The historic AFCON 2019 finals will get underway on Friday, June 21 with an unprecedented 24 countries participating. Completesports.com here presents an analysis of all the teams pooled in six groups. By Oluyemi Ogunseyin.
GROUP A: EGYPT, DR CONGO, UGANDA, ZIMBABWE
Egypt, the host nation of the biggest Africa Cup of Nations and most successful team in the competition will face a stiff competition in their effort to qualify from Group A and possibly win the trophy.
Egypt are without mincing words one of the favorites to win the competition. While the Pharaohs are only the eighth highest-ranked African nation by FIFA, the hosts are the most successful side in AFCON history.
They hold the record for most titles, having won seven while Cameroon have five. Egypt are also the only country to have won the crown three times on the trot from 2006 to 2010, joining Argentina and Mexico as the only nations to win their continental cup three consecutive times.
DR Congo, ranked 46th in the world and fifth in Africa are searching for a third ACFON title. The Leopards have won it twice before but it should be noted that their last success was in 1974.
Since then, they have won bronze on two different occasions, once in 1998 and 2015 but crashed out of the quarter-finals in the last tournament.
Uganda will be making back-to-back AFCON appearances for the first time since 1978. Their qualification for the 2017 edition ended a 39-year absence from the competition but the Cranes exited in the group stage in Gabon.
They are yet to win the trophy before with their fourth-placed and second-placed finishes in 1962 and 1978 being their best-ever campaigns.
The odds are stacked against Zimbabwe in Group A. This will be only their fourth AFCON appearance and they have failed to make it past the group stages in their three previous attempts.
Of the Warriors’ nine AFCON games, six ended in defeats and only two saw them emerge victorious. However, it should be noted that Zimbabwe beat Group A rivals, DR Congo to the number one spot in the qualifiers which will be a confidence booster.
GROUP B: NIGERIA, GUINEA, MADAGASCAR, BURUNDI
Two debutantes and two household names will be squaring off in a group which could present some of the 2019 AFCON’s biggest upsets.
Nigeria are three-time AFCON winners and will be making an 18th appearance in Egypt. The Super Eagles won their first title on home soil in 1980 and added the second at Tunisia 1994.
They secured their most recent title in 2013 following a 1-0 victory over Burkina Faso in the final in South Africa but failed to attend the last two editions. The West Africans have finished as runners-up on four occasions and won bronze medal seven times.
The Syli Nationale of Guinea have never won the AFCON despite featuring in 12 of the 31 editions held so far. Their best record at the competition came at Ethiopia 1976 when it finished as runners-up.
With the exception of the 2017 tournament held in Gabon, Guinea have made it to the quarter-finals in four recent editions (2004, 2006, 2008, 2015).
Madagascar have never made an appearance at any of the previous editions of the AFCON. The 2019 finals in Egypt will be the very first of its kind for the Barea.
Just like Madagascar, the Swallows of Burundi will also be making their debut at the AFCON 2019 finals in Egypt.
GROUP C: SENEGAL, ALGERIA, KENYA, TANZANIA
The likes of top English Premier League players such as Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez, and Victor Wanyama will battle it out in Group C for two spots in the knockout stage.
Senegal do not boast the best of records at the AFCON. While the Lions of Teranga have long been a formidable side in Africa, they are yet to win the title. They came close in 2002, losing 3-2 on penalties to Cameroon in the final.
Besides, three fourth-placed finishes were all they could muster. Regardless, they topped their group in the qualifiers and are one of the favorites. Liverpool attacking ace, Mane and Co. are not ranked 23 in the world and number one in Africa for nothing.
One-time AFCON champion, Algeria want a second title in Egypt. After a disastrous spell from 2014 to 2018 in which the national team hired and sacked five different coaches, things are now looking bright for the Fennecs.
The North Africans will be making their 18th AFCON appearance, just like Nigeria. Since lifting the title in 1990, Algeria have crashed out in the group stage five times, but will be looking to avoid a sixth embarrassment once the competition kicks off.
This will be Kenya’s sixth appearance. All five of their previous attempts to make the knockout stage ended in failures. The Harambee Stars have won only one of the 14 AFCON games they have played, losing nine and drawing once.
In the qualifiers, they finished only two points behind Ghana, though and are hopeful of upsetting their more illustrious Group C rivals, Senegal and Algeria.
This will be Tanzania’s first AFCON appearance since their debut campaign back 1980, an impressive task accomplish with their Nigerian coach and former Super Eagles winger, Emmanuel Amuneke. However, the Taifa Stars are the worst bet to advance from the group. They did not make it out of the group stage in their only previous appearance, losing two of the three games they played.
GROUP D: MOROCCO, COTE D’IVOIRE, SOUTH AFRICA, NAMIBIA
South Africa and Namibia will need to put in massive shifts to stand any chance whatsoever of making the knockout stage when they face two of the competition’s favorites, Morocco and Ivory Coast.
Morocco will be making its 17th appearance at the AFCON finals in Egypt. The Atlas Lions’ best achievement was winning the 1976 edition. Since then, though, they have been runners-up and second-runners up on one occasion apiece, and have ended up in fourth place two times.
Namibia will be making only their third AFCON appearance. The Brave Warriors first qualified for the 1998 edition in Burkina Faso while their second appearance was in Ghana 2008. The Southern African nation, however, suffered elimination in the group stage on both occasions.
The Bafana Bafana’s biggest-ever achievement in the AFCON finals was hosting and winning the 1996 edition. Two years later, they almost added another to their trophy cabinet but finished as runners-up in Burkina.
This was followed by a third-place finish in 2000. South Africa have qualified for the African championship on 10 occasions.
Ivory Coast have qualified for the AFCON a staggering 23 times. The Elephants have been champions on just two occasions, although they have reached the quarter-finals in six of the last seven editions of the tournament.
They have finished as runners-up twice, in third place on four occasions and in the fourth-place on two occasions as well.
GROUP E: TUNISIA, MALI, MAURITANIA, ANGOLA
On paper, at least, it looks like it will be likely Mali and Tunisia battling it out for top spot with Angola looking to have a say while Mauritania will only hope to get off the mark in their first ever tournament.
The Carthage Eagles’ best result was winning their first and only to date AFCON title in 2004. They also earned a runners-up spot in 1965 and 1996. Arguably, Tunisia are among the most experienced sides in Egypt as they will be making their 19th appearance.
They will be hoping to improve on their performances from 2015 and 2017 during which they exited at the quarter-finals stage.
To date, Mali’s best ever AFCON finish was securing a runners-up berth in 1972 which was their debut. The Les Aigles also earned consecutive third-place finishes in 2012 and 2013 but failed to qualify from the group stage in their last two participations in 2015 and 2017.
This summer will be their 11th appearance and it will be very interesting to see if they can take advantage of a relatively easy group and avoid an early exit for the third straight time.
Mauritania will be featuring at their first ever AFCON finals, and they will again face familiar foes Angola who beat them to top spot in their qualification group.
The small nation will have high hopes in their debut AFCON but arguably with Tunisia and Mali in the same group, the odds are heavily stacked against them.
Angola come into this competition as winners of Group I qualification. The Palancas Negras’ best result to date are two quarter-finals finishes in 2008 and 2010.
Having failed to qualify for the last two editions, Angola will be featuring for the eighth time after making their debut in 1996.
GROUP F: CAMEROON, GHANA, BENIN, GUINEA-BISSAU
Group F of Egypt 2019 presents another case of underdogs versus favorites. Guinea-Bissau and Benin will aim to upset defending champions, Cameroon and four-time winners, Ghana.
Cameroon are the defending champion of the AFCON. The Indomitable Lions secured the title by defeating this year’s hosts, Egypt in the final of the previous edition in Gabon in 2017.
As a result, they took their trophy counts to five, having won the 1984, 1988, 2000 and 2002 editions. Cameroon have qualified for the tournament 19 times, its first being in 1970 in Sudan.
Aside the five AFCON trophies won, the West African nation have finished as runners-up on two occasions, bronze medalists on one occasion and in fourth place once.
Bar the upcoming finals in Egypt, Benin have qualified for the AFCON thrice. The Squirrels first-ever appearance was at Tunisia 2004 and was followed by Ghana 2008.
In 2010, they featured in the tournament successively for the first time in their history in Angola. Benin have never made it out of the group stage in any of their previous appearances.
Guinea-Bissau will be making a second AFCON appearance. The Djurtus made their debut in 2017 where they met Burkina Faso, Cameroon and host nation, Gabon in Group A. After managing just a point in the campaign, Guinea-Bissau were eliminated from the competition.
Ghana are the third-most decorated team at the AFCON with four titles. The Black Stars won their first trophy when they debuted in 1963 and kept it in 1965. They won their third and fourth in 1978 and 1982 respectively.