African football biennial pilgrimage, the #AFCON2019 begins tomorrow and the attention of some of us will shift to Egypt. This will be the first time 24 teams will be participating in the tournament, and 3 debutants are part of this fiesta.
52 games will be played over a duration of one month and all of Africa’s footballing stellar cast are on parade in Egypt. Can Egypt led by the poster-boy of African football Mohammed Salah win the trophy for an 8th time or can they be beaten to it by a more complete Senegal side parading respected names in Europe like Sadio Mane and Khalidou Koulibaly to mention but a few.
Algeria think Egypt offers a veritable platform to restore lost glory and that is what the likes of Man.City’s Riyadh Mahrez and other supporting cast like Slimani, Brahimi, Feghouli and Bounedjah will hope to achieve in Egypt. A team that left Napoli’s Faouzi Ghoulam out of the 23-man selection must be respected.
Morocco in my perception appears to be the most complete team in terms of personnel and technically too. Led by the Hollywood-looking, French tactical football teacher Herve Renard, Morocco boast an array of stars. Dutch-Moroccan superstar Hakim Ziyech of Ajax is the poster-boy of this team that parade a list of outstanding names like Benatia, Hakimi, En-Nesyri, Belhanda, Boufal and you can just go on and on and on. Morocco, I think may just go all the way at AFCON 2019.
Underrate Cote D’Ivoire at your own peril, Nicholas Pepe of Lille in France was one of the most outstanding players in the Ligue Un last season and is already a subject of interest from many suitors. Wilfried Zaha is another star of this side that also have in their ranks the likes of Max Gradel, Serge Aurier and Frank Kessie.
Cameroun are the AFCON defending champions and will want to prove that their 2017 win was no fluke. Coached by footballing legends Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert, Cameroun with Christian Bassogog, Maxim Choupo-Moting, Karl Toko Ekambi and Zambo Anguissa to name a few may still ruffle feathers in Egypt.
Then our beloved Super Eagles of Nigeria—- will they fly in Egypt? Chukwueze, Kalu, Onyekuru and Onuachu think they will fly, I think so too. They will be led by the Legend- John Mikel Obi, and together with the other members of the team, Nigeria may be lifting her 4th continental title come the 19th of July 2019.
We cannot forget Ghana, after a captaincy row that unsettled the team, the Ayew brothers and Asamoah Gyan, alongside the rest of the gang cannot wait to end Ghana’s trophy drought.
Could there be a dark horse in Egypt? Could it be Amuneke’s Tanzania? They have a certain Mbwana Samatta that lighted up the Belgian league with Genk last season. Could Zimbabwe be the surprise package of AFCON 2019? Could it be any of the other teams on the roster?
We will find answers beginning from tonight.
By Neydu Wordsmith Onuoha