GHANA WANNA GIVE GYAN SUPER SEND-OFF
The 28-year-old’s stunning volley against Ivory Coast with his left foot as he fell in the box, was one of the most memorable moments of the last Africa Cup of Nations. He will lead Mali’s attack in a tough group that features Egypt and Ghana who have won this tournament a combined 11 times. The Frenchman is in his second stint as Mali coach. This is the third African country he has managed having led Gabon and Senegal. It’s the Eagles he has done well with at the Afcon, returning with a bronze medal in the 2012 edition. He allows players to express their creativity and skill, which bodes well for the Eagles who boast a number of skilful players. It’s a mystery why Mali have never been African champions despite being a consistent feature at the Afcon and having been represented by talented players like Seydou Keita and Frederic Kanoute. Those two have hung up their boots with another generation taking over. The quality is still there but it’s not at the level that could see them lift the trophy.
EGYPT HAVE awoken from a seven-year long comma to find themselves in the group of death in their first Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) since 2010. The Pharaohs don’t mind because the turmoil they endured since lifting the Afcon for a record seventh time at Angola 2010 was much tougher than the challenge from the Black Stars, Uganda and Mali.
The Arab Spring uprisings that toppled Hosni Mubarak went from Tahrir Square right to the stadiums across Egypt. The national team suffered because of that. That revolution found the most successful African nation struggling to even qualify for the tournament. The uprising created divisions in the country, leading to the one thing that united even staunch enemies like Al-Ahly and Zamalek to find more reasons to hate one another. However, those clubsstill managed to dominate the continent even though their domestic league was shut down at one point and when it opened they had to play behind closed doors.
When normality returned, to a point that Egypt were allowed to play in front of a packed stadium in the 2-0 win over Ghana in Alexandria in a 2018 World Cup qualifier, the nation breathed a huge sigh of relief and put on a show. The Pharaohs will look to take that normality to the Afcon. The tournament has been a pretty simple affair, 16 nations come together to display the best of African football and more often than not Egypt leave as champions. They have the master key to unlocking where the trophy lies.
The Black Stars, on the other hand, have banged the door that contains the trophy. Just like it was Ivory Coast’s time to be African champions in 2015, so is the case with Ghana this time around.
They have a quality side that can achieve that and it would be a perfect send-off for Asamoah Gyan. The Ghanaian captain has hinted that this could be his last Afcon campaign.
His previous campaigns have been littered with disappointment, especially in the last edition. Ghana lost on penalties to Ivory Coast whose golden generation finally picked up gold. What gives Ghana the edge over Egypt is that they have players with experience of competing on this stage.
The Egyptians have been forced to shed some of their experienced campaigners in the past troubled years when legends such as Mohamed Aboutrika and Wael Gomma called it quits to make way for an exciting young group that includes Mohamed Salah, Mohamed Elneny, Kahraba and Ramadan Sobhi. Competition was so stiff upfront that Basem Morsi couldn’t find a place. Veteran goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary, who was there when Egypt won a hat-trick of Afcon titles from 2006-2010, will bring much-needed experience as part of the four players in the 23-man squad who have played in this tournament.
There isn’t a single individual who has been here before The city is Gabon’s economic capital. It is the second biggest city after Libreville. Oil keeps Port-Gentil afloat. It’s a major contribution to it being named the world’s most expensive city. Stadium: Stade de Port-Gentil – 20 000 This stadium was built for this tournament by a Chinese company. Argentina and Barcelona’s star, Lionel Messi, laid the first stone in a ceremony that was also attended by Gabon’s President Ali Bongo. Egypt: 1957, 1959, 1986, 2006, 2008, 2010 – Champions Ghana: 1963, 1965, 1978, 1982 – Champions Mali: 1972 – Runners-up Uganda: 1962 – Fourth Place for Uganda. The Cranes are making their first appearance since 1978 and they can spoil the party. Mali have a good squad, but they could be the whipping boys of this group .