Top Five: Disappointments of the Afcon group stage

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The Africa Cup of Nations has been an enjoyable watch so far, but not everyone has impressed…

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    Tunisia

    While three of North Africa’s representatives—Algeria, Egypt and Morocco—have won all three of their games so far and cruised into the knockouts, Tunisia are the region’s dunces.

    The Carthage Eagles are without a win, despite being pooled into a favourable group, and while goalkeeping errors cost them against Mali and Angola, they were fortunate not to fall behind against Mauritania.

    The football is poor, Alain Giresse’s management has been brought under question, and they’ve shown little of the quality that underpinned their status among the pre-tournament favourites.

    Of course, there have been injuries, but Tunisia look to have regressed since the World Cup.

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    Playmakers

    While many of Africa’s teams don’t rely on central playmakers, those who have have been disappointed.

    John Obi Mikel appeared too sluggish to perform the role for Nigeria, and has now picked up an injury, while Francis Kahata was similarly discarded by Kenya after two matches.

    Tresor Mputu, that most enigmatic of African creators, lost his place 45 minutes into the Democratic Republic of Congo’s second game against Egypt after being introduced to the side as a potential solution by Florent Ibenge.

    It was a similar story for Jean Michael Seri, who lost his place in the Ivory Coast after bringing his poor Premier League form to the international area, and Zimbabwe’s Marvelous Nakamba only featured once after picking up an injury in training following the Warriors’ opener.

    Even Morocco’s playmakers haven’t hit the heights expected of them, and yet again, we’re in the midst of a Nations Cup without any discernible in-form central creative players.

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    Nigeria

    On the theme of Nigeria, the Super Eagles may have won both of their openers, but they did so without any of the panache or style they showed during the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.

    Indeed, that remains the high watermark for Gernot Rohr’s tenure. He can get teams to tournaments, it seems, but as we saw in Russia, they don’t appear to offer too much when they get there.

    Odion Ighalo has been poor, despite his goal, while Mikel struggled to influence games, and the Eagles need to pick themselves up after a shock defeat by Madagascar.

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    Yannick Bolasie

    The wideman bounced back after his year-long injury setback on loan at Anderlecht last term, having failed to rediscover his form either at Everton or Aston Villa.

    The Nations Cup ought to have represented an ideal opportunity for him to put himself in the show window, and remind clubs of his awesome array of qualities.

    At 30, the winger still has much to offer, and has he showed in the Jupiler League, has the quality to change the complexion of matches.

    He hasn’t shown much of that in Egypt, and was one of the worst performers in the DRC’s opener before being dropped.

    With the Leopards progressing to the Round of 16, Bolasie has an opportunity to make his mark on this tournament, but significant improvement is required!

  5. Goal Kenya.

    Cecafa’s Teams

    It hasn’t been a great tournament for Cecafa’s teams.

    The region has enjoyed a better representation than normal at this expanded Nations Cup, but only Uganda have impressed—reaching the Round of 16 after taking four points from their group games.

    For the rest, it’s been an underwhelming campaign.

    Burundi and Tanzania departed without a single point, with the former failing to score a single goal in the process.

    Kenya may have beaten the Taifa Stars, but they appeared muddled at times, lacked the solidity they showed in qualifying, and too many key players didn’t show up, with Michael Olunga a rare exception.

    The region has had four representatives at the 2019, but apart from Uganda, there doesn’t appear to be too much improvement.