Top five contenders for the 2019 African Cup of Nations
The African Cup of Nations is an exciting global football competition which boasts of the finest talents in the world. We take a look at the five main contenders for its 2019 edition.
The host nation must pick themselves up from a miserable World Cup campaign and heal the rifts that exist between the federation and the squad. Star man Mohamed Salah has been at the heart of those disagreements, but he remains with the team and is still an unparalleled talent within the African context. Javier Aguirre should prompt an immediate improvement on the final throes of Hector Cuper’s reign, although while he will be pragmatic and get the most out of his resources, it needs to be seen if he has the imagination to take the Pharaohs one better than 2017.
Cameroon are another side in disarray after something of a complete disintegration following their unlikely triumph in Gabon. They flopped at the Confederations Cup, missed out on the World Cup, and then parted ways with Hugo Broos. Their talent pool remains outstanding, even though new coach Clarence Seedorf appears to have opted to part ways with a series of key players. The manager is untested, but the addition of Paul-Georges Ntep could give them an edge going forward, and they will have home advantage next summer.
Nigeria are still reeling after a disappointing World Cup campaign, but they should pick things up against Seychelles in Victoria this weekend. The international exit of Victor Moses denies Gernot Rohr one of his key players, but the spine of the side remains in tact and there are various key reinforcements on the horizon. Henry Onyekuru has the potential to be one of the stars of the African game, while Samuel Kalu and Kelechi Nwakali could also be valuable additions. One can expect the Super Eagles to be contenders again.
Senegal were unfortunate not to have reached the Last 16 at the World Cup, as they became the first side to have been eliminated from the tournament on yellow cards. However, the positives for Aliou Cisse’s side are easy to see; their defence is excellent, the full-backs contribute at both ends, they are physically imposing and boast quality threats in wide areas. Sadio Mane is an elite forward, while the addition of 6’3 Mbaye Diagne could be the missing piece of the jigsaw. They should cruise through qualification, and can not be overlooked next summer.
Morocco appear head and shoulders above the rest of the continent at the moment, with a well-balanced side that were unfortunate not to take more than one point from World Cup games against Portugal and Spain. Herve Renard is also, arguably, the continent’s outstanding manager, and has already won the title with Zambia and the Ivory Coast. Morocco are not perfect, the loss of Medhi Benatia and absence of an outstanding centre-forward are concerns, but their intensity and their polish make them the clear favourites for a second continental crown.