CAN Group E preview: defending champions paired with Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea
The 33rd Africa Cup of Nations kicks off Sunday in Cameroon, after being delayed for a year by the coronavirus pandemic.
Here, BBC Sport Africa reigns over Group E, which includes defending champion Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, two-time winner Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea.
|Appearance: 19th||Best finish: Winners (1990 and 2019)|
|Coach: Djamel Belmadi||Captain: Riyad Mahrez|
|FIFA Ranking: 29||Nickname: Desert foxes|
Maher Mezahi (Algerian sports journalist): Algeria will travel to Cameroon not only to defend their title, but also in the hope of setting a new record for most consecutive unbeaten matches in international football.
Italy set the record at 37 last year after winning the European Championship, but the North Africans are said to be worthy starters after putting Colombia, Mexico, Senegal, Nigeria and Tunisia over. of the épée during their impressive 33-match streak.
Algeria will count on Riyad Mahrez to intervene in crucial moments with goals and assists. Opposite the Manchester City winger is the unsung hero of the Algerian national team, Youcef Belaili. The 30-year-old is as skilled a dribbler as Mahrez and possesses an odd chemistry with his childhood friend and Algerian pointer Baghdad Bounedjah.
Coach Djamel Belmadi will find practically the same starting XI that helped him win the 2019 title. While he stuck to a dynamic 4-3-3 in Egypt, Belmadi also used a 4-4 -2 more direct which produced satisfactory results in qualifying.
With their tactical flexibility, tight chemistry and proven star power, Algeria is definitely the favorite to repeat in Cameroon.
|Appearance: Third||Best finish: Group stage (1994 and 1996)|
|Coach: John keister||Captain: Umaru Bangura|
|FIFA Ranking: 108||Nickname: Star leone|
Mohamed Fajah Barrie (sports journalist, Sierra Leone): Sierra Leone return to the continent’s biggest football competition after a 26-year absence.
The Leone Stars are hoping to at least make it past the group stage for the first time, but will have to do their best to make their dream come true.
Knowing the difficult task at hand, coach John Keister tried to strengthen his squad with new players ahead of his country’s third appearance in the Nations Cup finals.
One player Leone Stars will rely on is veteran striker Kei Kamara, the fifth-all-time leading scorer in Major League Soccer, whose penalty goal against Benin sealed qualification.
It will be a difficult task to defeat the two-time winners Côte d’Ivoire and reigning champions Algeria.
|Appearance: Third||Best finish: Fourth place (2015)|
|Coach: Juan Micha||Captain: Emilio Nsue|
|FIFA Ranking: 114||Nickname: Nzalang Nacional (National Thunder)|
Juvénal Edjogo (Former international): It is a success for Equatorial Guinea to qualify, because the other two times, they played the competition at home, as organizers. They had good results at home in qualifying and I hope that this trajectory can continue in the Nations Cup.
It’s like a Cinderella story. The players aren’t in the top leagues in Europe, but one of the secrets is that they’ve had a lot of time to play together.
The best player is Pedro Obiang, but he is injured, and there are only a few in La Liga while José Machin (Monza) is in the second division in Italy. Iban Salvador (Fuenlabrada) is a midfielder who arrives well in the box.
Emilio Nsue is the captain but hasn’t had a club this season. I know he trained hard but the pace of the competition is the most important thing for a player.
There are a lot of fast players on offense. The poor area is on defense – it’s a historical problem – but the team has other threats.
|Appearance: 24||Best finish: Winners (1992 and 2015)|
|Coach: Patrice Beaumelle||Captain: Serge Aurier|
|FIFA Ranking: 56||Nickname: The elephants|
Carinne Kassi (Journalist at The New Ivorian Channel): After a disappointing run during the World Cup qualifiers with a team in total reconstruction, the Ivorian selection goes to Cameroon on tiptoe. Serge Aurier, Eric Bailly, Max Gradel or even Serey Die are names that no longer make you dream.
The arrival of Wilfried Zaha, Sébastien Haller, Maxwell Cornet and other reinforcements did not bring any magic to the Elephants, who continue to underperform.
A team sure to win the Nations Cup? The response remains mixed when we have attackers who are struggling to find the way to the net, an almost non-existent defense and no real leader to boost the team as in Didier Drogba’s time.
As for coach Patrice Beaumelle, he lacks a mastery of the locker room – just like his playing tactics. There is a difficult road ahead of us.
The Elephants will therefore be in Cameroon without much conviction, and the supporters, for their part, attach little importance to this team for the moment.
Group E Calendar
Tuesday January 11: Algeria vs. Sierra Leone
Wednesday January 12: Equatorial Guinea vs. Ivory Coast
Sunday January 16: Côte d’Ivoire v Sierra Leone, Algeria v Equatorial Guinea
Thursday January 20: Côte d’Ivoire v Algeria, Sierra Leone v Equatorial Guinea