African Cup Of Nations Group B Guide
African Cup Of Nations Group B
It wasn’t an easy ride when Algeria were attempting to get into form in preparation for this tournament. Christian Gourcuff lost masses of support in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, assuring Algeria’s Football Association of their place in the next round with a massive 7-0 win in a fixture against Tanzania but Gourcuff resigned after his side’s disappointing 3-3 draw with Ethiopia. Caretaker Nabil Neghiz stood in for The Desert Warriors’ 2-0 win over Seychelles before Milovan Rajevac took charge, who is suitable for the role after he managed Ghana at the 2010 World Cup. Rajevac has led out the side for three games with a win, a draw and a loss.
There’s a few key players for the side who could surely stand out in this tournament. Nabil Bentaleb has reinvented himself at Bundesliga club Schalke, Yacine Brahimi is an exciting attacking player for Porto, and Faouzi Ghoulam has really come along as Napoli’s starting left-back, with Adlene Guedioura set to make an appearance but West Ham midfielder Sofiane Feghouli left out of the squad. Islam Slimani is yet to make an impact at Leicester City but he can be lethal in front of goal. Foxes team-mate Riyad Mahrez is sure to be their star man in this competition though, being a crucial factor in Leicester City’s odds-defying Premier League title win and beating all other players from the continent to be named African Footballer Of The Year.
How far can they go?
With a squad offering such a high quality attack, we see Algeria going far in this tournament. Their qualifying campaign wasn’t perfect but they will certainly go into the competition with high aspirations, offering a full-fit starting eleven that would surely make an impact against most defences. As they possess such a wealthy squad of talent, we see them making it all the way to the final, missing out narrowly but proving just how much of a threat they can be.
After Henryk Kasperczak became Tunisia manager back in 2015, he started off his tenure with an 8-1 home win over Djibouti. Their next game saw a 1-0 defeat to Liberia but played their remaining games undefeated, winning three and drawing one. Their efforts had them finishing top of their group by three points. The Eagles Of Carthage won the competition back in 2004 but haven’t come close since, reaching the quarter finals four times and the group stages twice. This would be considered a fine opportunity to push for a strong finish in the competition if it weren’t for the array of top-quality players in the Senegal and Ivory Coast sides, which will be an issue for Tunisia as most of their squad are mostly playing in the Tunisian league.
Most of the Tunisian squad is unrecognisable, as a lot of their players have spent their career in their own domestic league. Recent notable exports have included centre-back Aymen Abdennour and attacker Wahbi Khazri. Abdennour has been a consistent defender in the the past few seasons for Monaco and Valencia. Khazri was an exciting prospect at French side Bordeaux, prompting his move to Sunderland in January 2016, scoring six goals in his first half season but going on to feature less for the side, now only making five league appearances. Despite new manager David Moyes possibly not rating the player as highly as Sam Allardyce, he remains Tunisia’s most important player and will be a threat throughout.
How far can they go?
As they don’t have a lot to offer in their squad, it’s hard to see Tunisia making it far. They will make a noble attempt through their strong defence led by Aymen Abdennour and a relentless attack inspired by Wahbi Khazri, but we expect them to fall out through their upcoming group games, knocked out after putting up a strong fight but being unable to compete with the tough favourites for this group.
Out of all teams in the tournament, Senegal have been the consistently strongest. Allou Cisse has been in charge of the side since 2015 and he’s made them far harder to face, winning their first qualifier at home to Burundi before winning all other fixtures, racking up thirteen goals over the six games. Their form has been so strong that they could become favourites if they start off the group stages in a positive nature, which could make a big statement towards typical frontrunners Ivory Coast. Average odds currently put them in second place behind the Ivorians, with Algeria following closely behind them. The sheer firepower in The Lions Of Teranga’s attack make them fierce enough to go far in this tournament, but Allou Cisse’s side will only be tested properly when they play competitive matches.
Whether it’s been down to luck or genuine planning, Senegal have an in-form set of players at their disposal, with some vital players enjoying their most exciting season at their respective clubs. Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly holds the team together at the back, reinforced by the strong defensive midfield trio of Everton’s Idrissa Gueye, Newcastle United’s Mohamed Diame and West Ham United’s Cheikhou Kouyate. We see attacker Sadio Mane as the player who will shine most in the side, signing for Liverpool in the summer and playing a crucial part in their title challenging season, achieving nine goals and four assists and always being at the front of The Reds’ attacking moments. He will be helped by fellow forwards Moussa Sow, Mame Biram Diouf and Keita Balde Diao.
How far can they go?
It’s going to be a tough battle throughout the competition between them and favourites Ivory Coast, especially as both sides offer such a large array of exciting attacking players, but we think Senegal will pip them to the trophy and result the tournament as deserved winners. Their relentless form only enforces the claim that they will go far and it’s hard to dispute, as they will be difficult to face even for the harder teams in the tournament, going up against a clinical attack and solid midfield.
Despite leaving the job in 2015, Callisto Pasuwa returned to the role as Zimbabwe manager to lead the side to a third African Cup Of Nations. The Warriors started their qualification campaign with a 2-1 away win over Malawi but uninterestingly drew their next two games with Guinea and Swaziland. They bounced back with two important home wins, where they scored an accumulative seven goals and kept clean sheets in both. It was upsetting to Callisto Pasuwa that they lost their last game by a single goal but it made little difference as they topped the group, clear from second place Swaziland by three points.
The Warriors don’t have any truly recognisable players, as every single squad member except for one plays in the Zimbabwean Premier Soccer League, with the only exception being Tino Kadewere, who plays for Swedish Allsvenskan side Djurgardens IF. Flexible attacking player Khama Billiat is likely to cause the most damage for the side, as he scored the most goals in qualifications, netting three crucial strikes over their six games.
How far can they go?
As there’s so few signs of life in their squad and they’re so void of attacking options, it’s hard to anticipate that Zimbabwe will make it far in the competition. We could see them falling out of the tournament in the group stages, even if that’s only due to the clear quality that the likes of Senegal and Algeria possess. It will be impossible to compete considering both favourites will come into the early stages flying, full of confidence and setting their sights on the trophy.
Senegal to finish top of Group B (Best priced at 11/8 on SkyBet) – BET HERE
Senegal to win their opening game against Tunisia (Best priced at 11/8 on BetWay) – BET HERE
Zimbabwe to finish bottom of Group B (Best priced at 8/11 on SkyBet) – BET HERE
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