Latest AFCON 2019 Qualifiers Predictions
Winter is almost upon us and so is the 32nd edition of the Total Africa Cup of Nations 2019 which will start from June 21st to July 19th. Originally pencilled to be hosted by Cameroon, the prestigious African tournament will now be hosted by Egypt after CAF board stripped Cameroon of hosting the tournament due to uncertainties on the sporting infrastructure, the Boko Haram insurgency and the Anglophone Crisis.
The 2019 tournament is going to be a historic one because it is the first time the tournament will be held in June/July after it has been held in January/February, this decision might have been influenced by the disputes between African nations and the European clubs who will be reluctant to release their players at a crucial stage in the European big leagues. This year also marks the first time when the tournament has been expanded from 16 to 24 teams and all this adds to the excitement to all soccer lovers around the world.
Since the Video Assistant Referee has been introduced, it has received mixed reactions from the sporting fraternity, It is interesting to note that the VAR as it is popularly known will be part of the African tournament, hopefully it will be a helpful addition to this tournament.
The teams that qualified for this Africa’s flagship sporting tournament are Madagascar, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Morocco, Nigeria, Uganda, Mali, Guinea, Algeria, Mauritania, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Ghana, Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Guinea Bissau, Namibia, Zimbabwe, DR Congo, Benin , Tanzania and DR Congo. Three teams from this list namely Burundi, Madagascar and Mauritania will take part in their maiden tournament and it will be interesting to see how they will fare against some of the seasoned campaigners like Nigeria, Cameroon and Egypt. Notable absentees from this tournament are Zambia, Congo and Gabon who surprisingly missed out on this soccer showpiece.
Africa boasts of some of the big names in world football right now, the likes of Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez, Mohammed Salah, Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi amongst others and they will be on show at the Africa Cup of Nations. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang will not participate after he failed to help his Gabonese side to qualify.
Quite interestingly, no team is being considered as the outright favourite to win this tournament because nothing really separates some of these so called big teams the likes of Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Algeria, Morocco, Senegal and Ivory Coast. With the way soccer has changed over the years, it will be erroneous to rule out any of the 24 teams to lift the AFCON, because quite strange things have happened in soccer recently; Leicester City lifting the EPL trophy and Ajax Amsterdam on the verge of a earning a spot Champions League final. It will be interesting to see if Cameroon can defend their AFCON title though many pundits don’t fancy the Indomitable lions.
Since the tournament has grown from 16 to 24 teams, a new criterion has been put in place as the 24 teams will be drawn into six groups of four teams. The top two teams in each group, along with the best four third-placed teams will advance to the knockout phase or the round of 16.
Not only is pride at stake, the prize money for the Afcon Cup is quite a huge sum of money which will see the winners pocket a whooping US$4.5 million, below is the breakdown of the prize money from the quarter finals up to the final itself:
Final position Prize money
Champions US$4.5 million
Runners-up US$2.5 million
Semi-finalists US$2.0 million
You can look forward to some exciting matches from the group stages with Group D being tipped as the Group of death but generally all the groups look like they will provide us with some nail-biting encounters. Zimbabwe and Egypt kick off the tournament at the Cairo Stadium in the repeat of the 2004 match where Egypt were narrow winners against the warriors of Zimbabwe. Check out the groups below:
Group A: Egypt , Zimbabwe, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo
Group B: Burundi, Madagascar, Guinea, Nigeria
Group C: Tanzania, Kenya, Algeria, Senegal
Group D: Namibia, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Morocco
Group E: Angola, Mauritania, Mali, Tunisia
Group F: Guinea-Bissau, Benin, Ghana, Cameroon