It goes without saying that the hosts, regardless of their status, always have the upper hand, seeing as they have the ‘12th player’ advantage. However, in this case, Gernot Rohr’s side would have to deal with a wounded lion in Egypt, due to
lastedition’s disappointment against Cameroon in the final.
Also, a frightening factor is going up against reigning African Player of the Year and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. If anything, the 1-0 victory over Javier Aguirre’s side in Asaba is a mere facade, considering the quality of players presented by the Egyptians and their intent. This time around, they would be at home and with the best players they - and Africa [as in Salah’s case] - can offer combined with the sole intention of going a step further.
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They were convincing at the last edition of the Nations Cup and they are definitely a side Gernot Rohr’s side would never want to meet at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Sadio Mane, Ismaila Sarr and Kalidou Koulibaly are few of standout African performers this season in Europe and they are a core of this Aliou Cisse’s current set-up.
55 Million Tanzanians would be rooting for the Taifa Stars to make an impact upon return to the Afcon finals after a 39-year wait, and, on occasions, what this sort of narrative does is to set the tone for a disruptive outing in Egypt.
According to Amuneke, “People are no longer talking about the qualification but the impact we will make in the tournament…” and to avoid the start of whatever "impact" a team seeded in Pot 4 want to create would be the wisest for Gernot Rohr and his team.
#4 Cote d'Ivoire
For the Ivorians, this is a tournament to properly herald the Post Golden Generation. After a false start at the 2017 Afcon finals, they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, falling at the last hurdle against Morocco.
They have, however, bounced back, coinciding with the rise - and improvement - of exciting attacking talents. Wilfried Zaha has demonstrated that Crystal Palace modest status doesn’t limit his ability as a tormentor to any defence in the world, while Nicolas Pepe’s ruthlessness in front of goal has linked him to a top-level move in the summer. Supporting casts Maxwel Cornet, Franck Kessie, Serge Aurier and co. have been performing on a good level this season. So, it’d be for the good if Nigeria avoided them in the group stages.
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#5 South Africa
The South Africans’ onslaught in Uyo in 2017, when the Super Eagles started their Afcon qualifying series, would have put them on the road to miss out on a third consecutive Afcon finals. Also, a point from two games against Stuart Baxter’s side shows how much of catch-up Bafana Bafana have done.
Nigeria, however, crawled to the top of Group E in Afcon qualifying, with South Africa settling for the spot behind. But having to do without ceaselessly tracking Percy Tau’s nimbleness in the finals' preliminaries would mean a problem less for the Super Eagles.