Welcome back to the Sports Gazette’s AFCON preview series! Today, it’s the turn of Group D. It’s an interesting mix here with three former Champions – Egypt, Sudan and Nigeria alongside Guinea-Bissau, a country that has never made it past the group stage in this competition.
Pharaohs are the most successful team in AFCON history with seven wins to its name. Currently ranked 45th in the world (6th in Africa), Egypt will fancy a return to glory in Cameroon since winning the 2010 edition.
National team manager Carlos Queiroz surprised pundits and commentators with his picks for the tournament. The exclusion of Egyptian Premier League stars like Al Ahly midfielder Mohamed Magdy Afsha and Zamalek midfielder Tarek Hamed.
Other exclusions from the squad are Zamalek forward Marwan Hamdi, Al Masry forward Ahmed Refaat, Smouha midfielder Hussein Faisal, and Zamalek forward Mostafa Fathi who were part of the Egyptian team that reached the semi-finals of the Arab cup competition last year.
Aston Villa winger Mahmoud Hassan Trezeguet who has been absent in the team since March due to his long-term injury meanwhile returns to the lineup.
This team is a sure title favorite but will need Captain and Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah to replicate his stellar Premier League form at this competition if the team will stand a chance at all in this quest for an eight AFCON title.
Their opening game for the Pharaohs will be against Nigeria on the 11th of January in Garoua and its outcome will speak volumes about their intentions in this competition.
Egypt’s full squad will parade:
Goalkeepers: Mohamed El-Shennawy (Al Ahly, Egypt), Mohamed Sobhi (Pharco, Egypt), Mohamed Abogabal (Zamalek, Egypt), Mahmoud Gad (Enppi, Egypt).
Defenders: Ahmed Fatouh, Mahmoud Alaa, Mahmoud Hamdy El-Wensh (all Zamalek, Egypt), Ayman Ashraf, Akram Tawfik, (both Al Ahly), Omar Kamal, Mohamed Abdel-Moneim (both Future, Egypt), Ahmed Hegazi (Ittihad Jeddah, Saudi Arabia).
Midfielders: Hamdi Fathi, Amr El-Sulya (both Al Ahly, Egypt), Emam Ashour, Ahmed Sayed Zizo (both Zamalek, Egypt), Abdallah El-Said, Ramadan Sobhi (both Pyramids, Egypt), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal, England), , Omar Marmoush (VfB Stuttgart, Germany), Mohanad Lasheen (Tala’a El-Gaish, Egypt), Mahmoud Hassan Trezeguet (Aston Villa, England).
Forwards: Mostafa Mohamed (Galatasaray, Turkey), Mohamed Sherif (Al Ahly, Egypt), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool, England).
Guinea-Bissau debuted at AFCON in 2017. Although they have continued to qualify for subsequent editions, the team has never made it past the group stage.
In Cameroon, the Djurtus will battle in a group where they seem to have little to no chance.
The inability of the team to score a goal in the final four games of their World Cup qualification is a red flag but Coach Baciro told newsmen that the target for his side is qualification to the second round during a pretournament press conference.
The team will boast of the experienced players like Beira Mar goalkeeper Jonas Mendes, Al Shoalah forward Piquete Djassi Silva and Vitoria Setubal forward Frédéric Mendy. All three were a part of the team at the last two AFCON.
Stade Reims’ midfielder Moreto Cassama is an emerging star to watch out for in this team after his impressive form with the Ligue 1 team this season.
Ranked 24th in Africa and 106th in the world, 2021 AFCON begins on the 11th of January against Sudan in Garoua
The full team list is below:
Goalkeepers: Jonas Mendes (Beira Mar, Portugal), Maurice Gomis (Ayia Napa FC, Cyprus), Manuel Mama Samba Baldé (Vizela, Portugal)
Defenders: Eulanio Chipela Gomes (FC Porto, Portugal), Fali Candé (Portimonense, Portugal), Manconi Soriano Mané (Moreirense, Portugal), Ladislau Leonel Ucha Alves (Marihense, Portugal), Aurisio Saliu Junior (Vilafranquence, Portugal), Opa Sangatte (Chateauroux, France), Jefferson Encada (Leixoes, Portugal), Ferdinand Mendy (Alloa Athletic FC, Scotland).
Midfielders: Judilson Gomes (AS Monaco, France), Jorge Braima Candé Nougueira (Farense, Portugal), Jaoa Lamine Jaquité (Vilafranquence, Portugal), Moreto Cassama (Stade Reims, France), Alfa Semedo Esteves (Vitoria Guimaraes, Portugal) , Panutchi Pereira Camara (Plymouth Argyle, England)
Forwards: Mama Samba Baldé (Troyes, France), Piqueti Djassi Silva (Al Shoalah, Saudi Arabia), Jorge Barbosa Intima (Wisla Plock, Poland), Mauro Rodrigues Texeira (Sion, Switzerland), Joseph Mendes (Niort, France), Steve Brahim Omar Ambri (Sochaux, France), Frédéric Mendy (Vitoria Setubal, Portugal)
The 1970 Champions currently ranked 125th in the world (33rd in Africa) will begin their 2021 AFCON journey with a fixture against Guinea Bissau on the 11th of January in Garoua.
After a ten year absence from ACON riddled with fluctuations in performance across competitions and qualifiers on the continental scene, it remains to be seen which version of the Secretary Birds team will turn up at this tournament.
It could be the team that finished in 3rd place at the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) or the team that was embarrassingly knocked out of the Arab Cup at the group stage. That Arab Cup exit led to the sack of Coach Hubert Velud and his staff.
New Coach Burhan Tia has a full list of 28 players ready for the 2021 AFCON quest although the exclusion of Smouha midfeilder Atahir Eltahir comes as a surprise taking into account the wealth of experience he could bring to the team
AL Hillal forward Mohammed Abdelrahman is the man to look out for in this team with 7 goals in the last 18 appearances for his country.
A quick look at this new squad:
Goalkeepers: Ali Abou Achrine, Ishag Adam (both Al Hilal, Sudan), Mohamed Mustafa (Al Merreikh, Sudan).
Defenders: Moaiad Abdeen (Alamal Atbara, Sudan), Mohamed Amin (Motala, Sudan), Elsadig Hassan (Al Shurta, Sudan), Amjed Ismail (Al Ahly Shendi, Sudan), Mustapha Abdelgader Karshoum, Salaheldin Nemer (both Al Merreikh, Sudan), Mazin Mohamedein (Tuti, Sudan), Aawad Zayed (Al Ahli Khartoum, Sudan)
Midfielders: Gomaa Abbas, Walieldin Khedr, Mustafa Elfadni, Abdelrazig Omer Yagoub (all Al Hilal, Sudan), Mohamed Al Rasheed, Dhiya Mahjoub (both Al Merreikh, Sudan), Captain Basheer (Alamal Atbara, Sudan), Mohamed Elmonzer (Al Hilal Al Obeid, Sudan), Mohamed Hassouin (Hay Al Wadi, Sudan), Mohamed Kesra, Suliman Zakaria (both Hay Al Arab, Sudan), Alsheikh Mohamed (Al Khartoum), Sharif Omar (Al Hilal Al Fasher, Sudan).
Forwards: Mohamed Abdelrahman (Al Hilal, Sudan), Musab Ahmed (Al Hilal Al Obeid, Sudan), Yasin Hamed (Nyiregyhaza Spartacus, Hungary), Algozoli Nooh (Al Merreikh, Sudan).
Drama abounds here when it comes to clubs not releasing players – from Al Shabab refusing to release striker Odion Ighalo to Watford holding on to in-form forward Emmanuel Dennis. This team is riddled with uncertainties in major positions.
Three time champions and a tournament favorite, they go into the 2021 AFCON ranked 5th in Africa and 36th in the world. A team with enough depth in terms of experience and talent, the timing of former Coach Gernot Rohr’s sack just weeks to the tournament could be one their Achilles’ heel at this tournament.
Interim Coach Augustine Eguavoen who has a bit of history with the national team (he marshalled a third place finish at AFCON 2006) will be saddled with the responsibility of taking charge in Cameroon.
The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) has announced that no target has been set for this team in Cameroon. While this would take away the weight of expectations from this team, it’s also a far cry from the resilient Nigerian spirit.
Another coach has been appointed for the Super Eagles by the NFF. He is Jose Pereiro. He will also be with the team in Cameroon but only as an observer of the team as he prepares to take over at the end of the tournament.
Napoli forward Victor Osihmen’s absence is a huge blow to this team and if Odion Ighalo also fails to appear in the green and white, line-ups will be interesting.
Goalkeepers: Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa), John Noble (Enyimba), Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, Netherlands), Francis Uzoho (Omonia Nicosia, Cyprus).
Defenders: Ola Aina (Torino, Italy), Chidozie Awaziem (Alanyaspor, Turkey), Jamilu Collins (Paderborn, Germany), Olisa Ndah (Orlando Pirates, South Africa), Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes, Spain), Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal), William Troost Ekong (Watford, England), Sheyi Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England), Tyrone Ebuehi (Venezia FC, Italy).
Midfielders: Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Rangers, Scotland), Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia), Alex Iwobi (Everton, England), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England), Frank Onyeka (Brentford, England), Kelechi Nwakali (Huesca, Spain).
Forwards: Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin, Germany), Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal, Spain), Odion Ighalo (Al Shabab, Saudi Arabia), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England), Moses Simon (Nantes, France), Sadiq Umar (Almeria, Spain), Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey), Henry Onyekuru (Olympiakos FC, Greece), Peter Olayinka (SK Slavia Praha, Czech Republic).
11 Jan 17:00 Nigeria v Egypt
11 Jan 20:00 Sudan v Guinea-Bissau
15 Jan 17:00 Nigeria v Sudan
15 Jan 20:00 Egypt v Guinea-Bissau
19 Jan 20:00 Nigeria v Guinea-Bissau
19 Jan 20:00 Egypt v Sudan
All games except Egypt vs Sudan will take place at the Yaoundé Roumdé Adjia Stadium in Garoua. Egypt vs Sudan will take place at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Cameroon’s capital city Yaoundé.
All games are in local time (GMT +1)
Egypt and Nigeria are best bets for the top two spots taking into account their squad strength and past history. Egypt are motivated to show the world its back to its glory days. The Pharoah’s 2021 Arab Cup semifinal feat shows that. The Nigerian team will look to impress without lots of expectations.
Sudan could be a good third and Guinea-Bissau a fourth. No surprise expected from this group but can it provide a title winner? Time will tell.
To be continued…
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