Namibia were flattered, perhaps, by a second-placed finish in Group K, and only actually managed two wins—against Mozambique home and away.
Their matchday six 4-1 demolition by already eliminated Zambia was maybe a clearer indication of their level, and being pooled into the Group of Death doesn't help either...
Madagascar deserve immense credit for qualifying for their first tournament, and a draw at home against Senegal earlier in the campaign proves that they can hold their own against the big boys.
However, their unity is already being tested by new recruits, and there’s a distinct absence of top-end experience in their squad.
Mauritania: First-time qualifiers after negotiating a fairly favourable group.
There’s definitely some excellent work being done in North West Africa under Corentin Martins, but it would be a massive overachievement if they escape from their group in Egypt.
Angola have consistently punched beneath their weight in continental competition, but Primeiro de Agosto’s strong showing in last year’s Caf competition served notice as to their talent.
Mateus Galiano and Gelson could certainly trouble the bigger boys, while they've landed in a decent first-round group.
Tanzania’s squad have adapted well to Emmanuel Amuneke’s attractive and ambitious approach, and were rewarded with a first Afcon qualification since 1980.
Simon Msuva and Mbwana Samatta are talented, energetic forwards who can trouble Africa’s better defences, and they ultimately qualified in style—with a 3-0 rout of Uganda.
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Burundi’s qualification was hailed as a miracle success story in some corners, but they have quality and could spring another surprise or two in Egypt.
In Fiston Abdul Razak, Cedric Amissi and Cedric Bakambu they boast a potentially lethal attacking trio, and their gritty showings to sneak to the tournament ahead of Gabon should stand them in good stead for the challenges to come.
If they can get the better of fellow first-timers Madagascar, then they could well sneak out of Group B.
- Tolu Olasoji
Benin snuck into Egypt ahead of Togo after defeating Emmanuel Adebayor and co. in Cotonou in their final group game.
They’ll need Steve Mounie to put his Premier League flunk behind him, while Stephane Sessegnon and Mickael Pote are seasoned veterans.
Zimbabwe will come back stronger after an encouraging showing—albeit in first-round elimination—in Gabon two years ago.
The team’s threatening attacking elements—notably Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat—remain, and Marvelous Nakamba is an exceptional midfield talent.
After qualifying ahead of Congo-Brazzaville, they may now have the resiliency to match their attacking flair, although they'll be severely tested by a tricky Group A draw.
- Ken Okaka.
They were undoubtedly helped by Sierra Leone’s suspension, but Michael Olunga will ensure they carry a threat in Egypt.
Guinea ought not be underestimated after winning their first three qualifiers, inspired by the midfield dynamo that is Naby Keita.
However, his struggles to show his best form at Liverpool come as a concern, while Guinea have been held in their last three qualifiers, including Sunday’s draw in the Central African Republic.
- Uganda FA
Uganda followed up their qualification in 2017—a first in 39 years—by securing another berth at the Afcon, following a campaign which was impeccable for five matchdays.
Sebastien Desabre is clearly doing something right, and they have a cutting edge in Emmanuel Okwi and Farouk Miya.
Having won many admirers during their earnest, honest first-round exit in 2017, it’s not unreasonable that they go one better this time.
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#12 Democratic Republic of Congo
Democratic Republic of Congo have impressed at the last two Nations Cups under Florent Ibenge, memorably finishing third in 2015. However, there have been signs of stagnation in recent years, and they were unconvincing during qualifying.
Nonetheless, on their day, Cedric Bakambu and Yannick Bolasie can terrorise Africa’s defences, although they need a good start against Uganda in their opener.
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#11 South Africa
South Africa: Defensive resiliency can be the most valuable commodity in tournament environments, and Bafana’s superb defensive record—they conceded twice in six in qualifying—makes them potential dark horses.
In Percy Tau, they also have one of the continent’s more lethal attacking talents, but can Stuart Baxter iron out the offensive failings that cost them in goalless draws against Libya and the Seychelles?
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- Goal Kenya.
Ghana boast talented individuals—if they turn up—and big-game experience, but has coach Kwesi Appiah forged a strong team from this group?
His second tenure still hasn’t matched the heights of that early thrashing of Ethiopia, and too many key elements are out of sorts at club level.
A current of discontent and turbulence also runs through the squad, and things may get ugly in Egypt.
They are a fine blend of experience and youthful verve, and back-to-back wins against Libya was a strong statement.
It remains to be seen whether the coach can solve some of the team’s existing weaknesses, while a last-minute goalkeeping reshuffle may bring further problems.
Cameroon are wounded animals after being stripped of hosting rights for the 2019 tournament, and they’ve fallen from grace following their memorable Afcon triumph under Hugo Broos in 2017.
Nonetheless, Clarence Seedorf has various talented players to work with—Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, Christian Bassogog and Clinton N’Jie all scored against Comoros to qualify—and there’s a vein of title-winning experience running through their squad.
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#6 Cote d'Ivoire
Ivory Coast flopped at the last Afcon, and during the World Cup qualifying campaign. They weren’t too much better this time around, and were defeated by Guinea at home before being held away in the Central African Republic.
It’s not particularly encouraging, but a forward line including any of Nicolas Pepe, Max Gradel, Jonathan Kodjia, Wilfried Zaha and recalled Wilfried Bony has the potential to ignite in Egypt.
Jean Seri, pulling the strings in midfield, could underpin a return to form.
Algeria continue to be an immensely tantalising prospect, and they've impressed during the pre-tournament friendlies after a pair of draws against The Gambia and October’s defeat in Benin tempered expectations.
Baghdad Bounedjah is among Africa’s most underrated strikers, and he’ll have no shortage of magnificent supply lines this summer, while the late arrival in camp of Andy Delort could also be decisive.
Morocco: The Atlas Lions were Africa’s outstanding team at the World Cup—even if they fell at the first hurdle—and cruised through qualification.
Herve Renard has immense strength in depth, one of the continent’s finest players in Hakim Ziyech, and crucially, the coach knows how to navigate Afcon tournaments like no one else on the planet.
However, their pre-tournament form has been dire, raising concerns that they might be a spent force.
Tunisia have gone under the radar despite boasting a complete squad with depth across the park.
The recruitment of recent years stands them in good stead, as will ‘North African advantage’.
Crucially, this team ally grit at the back with a few key difference-makers further forward. Three consecutive victories ahead of the tournament, including a win over World Cup finalists Croatia, bodes well.
Senegal breezed through qualification, taking 16 points and remaining unbeaten.
They’ll have learned a lot from their exploits in Russia last year, while there isn’t an African player in the world who’s in better form than Sadio Mane at the moment.
He’ll be backed-up by an excellent supporting cast as the Teranga Lions look to win their first title, and the West Africans may well boast the best defence in the competition.