Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

AFCON 2021 PREVIEW – ROAD TO YAOUNDE (PT 2)

Posted on 4 January 2022 by Mary Akinsola

Group B is up next.

2021 AFCON GROUP B

It hosts Guinea, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Senegal

GUINEA

It’s the 13th appearance of the National Elephants of Guinea who are currently ranked 89th in the world and 15th in Africa at the continental showpiece. A runners-up place in 1975 is their best result in history.

The National Elephants of Guinea faced with an uphill task from a Military Ruler

Coach Kabi Diawara leads the side. Midfielder Ibrahima Sory Conte will captain the team but Liverpool playmaker Naby Keïta can be regarded as the most important member of the squad in terms of club pedigree but with his less than impressive performances this season, AFCON is an opportunity to rediscover himself.

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Defender Aly Camara, midfielder Amadou Diawara and forward Mamadou Diallo are also players on whom many Guinean hopes will rest at this competition.

There is pressure on this Guinean team to perform at this tournament after the country’s Military Ruler, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya warned the players that they must win the Africa Cup of Nations, or pay back the money used to help them prepare for the tournament.

Guinea’s 2021 AFCON Squad during a meeting with Col. Doumbouya before Cameroon departure

This mandate does seem like it could impact team morale but it remains to be seen if this threat will be carried out as winning AFCON might be a long shot for this team. The on-paper team strength needed to win a continental title like AFCON might be inadequate in this team but where there is a will, there is a way.

If the 3-0 loss to Rwanda during a pre-tournament friendly is signs of things to come, Guinea are far from the title but the team will look to redeem themselves when they face Rwanda again on Friday at another friendly.

Guinea will open its 2021 AFCON account against Malawi in Bafoussam on the 10th of January.

Guinea’s team list reads:

Goalkeepers: Aly Keita (Ostersund, Sweden), Ibrahima Kone (Hibernians, Malta), Moussa Camara (Horoya, Guinea).

Defenders: Saidou Sow (St Etienne, France), Ibrahima Conte (Niort, France), Florentin Pogba (Sochaux, France), Ousmane Kante (Paris FC, France), Mohamed Aly Camara (Young Boys, Switzerland), Pa Konate (Botev Plovdiv, Bulgaria), Issiaga Sylla (Toulouse, France), Fode Camara (Horoya, Guinea), Gaoussou Yousouf Siby (Wakrya, Guinea), Mikael Dyrestam (Sarpsborg 08, Norway).

Midfielders: Amadou Diawara (Roma, Italy), Ibrahima Cisse (Seriang, Belgium), Mory Konate (Sint-Truidense, Belgium), Ibrahima Sory Conte (Bnei Sakhnin, Israel), Ilaix Moriba (RB Leipzig), Mamadou Kane (Neftci, Azerbaijan), Morlaye Sylla (Horoya, Guinea), Aguibou Camara (Olympiacos, Greece), Naby Keita (Liverpool, England).

Forwards: Seydouba Soumah (Kuwait SC, Kuwait), Morgan Guilavogui (Paris FC, France), Mamadou Diallo (Grenoble, France), Jose Kante (Kairat, Kazakhstan), Mohamed Bayo (Clermont France), Sory Kaba (OH Leuven, Belgium).

   MALAWI

Ranked 129th in the world and 35th in Africa, the Flames of Malawi are statistically the weakest link in the group and Coach Meke Mwase’s inclusion of five new players who were not part of the qualifiers.

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Ex-Leeds United forward Henry Kumwenda, Silver Strikers’ Zebron Kalima and Nyasa Big Bullets defender Sankhani Mkandawire’s are all included, but uncertainties about team strength remain.

The big question is if the team will have had enough time to work on cohesion in time for their first game on 10th January.

A friendly win against Comoros is a good start but another win against Mali will send warning signals to their Group B opponents.

Orlando Pirates forward Gabadinho Mhango is the man to look out for in this squad as he is seeking a chance to redeem himself and find his scoring boots again. A goalless run in the DStv Premiership this season has kept the club on edge but the forward will hope to use the 2021 AFCON as an avenue to get this groove back. After recording a goal and an assist during a friendly against Comoros, the striker seems set to deliver when the tournament starts.

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Mhango will partner with top scorer Khuda Muyaba and Baroka forward Richard Mbulu up front to deliver the goals for Malawi at this tournament.

Their full team roster includes:

Goalkeepers: Ernest Kakhobwe (Nyasa Big Bullets, Malawi), William Thole (Be Forward Wanderers, Malawi), Charles Thom (Silver Strikers, Malawi)

Defenders: Lawrence Chaziya (Civo Sporting, Malawi), Dennis Chembezi (Polokwane City, South Africa), Gomezgani Chirwa (Nyasa Big Bullets, Malawi), Peter Cholopi (Be Forward Wanderers, Malawi), Mark Fodya (Silver Strikers, Malawi), Limbikani Mzava (AmaZulu, South Africa), Stanley Sanudi (Be Forward Wanderers, Malawi)

Midfielders: John Banda (UD Songo, Mozambique), Chikoti Chirwa (Red Lions, Malawi), Chimwemwe Idana (Nyasa Big Bullets, Malawi), Micium Mhone (Blue Eagles, Malawi), Charles Petro (Sheriff Tiraspol, Moldova)

Forwards: Peter Banda (Simba SC,Tanzania), Yamikani Chester (Be Forward Wanderers, Malawi), Zebron Kalima (Silver Strikers, Malawi), Francisco Madinga (Dila Gori, Georgia), Richard Mbulu (Baroka FC, South Africa), Gabadinho Mhango (Orlando Pirates, South Africa), Khuda Muyaba (Polokwane City, South Africa), Robin Ngalande (St George, Ehiopia). 

ZIMBABWE

Zimbabwe go into AFCON 2021 with the threat of a FIFA ban and possible exclusion looming large above them. The deadline for action imposed by FIFA has passed, without the Zimbabwe FA having carried out what was expected of them.

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In November 2021, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), a body saddled with the responsibility of Sports management in Zimbabwe suspended the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) accusing it of corruption and mismanagement of funds.

The SRC then set up a nine-member restructuring committee to take charge of football in the country. It also wrote to FIFA about the developments.

But on the 21st of December 2021, FIFA announced that it may have to impose a ban on Zimbabwe unless the elected FA regains control of the sport in the country by 3rd of January insisting that it frowned upon governmental interference of any form for any reason but there is no update from FIFA at this time.

The 121st ranked team in the world are walking on thin ice both diplomatically and in terms of squad depth at this competition as most have criticized the interim coach Norman Mapeza for naming just 23 players for the tournament instead of the 28 allowed by CAF due to the Covid situation.

The team will be without veteran Khama Billiat but all eyes will be on Captain, Knowledge Musona to deliver in front of goal at this tournament.

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Their threadbare team selection includes:

Goalkeepers: Petros Mhari (FC Platinum, Zimbabwe), Martin Mapisa (FC Zamora, Spain), Talbert Shumba (Free State Stars, South Africa).

Defenders: Peter Muduwa (Highlanders, Zimbabwe), Alec Mudimu (Torpedo Kutaisi, Georgia), Takudzwa Chimwemwe (Nkana, Zambia), Jordan Zemura (Bournemouth, England), Godknows Muriwa (Dynamos, Zimbabwe), Gerald Takwara (Venda Football Academy, South Africa), Teenage Hadebe (Houston Dynamo, USA), Bruce Kangwa (Azam, Tanzania), Onismor Bhasera (SuperSport United, South Africa).

Midfielders: Kelvin Madzongwe (FC Platinum, Zimbabwe), Thabani Kamusoko (Zesco United, Zambia), Never Tigere (Azam, Tanzania), Kudakwashe Mahachi (SuperSport United, South Africa), Ishmael Wadi (JDR Stars, South Africa), Kundai Benyu (Vestri, Iceland).

Forwards: Admiral Muskwe (Luton Town, England), Prince Dube (Azam, Tanzania), David Moyo (Hamilton Academical, Scotland), Knowledge Musona (Al Tai, Saudi Arabia), Tinotenda Kadewere (Lyon, France).

SENEGAL

Statistically the strongest of the lot in group B according to FIFA rankings with a 1st in Africa and 20th in the world, most agree that it’s another golden age of Senegalese football and the 2021 AFCON could be their best shot at a first ever AFCON title.

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A parade of big names in this team increases hopes of a title shot at their 16th tournament appearance with the team list showing a good spread of talent and experience in every position.

Coach Aliou Cisse team who was in charge at the 2019 final loss to Algeria in Egypt will lead the team from the touchline in Cameroon. A good bulk of the 2019 team is still very present and the Teranga Lions could easily match and overtake most teams in squad strength at this competition.

Liverpool’s forward Sadio Mané, UCL winning Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, Leicester City midfielder Nampalys Mendy and PSG midfielder Idrissa Gueye are some of the big names that will headline this squad.

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Ismaila Sarr still remains a doubt as Watford insists that it would be detrimental to the recovery of the forward to release him for AFCON while nursing an injury. However, there are no indications that a replacement will be named soon as Senegal continue to hold out hope for his release.

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If Sarr is released by Watford, it’s safe to assume that he won’t be able to partake in games until at least the quarter-finals if Senegal does make it that far in this competition.

This team has all the recipe for greatness and can be easily named title favorites.

Their star-studded squad includes:

Goalkeepers: Edouard Mendy (Chelsea, England), Alfred Gomis (Rennes, France), Seny Dieng (Queens Park Rangers, England).

Defenders: Bouna Sarr (Bayern Munich, Germany), Saliou Ciss (Nancy, France), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli, Italy), Pape Abou Cisse (Olympiakos, Greece), Abdoulaye Seck (Royal Antwerp, Belgium), Abdou Diallo (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Ibrahima Mbaye (Bologna, Italy), Fode Ballo-Toure (AC Milan, Italy), Cheikhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace, England).

Midfielders: Pape Matar Sarr (Metz, France), Pape Gueye (Marseille, France), Nampalys Mendy (Leicester City, England), Idrissa Gana Gueye (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Moustapha Name (Paris FC, France), Mamadou Loum (Alaves, Spain), Joseph Lopy (Sochaux, France).

Forwards: Boulaye Dia (Villarreal, Spain), Sadio Mané (Liverpool, England), Habib Diallo (Strasbourg, France), Bamba Dieng (Marseille, France), Ismaila Sarr (Watford, England), Famara Diedhiou (Alanyaspor, Turkey), Mame Baba Thiam (Kayserispor,Turkey), Keita Balde (Cagliari, Italy).

 

Group Fixtures:

10 Jan.     14:00               Senegal      v        Zimbabwe

10 Jan.     17:00              Guinea          v          Malawi

14 Jan.      14:00              Senegal         v         Guinea

14 Jan.      17:00              Malawi          v         Zimbabwe

18 Jan.      17:00              Malawi          v         Senegal

18 Jan.      17:00              Zimbabwe   v         Guinea

All games except Zimbabwe vs Guinea will hold at the Kouekong Stadium in Bafoussam. Zimbabwe vs Guinea will hold at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Cameroon’s capital city Yaoundé.

All games are in local time (GMT +1).

Senegal can be confident of topping the group. Zimbabwe and Guinea will fight for the second spot but Guinea should get a slight edge. A second round berth for Malawi will definitely be a shocker but at whose expense will it be?

 

To be continued…