The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations is held in Egypt and will involve 24 teams fighting for the trophy. The first game will be played on June 21 at the Cairo International Stadium where the hosts Egypt will take on Zimbabwe.
We take a look at Group D with top tier teams like Ivory Coast, Morocco, Namibia, and South Africa to determine their chance of reaching the quarterfinals.
Namibia is the weakest team in Group D. They have never qualified for the World Cup, but this year they will make their third appearance in the Africa Cup of Nations. The Brave Warriors have met with all of the Group D rivals in matches before the 2019 AFCON without any success. They were defeated by Morocco with five goals and thrashed with four goals each by Ivory Coast and South Africa.
Namibia are currently ranked in position 113 in the FIFA world rankings with 1182 points and in position 28 in Africa. The Brave Warriors went home victorious after beating Mozambique 2-1 in the AFCON qualifier on May 26.
Namibia have won twice in their last five matches. Their encounter with Malawi didn’t go well, the Warriors lost 2-1. Namibia have a slim chance to move to the quarters as they have shown poor performances in their last few matches.
Ivory Coast’s record
Ivory Coast national team is nicknamed the Elephants. Their greatest achievement was in 2015 when they won the Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea by defeating Ghana in penalties that ended with a 9-8 score.
The Elephants have qualified for the FIFA World Cup two times in 2006 and 2014 but have never advanced past the group stages.
Ivory Coast have won three of their last four matches. They currently sit in position 62 in FIFA world rankings with 1365 points and position 11 in Africa. The Elephants defeated Rwanda 3-0 in the AFCON qualification match.
The team boasts of good defenders such as Eric Bailly and Serge Aurier who play in England for Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs respectively. Their performance will be crucial if the Elephants dream of making it past the group stage.
Wilfred Zaha, who plays for Crystal Palace, is expected to perform well in the tournament with the help of midfielder Frank Kessie who plays for AC Milan. With their support, Ibrahim Kamara’s men could easily reach the quarterfinals and even take the trophy home.
South Africa’s history
The team is currently under the leadership of Stuart Baxter as head coach who was appointed on April 5, 2017. The team’s memorable moment was in 1996 when they were crowned the Africa Cup of Nations Champions after beating Tunisia 2-1.
In 2010, the country made history when they became the first African nation to host the FIFA World Cup. South Africa did their best in the tournament but exited in the group stage.
South Africa won once in their last five matches and drew four times. They will face Ivory Coast on June 24 in their opening match at AFCON in Cairo. The Bafana Bafana boys displayed an impressive game against Ghana who are one of the best teams in Africa considering that Baxter rotated his players in the second half in a friendly match at the Dubai Police Academy which ended in a draw.
Morocco won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1986. They are the first African team to win a group stage in the World Cup ahead of Portugal, Poland and England. They made it to the second round and lost to Germany 1-0.
After 20 years of absence, they managed to return to the World Cup in 2018, topping Group C. The Atla Lions have moved down two positions on both global and African rankings. They currently sit in the 47th position in the FIFA world rankings in position four in Africa. This drop is due to their loss to Gambia 1-0 in a friendly match on June 12.
Harve Renard has selected 27 players who will take part in the 2019 AFCON. Mehdi Benatia, an experienced center bank, is among the big names in the squad. He currently plays for AL-Duhail after he transferred from Juventus. Another big player in the team is Hakim Zlyech, a highly rated attacking midfielder, who plays for the German club, Borussia Dortmund.
The Atlas Lions are among the favorites to be crowned the 2019 AFCON winners.
Who is the favorite to win?
Namibia are the disadvantaged team in this group having lost all their past matches hence it will be difficult for them to make it to the quarters. The battle for the top spot in Group D will be tough. However, two teams Ivory Coast and Morocco are likely to cause trouble in the group stage. Both teams are in good form with some great players in their squads, such as Wilfried Zaha and Hakim Ziyech.
Harve Renard’s side will be looking to emerge on top in this group. Renard is an experienced coach, he won the AFCON title twice before. In 2012, he brought glory to Zambia and repeated the feat with Ivory Coast three years later. His squad impressed during last year’s World Cup and we are expecting them to pose a challenge in this year’s competition too.
Photo by Celso FLORES via Wiki Commons (CC BY 2.0)