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Football

Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2021 Preview: Group D

AFCON Official Poster
AFCON Official Poster

The Roumdé Adjia Stadium in Garoua will play host Group D matches at the delayed 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Preview. This group will be contested by record champions Egypt, 2019 bronze medal winners Nigeria as well as East African representatives Sudan and Guinea Bissau.

Egypt and Nigeria are seen as outright favourites to qualify from this group.

NIGERIA

Nigeria

AFCON appearances – 19

Titles won – 3

Head coach – Augustine Eguavoen

The Super Eagles have had the most drama in the build up to the tournament. From coaching changes to several key players missing, it has been a cocktail of events for the Nigerians leading up to Cameroon.

It all started with the firing of Franco-German coach Gernot Rohr just after the conclusion of the penultimate round of qualification for the 2022 World Cup.

Nigerian Football Federation Technical Director Augustine Eguavoen was picked up to take charge of the team on interim basis before they ultimately picked up Portuguese Jose Peseiro as the new boss, though he will only be an observer at the AFCON.

With that done, the next phase of drama was the availability of players. Watford refused to let go of Emmanuel Dennis while despite declaring himself fit after facial surgery, Victor Osimhen pulled out in the last minute.

Earlier on, Paul Onuacho who is in fine scoring form in Belgium for his club Genk was declared unavailable due to injury. The latest blow has been veteran striker Odion Ighalo being blocked by his Saudi club Al Shabaab from playing at the tournament.

With all this cocktail of drama akin to their famous Nollywood movies, Nigeria hope to put up a show in Cameroon.

They qualified to the tournament after finishing top in Group L with 14 points. They earned four victories, beating Lesotho and Benin home and away while both of their draws came against Sierra Leone who also progressed after finishing second in the group.

With the attacking absence of the four players, all eyes will be on Leicester City Striker Kelechi Iheanacho to bag in the goals for his country. Other players who will potentially offer danger for Nigeria include Everton’s Alex Iwobi and Villareal’s Samuel Chukwueze.

Nigeria AFCON squad:

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

Defenders: Chidozie Awaziem (Alanyaspor FC, Turkey); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); William Ekong (Watford FC, England); Ola Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Jamilu Collins (SC Paderborn 07, Germany); Abdullahi Shehu (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal); Olisa Ndah (Orlando Pirates, South Africa)

Midfielders: Frank Onyeka (Brentford FC, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Kelechi Nwakali (SD Huesca, Spain)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Sadiq Umar (UD Almeria, Spain); Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin, Germany); Alex Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England.

EGYPT

AFCON 2021 Group D preview

AFCON appearances – 25

Titles won – Seven

Head coach – Coach Carlos Queiroz

Since winning a hattrick of AFCON titles under Hassan Shehata in 2006, 2008 and 2010, the Pharaohs have been a pale shadow of themselves.

Their performance at the FIFA Arab Cup last month and during the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, despite their progression to the next round, was not assuring and they will be out to restore faith in Cameroon.

Despite the presence of one of the world’s best players in Mohamed Salah, Egypt have struggled to convince. Can they assure their fans of the return to glory days in Cameroon?

The Egyptians qualified top of Group G after accumulating 12 points off three victories and three draws. They beat Togo home and away and had a final day 4-0 home victory over Comoros while they were held to draws by Kenya both home and away as well as away to Comoros.

Coach Queiroz was not present during the qualifiers, but had time during the Road to Qatar 2022 to have a keen look at his team.

The Portuguese tactician, former assistant at Manchester United with Sir Alex Ferguson has his work cut out in Cameroon.

Apart from Salah, other players to watch for the Pharaohs include goalkeeper Mohamed Elshenawy. The Al Ahly shot-stopper has been a vital cog for both club and country.

Another vital player to their system is defender Ahmed Hegazi. Hegazi, who currently plays his club football in Saudi Arabia with Al Ittihad is one of the most experienced players in the Egyptian team.

His leadership of the entire team and the defense line was key as Egypt secured their 25th ticket to the Cup of Nations and as they start their tournament in Garoua in a tough group, he is once again expected to be a key figure.

Egypt squad:

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

Guinea Bissau

AFCON appearances – 3

Titles won – 0

Head coach – Bassiro Cande

The Djurtus will be playing in their third consecutive Cup of Nations, having first qualified in 2017 before playing in 2019 again, where they couldn’t make it past the group stages.

They qualified second from Group I. They picked nine points, five behind group winners Senegal. They earned three wins to guarantee qualification and lost an equal number of matches.

Their victories were against Eswatini home and away as well as a final day 3-0 victory over Congo Brazzaville that earned them a place in Cameroon.

Not necessarily favourites in this group, but Guinea Bissau can cause upsets and will be a team both Nigeria and Egypt will be keen on.

Among the players to watch for Guinea Bissau include Piqueti Djassi Brito Silva.

The striker who plays his club football in Saudi Arabia with Al Shoulla was key as Guinea Bissau earned their third consecutive place at the Cup of Nations. He scored two goals in qualification and is expected to be crucial once again in a tough group.

Another player who will be key for the Djurtus is Jorge Fernando Barbosa Intima.

Barbosa, nicknamed Jorginho, also scored two goals in qualification for Guinea Bissau. He plays his club football in Poland with Wisla Plock where he is a regular. The former Portugal youth player has vast experience and will be key for the Djurtus.

He will be playing in his second consecutive Cup of Nations.

Guinea Bissau squad:

Goalkeepers: Jonas Mendes (Beira Mar, Portugal), Maurice Gomis (Ayia Napa FC, Cyprus), Manuel Mama Samba Balde (Vizela, Portugal).

Defenders: Nanu (FC Porto, Portugal), Fali Cande (Portimonense, Portugal), Sori Mane (Moreirense, Portugal), Leonel Ucha (Marinhense, Portugal), Simao Junior (Vilafranquense, Portugal), Opa Sangatte (Chateauroux, France), Jefferson Encada (Leixoes, Portugal), Fernandy Mendy (Alloa Athletic, Scotland).

Midfielders: Pele (AS Monaco, France), Bura (Farense, Portugal), Joao Jaquite (Vilafranquense, Portugal), Moreto Cassama (Stade de Reims, France), Alfa Semedo (Vitoria Guimaraes, Portugal), Panutche Camara (Plymouth Argyle, England).

Forwards: Mama Balde (Troyes, France), Piqueti (Al Shoulla, Saudi Arabia), Jorginho (Wisla Plock, Poland), Mauro Rodrigues (Sion, Switzerland), Joseph Mendes (Niort, France), Steve Ambri (Sochaux, France), Frederic Mendy (Vitoria Setubal, Portugal).

SUDAN

AFCON 2021 Group D preview

AFCON appearance – 9

Titles won – 1

Head coach – Burhan Tia

The Falcons of Jediane are returning to the Cup of Nations for the first time since 2012 when they reached the quarter finals.

Sudan finished second in Group C of the qualifiers, claiming 12 points from the six qualification games, finishing off just one point above group winners Ghana and ahead of South Africa who they edged out.

They won four matches, home and away against Sao Tome and Principe (4-0 and 2-0), Ghana 1-0 at home and South Africa at home (2-0). They lost twice, both away to Ghana and South Africa.

The Sudanese also changed coaches just before the tournament with Frenchman Hubert Velud having been dismissed.

The team is now under the tutelage of homegrown coach Burhan Tia who will hope to make a surprise from this group.

Among players who will be key for Sudan include Mohamed Abdel Rahman.

The forward who plays his club football for Al Hilal in Omdurman scored three goals for the Falcons of Jediane in the qualification matches and has been their biggest threat offensively. In Cameroon, he is once again expected to lead the line.

Sudan AFCON 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).

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