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12 January 2024

African Cup of Nations 2024: Our pundit gives his verdict on winners, losers and heroes

12 January 2024

The African Cup of Nations 2024 promises to be a breathtaking spectacle as the continent's football giants lock horns in a battle for supremacy.

Originally slated for 2023, but rescheduled due to adverse weather conditions in Ivory Coast, this tournament is set to deliver excitement, skill, and fierce competition. Here, NewsChain's football pundit DAVE BARRETT marks your card.

Serge Aurier for Ivory Coast (Adam Davy/PA)

(PA Wire)

Group A: Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau

Ivory Coast: Traditionally a footballing force, Ivory Coast enter the tournament with a squad less star-studded than their golden era. The defence boasts promising talents like Ousmane Diomande and Odilon Kossounou, while experience comes from Willy Boly and Serge Aurier. Sebastian Haller's fitness is a concern, but Ivory Coast's solid defence and relative experience should see them through.

Nigeria: The Super Eagles aim to soar high with what looks to be a very a talented squad. This includes Fulham’s centre back Calvin Bassey and Brentford’s central midfielder Frank Onyeka, which combined with the attacking prowess of wide players Chukwueze and Lookman, and the sought-after strikers Victor Boniface and Victor Osimhen, makes them a force to be reckoned with.

The midfield battles, especially without Wilfred Ndidi, might be challenging, but Nigeria remain a strong contender to top the group.

Equatorial Guinea: Unbeaten in 2023, Equatorial Guinea enter the tournament with confidence. While causing an upset against Ivory Coast and Nigeria might be ambitious, they could secure a best third-place finish in the group.

Guinea-Bissau: As the perceived weakest team, Guinea-Bissau face a tough challenge. Despite past qualification successes, this group may prove too difficult for them to advance further.

Dave's pediction: 1. Nigeria; 2. Ivory Coast; 3. Equatorial Guinea; 4. Guinea-Bissau

Liverpool and Egypt forward Mohamed Salah (Owen Humphreys/PA)

(PA Wire)

Group B: Egypt, Ghana, Cape Verde, Mozambique

Egypt: The most successful AFCON team, Egypt, led by Mohamed Salah, aim to make up for their 2021 defeat. Salah's brilliance, coupled with a mix of experienced and young players, makes them strong contenders for the top spot.

Ghana: The ‘Black Stars’ boast a blend of experience with the Ayew brothers and emerging talent such as Mohammed Kudus. Aiming to capitalise on individual brilliance, Ghana will be seeking to get to the latter stages of the competition.

Cape Verde: Look set for third position in the group as they look unlikely to cause any major upsets. Despite coming second in their qualifying group, they can expect to face much stiffer competition in this particular group.

Mozambique: Securing qualification with a late goal, Mozambique's chances seem limited. Their performance might hinge on individual standout displays, but progression seems unlikely.

Dave's prediction: 1. Ghana; 2. Egypt; 3. Cape Verde; 4. Mozambique

Sadio Mane stars for Senegal (Peter Byrne/PA)

(PA Archive)

Group C: Senegal, Cameroon, Guinea, The Gambia

Senegal: One of the stronger teams in the competition, Senegal possess a spine of

experienced players and rising talents. Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly and Sadio Mane form a formidable core, making them strong contenders

Cameroon: African football powerhouse Cameroon boast a mix of experience and talent. Star player Vincent Aboubakar makes them contenders for a long tournament run.

Guinea: With talents like Naby Keïta and Serhou Guirassy, Guinea have the potential to

challenge for the second spot,however their star player Guirassy's recent injury adds uncertainty to their campaign.

The Gambia: Considered underdogs, ‘The Gambi’a face a challenging task with a less-known squad. Their focus will likely be on gaining experience rather than advancing.

Dave's prediction: 1. Senegal; 2. Cameroon; 3. Guinea; 4. The Gambia

Riyad Mahrez (centre) takes centre stage at the Africa Cup of Nations (Themba Hadebe/AP)


Group D: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Angola

Algeria: Unbeaten for just over a year, Algeria will be fully expected to reach the knockout

stages. With players like Rayan Ait Nouri, Farès Chaïbi,and Riyad Mahrez forming the core of the team, they will be hopeful of going all the way.

Burkina Faso: Edmond Tapsoba and Bertrand Traoré provide Burkina Faso with key players. While unlikely to contend for top honours, they will be aim for a respectable campaign.

Mauritania: Mauritania will be hoping that it is third time lucky with regard to qualifying from their group and may even challenge for runner up place in the group.

Angola: Qualifying for the tournament is likely to be their highlight as Angola’s squad doesn’t look strong enough to be competitive this time round.

Dave's prediction: 1. Algeria; 2. Burkina Faso; 3. Mauritania; 4. Angola

Group E: Tunisia, Mali, South Africa, Namibia

Tunisia: Topping their qualification group and conceding only one goal, Tunisia will have aspirations of getting to the quarter finals with Elias Achouri's contribution being a crucial factor if they are to achieve this.

Mali: Dark horses Mali possess talent in Yves Bissouma and the RB Salzburg duo of Sekou Koita and Dorgeles Nene. Aiming for top spot in the group, Mali could be a surprise package.

South Africa: Returning after missing the 2021 tournament, South Africa's predominantly

domestic-based squad face a tough challenge against Tunisia and Mali.

Namibia: Considered underdogs, Namibia will be hoping to be competitive but are likely to face an uphill battle.

Dave's prediction: 1. Mali; 2. Tunisia; 3. South Africa; 4. Namibia

Group F: Morocco, DR Congo, Zambia, Tanzania

Morocco: AFCON Joint favourites, Morocco, led by Yassine Bounou, Achraf Hakimi, and

Youssef En-Nesyri, aim to build on their World Cup success. Sofyan Amrabat's role in the centre of midfield,will be crucial,while Hakim Ziyech's creativity will add flair to an already formidable squad.

DR Congo: With talent such as Marseille’s Chancel Mbemba and West Brom’s Grady Diangana, Congo will be expecting to progress from the group,and could well pose a formidable challenge in the knockout stages.

Zambia: With attacking players like Patson Daka and Fashion Sakala, Zambia aim to challenge Congo for the second spot. Their attacking duo's form will be pivotal.

Tanzania: Facing an uphill battle, Tanzania lack the strength to compete with the group's top teams.

Dave's prediction: 1. Morocco; 2. DR Congo; 3. Zambia; 4. Tanzania

Tournament Predictions:

Winners: Morocco

Top Scorer: Sadio Mane

Player of the Tournament: Mohamed Salah

Young Player of the Tournament: Abdessamad Ezzalzouli

Dark Horses: Mali

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