Defending champions Ivory Coast will be looking to retain the trophy in this year’s African Cup of Nations which will be held in Gabon as they battle it out with 16 other teams in a tournament which kicks off on Saturday 14th 2017. The 31st edition of AFCON will be graced by Africa’s bright talents led by Riyad Mahrez, (Algeria), who was voted the 2016 African Player of the year, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sadio Mané.
The hosts Gabon will curtain raise the tournament as they face Guinea Bissau who are seen as the real underdogs. Guinea Bissau’s journey is one of a fairytale as the country which is one of the world poorest overcame Zambia, the 2012 champions to make it in the last 16 round, having previously won only four of 32 matches in their history.
Our neighboring country Uganda finally made it through after 39 years of waiting and it is the World Cup 2010, quarter-finalists, Ghana who will introduce them back in the tournament as they play on Tuesday.
Ivory Coast, Ghana, Senegal, Algeria and Egypt are seen as the favorites, coming into this tournament. Ghana have been performing well in the African tournaments but always fall short of winning the title and being knocked out at the final stages. It is surprising for a team at their level that the last time they won it was in 1982 though it was their forth.
Algeria come into the tournament through an unbeaten run and boasts Africa’s top players including English Premier League 2016 title winners, Riyad Mahrez and his team mate at Leicester City Slimani as well as Porto midfielder Yacine Brahimi. The team is full of confidence and they will fancy their chances of winning the title.
Senegal also boast good talent in their squad led by Liverpool’s Sadio Mane who has been having a fantastic run with the reds. Others are the likes of Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, West Ham midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate and Fenerbahce striker Moussa Sow. They are indeed capable of reaching the final stages of the tournament having made through with 100% record.
Egypt did enjoy a good run during the qualifiers and it’s more of a strong team being awaken again and they are expected to pose a good challenge against their competitors. They look to former Chelsea player, Salah to lead their attack.
Since Zambia pulled a shocker in 2012, AFCON is now hard to predict as it seems like even the so called underdogs are slowly transforming into ‘top dogs’.