Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon and Egypt have been tipped to upstage defending champions Algeria in this edition of the Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
The 24 teams are gearing up to put on quite the spectacle for viewers. 2019 winners Algeria will be looking to defend their crown, and teams with in-form talismen, like Egypt, will look to solidify their dominance with their 8th trophy (the most titles in competition history).
Senegal: Heading into the tournament, the Lions of Teranga have arguably the most talented squad. Senegal’s priority in this tournament should be along the lines of giving it their all to bring home the nation’s first AFCON trophy.
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With their four wins in six games during the AFCON qualifiers, the Senegalese players have built a culture of winning. Senegal was placed in Group B with Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Guinea and Aliou Cisse’s men are statistically poised to win the group with relative ease.
Les Lions’ crop of players includes some of the finest Premier League stars like Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy. These superstars alongside names such as Kalidou Koulibaly, Keita Balde, Idrissa Gueye and Ismaila Sarr have the ability to change their fortune from the runner-up finish in 2019 to winners in 2022.
Egypt national team’s pedigree in the African Cup of Nations is the best out of all the participants. Having won the competition a record-breaking 7 times, an 8th looks likely for the Pharaohs.
Although the journey to lifting the trophy is full of a major group stage obstacle in the form of Nigeria, finishing top place could prove difficult but qualification for the knockouts is statistically guaranteed with Guinea-Bissau and Sudan being the other teams to make up group D.
This team has arguably one of the most in-form players in football right now in 29-year old Mohamed Salah. The phenomenal forward has notched 23 goals and 9 assists in just 26 appearances for English outfit Liverpool.
With head coach Carlos Queiroz’s tactical ability and Mohamed Salah’s attacking flair and leadership, the team looks ready to take the Cameroonian capital by storm and make themselves winners of the 2022 African Cup of Nations.
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Nigerian national team has been dealt two significant blows seeing as they will have to participate without Victor Osimhen and in-form Emmanuel Dennis.
These players have the ability to lead Nigeria’s frontline but the Super Eagles have more than enough firepower and resilience to make up for it.
The Nigerians have to deal with the Egyptians, the Sudanese and the Guinea-Bissauns before reaching the knockouts but it should be a fairly easy task.
The Super Eagles squad list possesses a fine balance of veteran and youth names with the inclusion of players like Kelechi Iheanacho, Samuel Chukwueze, and Wilfred Ndidi.
Although new head coach Augustine Eguavoen was recently appointed, the Nigerian players can build a relationship quickly with him based on nationality ties.
With some luck, tactical brilliance, and the dynamic football the Super Eagles are known for, they can win the 2022 AFCON.
Cameroon: Indomitable lions of Cameroon will be looking to put up a good showing on home soil throughout the course of the AFCON.
They’ve won five out of their last six games, and considering the quality they have within their ranks, there’s a strong chance they could go all the way.
They’ll be looking to Vincent Aboubakar and Karl Toko-Ekambi to find the back of the net as both players have scored a combined 11 league goals for their respective teams thus far this season.
But while Aboubakar is expected to play an integral role during the competition, millions of Cameroonian fans will be hoping that Karl Toko-Ekambi in particular performs at his best, because on his day, he’s a fearsome striker.
In addition to six league goals, he’s scored six goals in six games in the Europa League for Lyon making him the joint-highest goalscorer in the entire competition.
However, despite finding much success at Lyon, Toko-Ekambi has struggled to make his mark on the international stage in the past, but after scoring the lone goal in Cameroon’s most recent fixture against Ivory Coast – there’s a strong chance that Toko-Ekambi could dominate the goalscoring charts at the AFCON.
Serie A: Dzeko strikes late to save Inter against Venezia
Edin Dzeko made sure that Inter Milan would hold off their Serie A title rivals on Saturday with a last-gasp strike which gave the league leaders a 2-1 win over Venezia.
The Bosnian’s first goal in nine matches in all competitions put the champions five points ahead of AC Milan, who now need to beat Champions League-chasing Juventus on Sunday night to make sure that their local rivals don’t start to pull away from the chasing pack.
With the Milan derby next up after the coming international break, Dzeko’s bullet header relieves the pressure on Inter, who were below their best against spirited opposition who had come into the game hit with a host of Covid-19 cases.
Third-placed Napoli are now seven points behind Simone Inzaghi’s side before they host bottom-side Salernitana on Sunday afternoon.
Defeat was a crushing blow for Venezia, who opened the scoring through Thomas Henry but sit 17th, two points above the relegation zone.
Henry gave the away side a shock lead in the 19th minute when he met Ethan Ampadu’s deep cross with a powerful header that flew past Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
From that moment on it was almost entirely one-way traffic, with a well-organised Venezia holding off a wave of Inter attacks which lacked their usual incisiveness.
A home crowd limited to 5 000 by Covid regulations grew frustrated as hosts struggled to break down their relatively lowly opposition, with Lautaro Martinez sending a bicycle kick way over the bar 10 minutes before the break.
However they did find the breakthrough five minutes five minutes later when after Ivan Perisic’s fizzing volley was pushed away Nicolo Barella lashed home his second league goal of the season on the rebound.
A baffling Dzeko miss left fans opened-mouth just before the hour mark, the Bosnia striker somehow poking over the bar from inches away after Luca Lezzerini fumbled the ball into his path from Stefano de Vrij’s header.
Inter created little after Federico Dimarco’s powerful free-kick was pushed away but Dzeko made up for his earlier miss by meeting Denzel Dumfries cross with a header to which Lezzerini couldn’t get near.
Earlier Genoa played out a goalless draw with Udinese in the struggling Serie A side’s first match under new coach Alexander Blessin.
Blessin, a top-level novice, arrived on the Italian riviera from Belgian team KV Oostende on Wednesday as Genoa try to climb out of the drop zone.
Genoa performed with more verve than under his predecessors Andriy Shevchenko and Davide Ballardini but missed some presentable opportunities.
They kept pushing for their first league win since mid-September after Andrea Cambiaso was sent off with 11 minutes remaining.
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However they stay second-bottom in Serie A after their 20th match without victory, on 13 points, five behind Venezia.
Blessin was a left-field name for Genoa, as Oostende was Blessin’s first senior coaching position after coming up through the academy system at RB Leipzig.
He took over at Oostende in 2020 and led the team to fifth in the Belgian top flight. His former team sat 15th in the 18-team league, four points above the relegation play-off spot, when he departed for Genoa.
EPL: Man City held by Southampton
Aymeric Laporte spared Manchester City’s blushes as the Premier League leaders were held to a 1-1 draw at Southampton on Saturday.
City were rocked by Kyle Walker-Peters’ first ever top-flight goal in the opening minutes.
After a poor first half by their high standards, Pep Guardiola’s side kicked into gear after the break.
Spain defender Laporte headed the equaliser, but City could not extend their winning streak in a one-sided finale that saw the visitors lay seige to the Southampton goal.
Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte
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The champions had to settle for a result that left them 12 points clear of second-placed Liverpool, who have two games in hand and face Crystal Palace on Sunday.
For the first time since they were beaten 2-0 by Palace on October 30, City finished a league game without all three points.
Comoros hit by Covid-19 outbreak at Cup of Nations
The Comoros Islands have been hit by an outbreak of Covid-19 in their camp, including their coach and two available goalkeepers, two days before they are due to meet Africa Cup of Nations hosts Cameroon in the last 16.
A total of 12 cases have been reported in their camp, the Comoros Football Federation said on Saturday.
They now face a crisis in goal with first choice Salim Ben Boina injured and their other two keepers, Ali Ahamada and Moyadh Ousseni, now forced to isolate.
Coach Amir Abdou, who has been in charge for the last eight years and credited for his country’s giant-killing run, is now also in quarantine.
The Comoros qualified for the last 16 against all expectations after a shock win over Ghana on Tuesday but now have a major crisis on their hands some 48 hours before the biggest game in their footballing history.
CAF has laid down strict rules regarding Covid-19 at the Cup of Nations finals.
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If a player tests positive he will not be authorised to go to the stadium or participate in the match, while teams must play as long as they have a minimum 11 players available.
If they have no goalkeeper available, another player must play in that position.
Teams that do not have a minimum of 11 players available will be considered to have lost the match 2-0, according to CAF.
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