The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) begins today. Hopefully, nobody dies during one of the matches because the games are being played in Egypt. The average temperature for the game will be around 105 degrees Fahrenheit or 35 degrees Celsius. Nevertheless, this tournament has expanded to 24 teams, which means that there will be more upsets and more upset stomachs due to dehydration and cramping. The teams will be split into six groups of four with the top two teams in each group along with the top four third place teams will advance to the Knockout Round of 2016. Here is a look at all six groups.
1. Egypt. The host nation Egypt will have a good chance to win this tournament because of forward Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) and midfielders Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal) and Trezeguet (Kasimpasa). Salah won the Premier League scoring title in 2018 and shared the scoring title this season. He will be constantly double-teamed which will open up scoring opportunities for his teammates.
2. Congo DR. The country is filled with strife and turmoil, but fortunately, most of the players play professionally in Europe or in Asia. The scoring duo of Yannick Bolasie (Anderlecht) and Cedric Bakambu (Beijing Guoan) will be interesting to watch.
3. Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has the potential to pull off a couple of upsets with midfielder Knowledge Musona (Lokeren) and forward Nyasha Mushewki (Dalian Yifang). Most of these players will be playing with a desire to procure a professional gig outside of Zimbabwe because their currency just went insolvent.
4. Uganda. If your best player, which is Micheal Azira (Montreal Impact), plays in the MLS, then you deserve to lose every match in this group. Where is Bobi Wine when you need him?
1. Nigeria. The only weakness for this team is at goalkeeper. Each defender is on a team in a big-time league in Europe. The midfield is absolutely loaded with Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City), Samuel Chukwueze (Villareal), and former Chelsea legend John Obi Mikel. Up front will be Ahmed Musa (Al Nassr) and Odion Ighalo (Shenghai Shenhua).
2. Guinea. Guinea will have a chance to win this group due to midfielder Naby Keita (Liverpool). He should be well-rested because he did not play as good as advertised this season. Hopefully, he will use this tournament to turn things around.
3. Burundi. Here is your sleeper team. To qualify, they knocked out Gabon with Aubameyang. Burundi looks to win 1-0 by sitting back on defense and looking to score that goal on a counterattack with Sadio Berahino (Stoke City).
4. Madagascar. Congratulations to Madagascar for being in their first ever AFCON tournament. Other than that, this team will get clobbered. Their best players play professionally in lower-level leagues in France. Besides that, here is the worst wordplay you will hear today. Why are you mad at a gas car. hybrid users?
1. Senegal. Senegal has one of the best central defenders in the world in Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli) to go with one of the best defensive midfielders in the world in Idrissa Gueye (Everton). Put that together with an explosive rotation of forwards led by Sadio Mane (Liverpool), who was tied with Salah for most goals in the Premier League this season makes Senegal one of the favorites to win this whole thing.
2. Algeria. Algeria always has a tough defense, but they also have scoring ability with midfielders Sofiane Feghouli (Galatasaray) and Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City) and with forwards Yacine Brahimi (Porto) and Andy Delort (Montpellier).
3. Tanzania. Tanzania has a scorer’s chance with forward Mbwana Samatta (23 goals with Genk). He will have to score plenty because the defense is porous.
4. Kenya. The Kenyans will stay compact with defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama (Tottenham) because there is nobody else on this team that makes an impact. Plus, Kenya is in the toughest group in this tournament.
1. Ivory Coast. This team is loaded with scoring with midfielders Jean Michael Seri (Fulham) and Franck Kessie (AC Milan) along with scorers Nicolas Pepe (Lille), Maxwell Cornet (Lyon), and Wilfred Zaha (Crystal Palace).
2. Morocco. If they put their trust in young players like defender Achraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund), midfielder Hakim Ziyech (Ajax), and forward Youssef En-Nesyri (Leganes), then Morocco will be a tough out.
3. South Africa. South Africa will look to push the pace with midfielder Thulani Serero (Vitesse) and forward Lebo Mothiba (Strasbourg) because they are porous defensively.
4. Namibia. Unfortunately, Namibia is in the second-toughest group. Plus, none of their players are on a major professional team in Europe.
1. Mali. Mali has a very strong team with a solid defense and forward Moussa Marega (Porto) looking to score plenty of goals.
2. Tunisia. Tunisia always keeps a solid defense, but they have a scorer this time around with Wahbi Khazri (St. Etienne).
3. Angola. Angola has plenty of scorers along with defender Bastos (Lazio). They may not be able to keep all of their scorers happy because of their weak midfield.
4. Mauritania. Did you know that the country of Mauritania still practices slavery? Fortunately, a majority of players on this team are in Europe. Not being in slavery is enough of a victory.
- Ghana. Forward Asamoah Gyan (Kayserispor) is back up front with the Ayew brothers (Jordan – Crystal Palace & Andre – Fenerbache) to give the Black Stars a diverse attack. The midfield is stacked with Mubarak Wakaso (Alaves), Thomas Partey (Atletico Madrid), Afriyie Acquah (Empoli), and Christian Atsu (Newcastle). On defense, look for Kwadwo Asamoah (Inter Milan) to make some outside runs as well.
2. Cameroon. The defending AFCON champs will look to repeat. However, the country and this team has some issues. As a result, many of the top players from the 2017 squad will not be playing this time around. However, they still have a chance because they have the best goalkeeper in the tournament by far after the breakthrough season for Andre Onana (Ajax). Onana was in goal for the surprise team in Europe this past season.
3. Guinea-Bissau. Guinea-Bissau always pulls off an upset as many of these players play professionally in Portugal. This team is under the radar, but they play cohesively as a unit.
4. Benin. The only chance for Benin is up front with forward Steve Mounie (Huddersfield Town).
A special thanks to Soccerway.com. Their site was the only site that had the full rosters for all 24 teams.