The 31st edition of Africa’s’ biggest, most colourful, and the most celebrated football tournament kick start on Saturday 14th of January. 16 teams shared into 4 groups, will be battling for Africa biggest football glory. However, this write-up will giving insight into the 4 teams logged in Group B
Situated in Group B is current Africa No 1 team “Senegal”, AFCON 2004 host and champions “Tunisia”, AFCON 1990 host and champions “Algeria”, and Zimbabwe; with just 2 spot available for this 4 teams in the Quarter-final.
Senegal enjoyed a flawless run during their qualification stage to the competition. The Teranga failed to drop points in all their 6 game of the qualification phase, conceding twice, and scoring 13 goals. The Senegalese are the strongest side in Africa according to recent ranking; the Aliou Cisse tutored side have produced a steady growth in recent month, moving the 41st position in FIFA July ranking to the 33rd position in the December Ranking.
Moreover, the West African is still in search of its first AFCON glory haven gotten close to winning it in the 2002 edition in Mali, but ended up losing out on penalty to the indomitable lions of Cameroon; Senegal will be making their 14th Championship appearance. However, we could say Senegal are in good shape to put their name in the long list of AFCON winner; with list of great inform talent in their ranks, and a manager who knows what it takes to play at top level.
Even with the toughness of the group, with the array of talent in Senegal possession; talent like Saido Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrisa Gueye, Mame Biram Diouf, Henri Saviet, and Cheikhou Kouyate. The Senegal are fast hitting their 2002 form, and would definitely be a threat to every side that comes to the tournament.
- Group Prediction: 1st
- Key Player: Sadio Mane (Liverpool FC).
Algeria went goals gaga during the qualification phase of the competition. The desert warrior scored 25 goals and conceded 5 as they topped the group ahead of Ethiopia, Seychelles, and Lesotho; topping the qualification goal chat. The Algerian are making their 17th championship appearance, and are in search of their first AFCON glory since 1990. Going into this the tournament, Algeria was ranked 5th in Africa a deepen position compared to their no spot at the beginning of the year.
Algeria crashed out in the quarter-final stage of the 2015 edition in Equatorial Guinea, and last made the semi-final in the 2010 edition in Angola. Algeria named an experienced and quality side which include the qualification phase top scorer “El- Arabi Hilal”, and the current African football of the year “Riyad Mahrez”. Talents like Adlene Guedioura, Nabil Bentaleb, and Yaccine Brahimi are big names that will be marshalling the midfield for the desert warriors.
The Algerian have so much in them that should guarantee a place in the last 8.In estimation, and looking at their recent performance in recent major competition, Algeria have gathered enough experience to end their long awaited 2nd AFCON glory. Though Senegal and Tunisia are above in the last CAF and FIFA ranking, I still feel they have much quality to scrub a point or even 3 point from the both sides.
- Group Prediction: 2nd
- Key Player: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City).
Tunisia are most consistent AFCON team in this group, having made it to the last 12 edition of the competition. The cartage eagles narrowly qualified from a will competitive group during the qualification phase of the tournament; they scored a total of 16 goals, and conceded, winning 4 of their 6 qualification games. Tunisia will be making their 18th AFCON appearance, and will also be hoping for a 2nd AFCON having hosted and won the 2004 edition.
Tunisia Boss “Henryk Kasperczak” name a 65% Tunisia based squad for the championship in Gabon; Players from 5 clubs in the Tunisia league Esperance, Etoile Du Sahel, Club Africain, CS Sfaxien, and CA Bizertin. The Carthage Lion will be without Yassine Chikhaoui who was their highest goal scorer in the qualification phase and Anderlecht forward Hamdi Harbaoui. Moreover, Tunisia still have game changers like Wahbi Khazri, Aymen Abdennour, and Taha Yassine Khenissi whom currently top the Ligue 1 in Tunisia in their ranks for competition. The cartage eagles is ranked 3rd in Africa going into this competition.
Though the eagles are the 2nd best team according to the recent ranking, I still feel they have little potential of surpassing the group stage considering their team strength on a whole, and their inconsistent show in the last 5 edition of competition. My best bet for them is a possible 3rd position, with a high possibility of getting 3 point in their Zimbabwe games, and at most a point in their clash with Senegal and Algeria.
- Group Prediction: 2nd
- Key Player: Taha Yassine Khenissi (Esperance).
Zimbabwe is only making her 3rd AFCON appearance in total, and her 1st AFCON appearance since the 2006 edition in Egypt. The warriors topped hot the AFCON 2017 ticket ahead of the Southern African Counterpart “Swaziland”. The Warriors as they referred won 3, drew 2, and loss 1 of their 6 qualification games, scoring 11 goals, and conceding 4. Zimbabwe will be hoping they can surpass their previous record, having failed surpass the group stage in their last 2 appearance in the competition. The warrior are the lowest ranked team in the group, as they are in ranked 29th in recent CAF ranking.
Zimababwe boss “Callisto Pasuwa” has choosen a youthful side for the championship in Gabon. However, the fans will be place much hope on the duo of Khama Billiat, and Musona Knowledge who together scored 6 of the warriors 11 qualification goals. The warrior should however not be overlooked as they could end up been spoilers or even the tournament Surprise.
In my estimation, Zimbabwe chance to qualify for the next round is very slim. The Harare placed in a group of well experience teams when it comes to playing the AFCON makes qualification to the next stage a very difficult mountain to climb
- Group Prediction: 4th
- Key Player: Khama Billiat (Mamelodi Sundown).
Top Bet Tips from the Group B
- Senegal to win Group B at 5/4 (2.25)
- Tournament Top Scorer: Sadio Mane at 14/1 (15.00).
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