- Senegal face Gambia in their opening match
- Cameroon will play Guinea
- Angola take on Algeria in Bouake
Defending champions Senegal will get their campaign off in Yamoussoukro, taking on Gambia in the early kick off while Cameroon play Guinea in the late kick off at 8pm.
Meanwhile in Bouake, former champions Algeria will get their engines running against Angola in the late kick off at 11pm.
Defending champions Senegal start their title defense journey against Gambia’s Scorpions at the Charles Konan Banny Stadium in Yamoussoukro.
The Lions of Teranga are seeking another African crown, and they know only too well a positive start will be crucial in their bid to challenge for the title.
Only three nations in AFCON history have ever successfully defended their title in the following edition and Senegal will hope to make themselves number four.
Hopes are high of doing exactly that after Aliou Cissé’s men have gone unbeaten in all but one game since the beginning of 2023.
“We know that we face a tough match because Senegal showed their qualities in the last AFCON. We remain focused and hope for a positive start,” said coach Cisse, speaking before the game.
AFCON: Sadio Mane the star man for Senegal
The tactician will have his full squad intact and all eyes will be on their talisman Sadio Mane to guide them to victory.
“There is always pressure when you are the defending champion. But we have very experienced players in the team and we know how to deal with this pressure,” Cisse further added.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Andre Onana has arrived in the Cameroon camp ahead of their opener against Guinea.
Onana’s club, Manchester United, had requested the Cameroonian Federation to delay his arrival for him to play in two vital matches.
The keeper flew to Ivory Coast immediately after Sunday night’s 2-2 draw with Manchester United.
Cameroon start off their campaign against a difficult Guinean side, who have shown in pre-tournament friendly matches, that they are a difficult side. They beat Nigeria 2-0 in their last friendly match.
Cameroon head coach Rigobert Song is hopeful his side has what it takes to start well.
“It is a really difficult match against a quality Guinean side and we have to be very keen and concentrated all through the match,” said Song.
Song is making his first CAF Africa Cup of Nations appearance as head coach. As a player, he featured in a joint-record eight AFCON tournaments and won it on two occasions (2000, 2002).
Cameroon and Guinea in third meeting
This will be the third encounter between Cameroon and Guinea at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, all taking place in the group stages. The two previous meetings ended in draws: 2-2 in 1998 and 1-1 in 2015.
Cameroon are likely to be without striker and skipper Vincent Aboubakar for the opening match after he picked up a muscle strain in training.
At the same time, after a poor show at the last Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 2021 where, as defending champions they were eliminated in the group stages, Algeria’s Desert Foxes are looking to make a better performance this time round in Ivory Coast.
Algeria are drawn in Group D with Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Angola, and start their campaign against the Palancas Negras of Angola in Bouake.
Algeria and Angola are facing each other for the second time at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations. Their only previous encounter produced a goalless draw in the group stages of the 2010 edition, when the Angolans hosted.
Algeria head coach Djamel Belmadi knows only too well the pressure they face, and the need for them to regain confidence from their supporters.
“We know that last time we didn’t have a good tournament. But we have worked to try and improve on areas we felt we were short and I am hopeful we can do well this time. The target is to get out of the group stage first,” Belmadi said.
Meanwhile, Angola who return to the tournament after missing 2021 in Cameroon will be in line to halt Les Fennecs hopes.