US Avranches, France), Younn Zahary (SO Cholet, France), Chaker Alhadhur (Ajaccio, France), Mohamed Youssouf (Ajaccio, France), Kassim Abdallah (Marignane Gignac, France).
Midfielders: Fouad Bachirou (Omonia Nicosia, Cyprus), Youssouf M’Changama (Guingamp, France), Yacine Bourhane (Go Ahead Eagles, Netherlands), Nakibou Aboubakari (FC Sete 34, France), Iyad Mohamed (Auxerre, France), Rafidine Abdullah (Stade Lausanne, Switzerland).
Forwards: Faiz Selemani (KV Kortrijk, Belgium), Mohamed El Fardou (Red Star Belgrade, Serbia), Nasser Chamed (Gaz Metan Medias, Romania), Ahmed Mogni (FC Annecy, France), Faiz Mattoir (SO Cholet, France), Ali M’Madi (SAS Epinal, France), Said Bakari (RKC Waalwijk, Netherlands), Moussa Djoumoi (AS Saint-Priest, France), Mohamed M’Changama (FC Nouadhibou, Mauritania).
It’s an 8th appearance for the Panthers at continental level who will be looking to better their quarter final best results in 1996 and 2012. Ranked 89th in the world and 19th in Africa, a quarter final berth in Cameroon will be a job well done for this side looking at its squad strength.
Arsenal’s out-of-favour former captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will have to keep behind him the troubles back at the club. Reports keep linking him with an Arsenal exit but keeping away these distractions and focusing on his team captain duties in Cameroon will be his top priority right now.
Gabon’s first game will be held on 10 January against first-timers Comoros, before facing Ghana and then Morocco.
A quick look at the Gabonese squad:
Goalkeepers: Anthony Mfa Mezui (Rodange 91, Luxembourg), Donald Nze (Maniema Union, Congo), Jean-Noel Amonome (Uthongathi, South Africa), Fortson Noubi Junior (Vannes, France)
Defenders: Lloyd Palun (Bastia, France), Johann Obiang (Rodez, France ), Bruno Ecuele Manga (Dijon, France), Gilchrist Nguema (Maccabi Ahi Nazareth, Isreal), Anthony Oyono (Boulogne, France), Sidney Obissa (Olympic Chaleroi, Belgium), David Sambissa (Cambuur, Netherlands), Wilfried Ebane (Vannes, France), Junior Assoumou (Le Mans, France), Yannis N’Gakoutou (Lyon-La Duchere, France), Yrondu Musavu-King (Bengaluru, India)
Midfielders: Andre Biyogo Poko (Altay, Turkey), Mario Lemina (Nice, France), Louis Ameka Autchanga (Chamois Niortais, France), Guelor Kanga (Red Star Belgrade, Serbia), Serge-Junior Martinsson Ngouali (Gorica, Croatia), Alex Moucketou-Moussounda (Aris Limassol, Greece)
Forwards: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal, England), Denis Bouanga (Saint-Etienne, France), Kevin Mayi (Umraniyespor, Turkey), Axel Méye (Ittihad Tanger, Morocco), Fahd Ndzengue (Tabor Sezana, Slovbenia), Aaron Boupendza (Al Arabi, Qatar), Ulrick Eneme Ella (Brighton and Hove Albion, England), Jim Allevinah (Clermont, France), Biteghe Medwin (Al Adalah, Saudi Arabia)
Group Fixtures Include:
10 Jan. 17:00 Morocco v Ghana
10 Jan. 20:00 Comoros v Gabon
14 Jan. 17:00 Morocco v Comoros
14 Jan. 20:00 Gabon v Ghana
18 Jan. 20:00 Gabon v Morocco
18 Jan. 20:00 Ghana v Comoros
All games except Ghana vs Comoros will take place at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaoundé. Ghana vs Comoros will take place at the Roumdé Adjia Stadium in Garoua.
All games are in local time (GMT +1)
Morocco and Ghana are the big wigs here both on squad strength and past achievements and they will most likely nick the first and second spots. If an upset happens, Comoros could be lucky with a third place finish and get a next round ticket but Gabon on rankings look good for the 3rd spot.
To be continued…
You can read more of our AFCON 2021 coverage here: https://sportsgazette.co.uk/category/football/
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