Africa Cup of Nations: Power ranking all 24 qualifiers

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Following the conclusion of the Afcon qualifying campaign, Ed Dove ranks 2019’s field of participants

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    #24 Namibia

    24. 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.
  2. #23 Madagascar

    23. 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.

     

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    #22 Mauritania

    22. 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.

     

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    #21 Angola

    21. 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.

     

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    #20 Guinea-Bissau

    20. Guinea-Bissau will be emboldened by their second consecutive qualification—having made their debut in 2017—and their first-placed finish in Group K. Don’t expect them, however, to better their group-stage exit of two years ago.

     

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    #19 Tanzania

    19. 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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    #18 Burundi

    18. 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.

     

  8. Tolu Olasoji

    #17 Benin

    17. Benin snuck into Egypt ahead of Togo after defeating Emmanuel Adebayor and co. in Cotonou on Sunday. They’ll need Steve Mounie to put his Premier League flunk behind him—as he did this weekend—while Stephane Sessegnon and Mickael Pote are seasoned veterans still to come back into the squad.

     

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    #16 Zimbabwe

    16. 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.

     

  10. Ken Okaka.

    #15 Kenya

    15. Kenya won many admirers by defeating Ghana during qualification (back in September) and had already wrapped up qualification before the final matchday. They were undoubtedly helped by Sierra Leone’s suspension, but Jesse Were and Michael Olunga will ensure they carry a threat in Egypt.

    Will Victor Wanyama hit the ground running after his testing season at Tottenham Hotspur?

     

  11. #14 Guinea

    14. 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.

     

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    #13 Uganda

    13. 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 South Africa

    12. 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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    #11 Mali

    11. Mali could be ones to watch in Egypt after a fairly flawless qualifying campaign in which they went undefeated and conceded just twice.

    Yves Bissouma is a complete midfield option—even if he only shows it rarely at Brighton & Hove Albion—while Moussa Marega is a Golden Boot contender. This underrated squad also boast plenty of Ligue 1 experience.

     

  15. Goal Kenya.

    #10 Ghana

    10. 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.

     

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    #9 Democratic Republic of Congo

    9. 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.

     

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    #8 Cameroon

    8. 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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    #7 Nigeria

    7. Nigeria are back in the big time for the first time after winning the title in 2013, with Gernot Rohr following up World Cup qualification with a spot 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.

     

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    #6 Algeria

    6 Algeria continue to be an immensely tantalising prospect, but a pair of draws against The Gambia and October’s defeat in Benin should temper expectations.

    Baghdad Bounedjah is among Africa’s most underrated strikers, and he’ll have no shortage of magnificent supply lines this summer.

    Les Fennecs might also boast Africa’s best full-backs.

     

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    #5 Cote d'Ivoire

    5. 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, Gervinho, Jonathan Kodjia and Wilfried Zaha has the potential to ignite in Egypt.

    Jean Seri, pulling the strings in midfield, could underpin a return to form.

     

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    #4 Senegal

    4. 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.

     

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    #3 Tunisia

    3. 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.

     

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    #2 Egypt

    2. Egypt boast home advantage and the presence of Mohamed Salah, the finest African player in the world today.

    His quality overshadows the rest of a talented squad, but can Javier Aguirre capitalise on a swell of domestic support to ensure that they boast a Plan B beyond the Liverpool superstar?

     

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    #1 Morocco

    1. 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.