Sports Gazette

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

AFCON 2021 PREVIEW – ROAD TO YAOUNDE (PT 6)

Posted on 8 January 2022 by Mary Akinsola

It’s the final part of Sports Gazette’s 2021 AFCON Group stage previews. Group F is next. Its home to 2004 Champions Tunisia, 1972 Runners up Mali, low ranked Mauritania and debutants Gambia.

2021 AFCON GROUP F

TUNISIA

Irrespective of their form, the Carthage Eagles are always AFCON title contenders. Since 1996, they have only failed to reach the quarterfinals at any AFCON tournament twice.

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The 2004 AFCON Champions will go to Cameroon as the 4th ranked team in Africa and the 30th in the world.

Team selection could be a headache for Coach Mondher Kebaier after the Tunisian Football Federation (FTF) revealed that it’s the national team’s main striker Zamalek’s Seifeddine Jaziri contracted Covid-19 right before departure to Cameroon.

Unfortunately, they are also unable to replace Jaziri who was the highest goal scorer at the Arab Cup. He was a part of the submitted squad list and the list can’t be altered after the 30th December 2021 deadline set by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

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Without Jaziri, attention shifts to home based Esperance midfielder Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane who will be looking to get his name on the Tunisian score sheet for the first time in his career.

Saint Etienne midfielder Wahbi Khazri is another name to look out for in this squad. He has evolved from a national U-20 player in 2009 to recording 22 goals in 62 appearances for the senior national team as at the end of 2021.

18 year old Manchester United midfielder Hannibal Mejbri is one of the youngest in this tournament. He started all of Tunisia’s games at the 2021 Arab Cup except the final which they lost to Algeria. The young starlet impressed in all appearances winning two Man of the Match awards at the tournament.

Tunisia’s AFCON 2021 campaign starts against Mali on the 12th of January.

The team’s full list include:

Goalkeepers: Farouk Ben Mustapha (Esperance, Tunisia), Bechir Ben Said (US Monastir, Tunisia), Ayman Dahmen (Sfaxien, Tunisia), Ali Jemal (Stade Tunisien, Tunisia).

Defenders: Dylan Bronn (Metz, France), Montassar Talbi (Rubin Kazan, Russia), Bilel Ifa (Club Africain, Tunisia), Oussama Haddadi (Malatyaspor, Turkey), Omar Rekik (Arsenal, England), Mohamed Drager (Nottingham Forest, England), Mohamed Amine Ben Hamida (Esperance, Tunisia), Hamza Mathlouthi (Zamalek, Egypt), Ali Maaloul (Al-Ahly, Egypt), Ali Abdi (Caen, France).

Midfielders: Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane (Esperance, Tunisia), Aissa Laidouni (Ferencvaros, Hungary), Ellyes Skhiri (Cologne, Germany), Ghailene Chaalali (Esperance, Tunisia), Seif-Eddine Khaoui (Clermont, France), Anis Ben Slimane (Brondby, Denmark), Hannibal Mejbri (Manchester United, England), Firas Ben Larbi (Ajman, UAE), Wahbi Khazri (Saint Etienne, France), Hamza Rafia (Standard Liege, Belgium), Naim Sliti (Al-Ittifaq, Saudi Arabia).

Forwards: Seifeddine Jaziri (Zamalek, Egypt), Yoann Touzghar (Troyes, France), Youssef Msakni (Al Arabi, Qatar).

MALI

Cameroon is a place of mixed fortunes for the Malians. The last time they made it to an AFCON final was 1972 (they lost to Congo 2-3). The tournament was hosted in Cameroon. They also reached the finals of the 2020 African Nations Championship (CHAN) hosted in Cameroon where they lost to Morocco.

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The greatest strength of this present Mali squad is that a good number of the squad have history together which dates back to winning the African Under-17 title in 2015 then runners up finish at the FIFA U-17 World Cup that year.

The team also won the African Youth Championship in 2019.

It’s been a steady rise together for this side which possess a good number of youngsters who are hungry for continental glory.

Team coach Mohamed Magassouba has been at the helm of affairs of this team since 2017 and that is a stability that they could harness in Cameroon. It’s been an impressive World cup qualification run too with five wins and a draw in six games. They also scored 11 goals and conceded none.

Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Yves Bissouma will headline this squad alongside big names like Southampton forward Moussa Djenepo and Hoffenheim playmaker Diadie Samassekou.

Sarpsborg forward Ibrahima Kone, who has netted 11 times in 26 appearances for club this season, leads the attack line in a young team full of potential.

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Mali is ranked 9th in Africa and 53rd in the world going to the 2021 AFCON and a podium finish would be a decent outing for the team.

Its full squad list is:

Goalkeepers: Djigui Diarra (Young Africans, Tanzania), Ismael Diawara (Malmo, Sweden), Ibrahima Mounkoro (TP Mazembe, DR Congo).

Defenders: Senou Coulibaly (Dijon, France), Mamadou Fofana (Amiens, France), Massadio Haidara (Racing Lens, France), Boubacar Kiki Kouyate (Metz, France), Falaye Sacko (Vitoria Guimaraes, Portugal), Issiaka Samake (Horoya, Guinea), Moussa Sissako (Standard Liege, Belgium), Charles Traore (Nantes, France), Hamari Traore (Stade Rennes, France).

Midfielders: Yves Bissouma (Brighton and Hove Albion, England), Mohamed Camara (RB Salzburg, Austria), Lassana Coulibaly (Salernitana, Italy), Aliou Dieng (Al Ahly, Egypt), Amadou Haidara (RB Leipzig, Germany), Romenigue Kouame (Troyes, France), Diadie Samassekou (Hoffenheim, Germany), Adama ‘Noss’ Traore (Hatayspor, Turkey), Hamidou Traore (Giresunspor, Turkey).

Forwards: Kalifa Coulibaly (Nantes, France), Moussa Doumbia (Stade Reims, France), Moussa Djenepo (Southampton, England), Ibrahima Kone (Sarpsborg, Norway), Lassine Sinayoko (AJ Auxerre, France), Adama “Malouda” Traore (Sheriff Tiraspol, Moldova), El Bilal Toure (Stade Reims, France).

GAMBIA

Underestimating Gambia in Cameroon because of the debutants tag might be a huge mistake on the part of its opponents.

This small yet enterprising team finished top of their 2021 AFCON qualification group. That group had big wigs like Gabon, DR Congo and Angola in it.

Team Coach Tom Saintfiet has a broad experience managing on the continent. He has recorded stints with five African countries amongst whom are Togo, Zimbabwe and Malawi before joining Gambia in 2018.

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The Scorpions are ranked 46th in Africa and 150th in the world and will seek to start their AFCON account on a good note in Cameroon.

FC Zurich forward Assan Ceesay and other starlets like Bologna forward Musa Barrow and Sampdoria defender Omar Colley are important members of this largely Europe based team.

Pundits and commentators expect this team to build upon its qualification stage success and not get distracted by its debutants status.

A quick look at the squad:

Goalkeepers: Baboucarr Gaye (Rot-Weiss Koblenz, Germany), Sheikh Sibi (Virtus Verona, Italy), Modou Jobe (Black Leopards, South Africa).

Defenders: Pa Modou Jagne (FC Dietikon, Switzerland), Omar Colley (Sampdoria, Italy), James Gomez (AC Horsens, Denmark), Noah Sonko Sundberg (Ostersund, Sweden), Bubacarr Sanneh (Unattached), Ibou Touray (Salford City, England), Saidy Janko (Real Valladolid, Spain), Mohammed Mbye (Solvesborg, Sweden).

Midfielders: Ebrima Sohna (Fortune FC, The Gambia), Dawda Ngum (Bronshoj, Denmark), Sulayman Marreh (Gent, Belgium), Ebrima Darboe (Roma, Italy), Yusupha Bobb (Piacenza, Italy), Ebou Adams (Forest Green Rovers, England), Musa Barrow (Bologna, Italy), Ablie Jallow (Seraing, Belgium), Steve Trawally (Ajman, UAE), Ebrima Colley (Spezia, Italy).

Forwards: Lamin Jallow (Fehervar, Hungary), Bubacarr Jobe (Norrby, Sweden), Assan Ceesay (FC Zurich, Switzerland), Muhammed Badamosi (Kortrijk, Belgium), Modou Barrow (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, South Korea), Dembo Darboe (Shakhtyor Soligorsk, Belarus), Yusupha Njie (Boavista, Portugal).

 

MAURITANIA

It’s a second ever AFCON appearance for Mauritania who are currently ranked 23rd in Africa and 103rd in the world.

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The team called up by head coach Didier Gomes to prosecute 2021 AFCON team is quite different from that which crashed out at the group stage of the 2021 Arab Cup only managing to record a win in their second game against Syria.

This AFCON squad includes several European based players such as Le Havre striker Pape Ibnou Ba, Valenciennes defender Aly Abeid , Goal FC defender Diadie Diarra and Goal FC midfielder Almike N’Diaye.

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16 year old AS Douanes midfielder Beyatt Lekweiry is an interesting prospect to watch out for. He was a part of the Mauritania U-20 national team at the age of 15, when he played in the U-20 Arab Cup in Saudi Arabia in 2020.

Al Ahli defender Abdoul Ba who is team captain and RS Berkane forward Adama Ba are back in the squad after missing out of the Arab Cup.

Mauritania takes on Gambia on its first 2021 AFCON game on the 12th of January.

Team’s full list include:

Goalkeepers: Babacar Diop (FC Nouadhibou, Mauritania), Mbacke Ndiaye (Nouakchott Kings, Mauritania), Mohamed El Mokhtar (AS Douanes, Mauritania).

Defenders: Abdoul Ba (Al Ahli, Libya), Diadie Diarra (Goal FC, France), El Hassen Houbeibib (Al Zawaraa, Iraq), Harouna Abou Demba (Unattached), Souleymane Karamoko (Nancy, France), Aly Abeid (Valenciennes, France), Houssen Abderrahmane (Royal Francs Borains, Belgium), Abdoulkader Thiam (US Boulogne, France).

Midfielders: Mohamed Dellah Yali (Unattached), Guessouma Fofana (Cluj, Romania), Ibrehima Coulibaly (Le Mans, France), Khassa Camara (NorthEast United FC, India), Almike Moussa Ndiaye (Goal FC, France), Yacoub Sidi Ethmane (AS Vita, DR Congo), Mohsen Bodda (FC Nouadhibou, Mauritania), Abdallahi Mahmoud (NK Istra, Croatia), Mohamed Soueid (FC Nouadhibou, Mauritania), Beyatt Lekweiry (AS Douanes, Mauritania).

Forwards: Aboubakar Kamara (Aris Thessaloniki, Greece), Hemeya Tanjy (FC Nouadhibou, Mauritania), Oumar Camara (Beroe Stara Zagora, Bulgaria), Adama Ba (RS Berkane, Morocco), Souleymane Doukara (Giresunspor Kulubu, Turkey), Idrissa Thiam (ASAC Concorde, Mauritania), Pape Ibnou Ba (Le Havre, France).

Group fixtures list:

12 Jan   14:00        Tunisia                v              Mali

12 Jan   17:00        Mauritania        v              Gambia

16 Jan   14:00        Gambia              v              Mali

16 Jan   17:00        Tunisia                v              Mauritania

20 Jan    20:00        Gambia             v              Tunisia

20 Jan     20:00        Mali   v              Mauritania

All games except Mali vs Mauritania will hold Limbe Stadium in Limbe. Mali vs Mauritania will hold at the Japoma Stadium in Douala.

All games are in local time (GMT +1)

Tunisia could finish with a top spot here if it builds upon its 2021 Arab Cup success. Mali on the other hand as a young, energetic and impressive side and they could take the top spot if they give a good account of themselves. The third spot could be a battle between Mauritania and Gambia but if Gambia can shake off its debutants jitters, that third spot is achievable. Can a title winner emerge from this group?

It’s the end of Sports Gazette’s 2021 AFCON Group Stage previews. Thank you for keeping faith with us.

AFCON roundups after every Matchday will be available on this platform.

Watch out.

 

You can read more of our AFCON 2021 coverage here: https://sportsgazette.co.uk/category/football/

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