Groups C & D – Jonathan Wilson's Guide to Afcon 2019

Is there a potential threat to Egypt in Group C?

If anybody is going to upset Egypt, Senegal probably have the best chance. Aliou Cissé has been in charge since 2015 – there seems to be a general movement in Africa to give coaches more time and I think that there are a lot of sides that are really benefitting from that. Senegal seem a very settled team with a lot of big-ish name players. They've got a very solid midfield based around Idrissa Gana Gueye, then there's their forward line with Sadio Mané and Keita Baldé. They were highly fancied in Gabon two years ago and ended up not being able to finish off Cameroon in the quarter finals, losing on penalties, despite totally dominating that game. Cameroon sat deep against them and negated their pace in doing so. That might be an issue, but they were very impressive in qualifying: won five, drew once, kept five clean sheets. If anyone is going to beat Egypt, I think it might be them.

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This isn't an easy group though. Algeria are perhaps not quite winners, but certainly a team you'd expect to be quarter-final/semi-finalists. Their Cup of Nations record isn't quite as good as it ought to be, they've only won it once back in 1990 and went out in the group stage two years ago but you look at the squad – Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani, Sofiane Feghouli – and these are players with a lot of European experience. It’s them or Senegal to top the group – but probably Senegal.

With half of the group looking so strong, is there any hope for the other two?

With the 24-team format, four of the third-placed teams are going to go through which means that whoever wins the game between the third and fourth team of the group have a great chance of going through and that's what I think Kenya will be banking on. This is their fifth appearance at the Cup of Nations but the first time since 2004. In Victor Wanyama they've got one of the bigger names of the tournament but there isn’t a huge amount of support around him. Their qualification was pretty odd in that Sierra Leone withdrew leaving a three-team group, but they did beat Ghana and Ethiopia at home which suggests a certain quality. I think they've got a solidity there and if they can beat their East African rivals Tanzania then they could go through as a best third-placed team.

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Tanzania, managed by former Nigeria forward Emmanuel Amuneke, have only qualified once before way back in 1980. A lot of their team are based at home or in South Africa. The only player that might have been heard of by British fans is Adi Yussuf who's at Blackpool. They qualified behind Uganda, only ahead of Lesotho and a Cape Verde team who have imploded so Tanzania are very much minnows in this group.

Jonathan’s prediction: Senegal, Algeria, Kenya, Tanzania 


Does the third-placed qualification affect the competitiveness of Group D?

Well Group D is one of only a few groups where there are three teams of decent quality who could all take points off each other. Morocco are probably the favourites to go through as group winners. They're managed by Hervé Renard who has had success in this competition before with both Côte d'Ivoire and Zambia. He's the only man to have managed two different nations to the Cup of Nations title. Morocco show every hallmark of a Renard side – they're defensively very sound and don't give much away but they also have great counter-attacking ability and technical skill through the likes of Hakim Ziyech and Sofiane Boufal. They finished top of quite a difficult qualifying group on a head-to-head record against Cameroon. They've got the quality, structure and manager and creative players going forward. After Egypt and Senegal, Morocco are probably third or fourth favourites. You'd expect them to go through as group winners, but this is a tough group.

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Côte d'Ivoire are not the side that they once were. They've been champions before in 1992 and 2015 but even in 2015, you felt they weren't on the decline. This year they've got a local coach in Ibrahim Kamara which is slightly unusual for Côte d'Ivoire. They went out at the group stage in Gabon which I think emphasises that this is not the great Côte d'Ivoire that we remember. They do still have well-known players with plenty of European experience; the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Serge Aurier, Franck Kessie, but they didn't qualify particularly impressively behind Guinea. I think they're really scraping it out with South Africa for the second automatic place behind Morocco.

South Africa are one of the great mysteries of African football. When they won the tournament on home soil in 1996, we expected them to begin to dominate the continent. Since then, it's been a long and steady decline. They didn't qualify for Gabon two years ago but there has been a resurgence under Stuart Baxter in his second stint as manager. You look down the squad and it's not a squad full of names you'd recognise. They qualified behind Nigeria but were unbeaten, so I think they're a good, solid side. I suspect Group D won't produce a lot of goals, but it might produce the highest quality football and there are genuinely three teams battling out for the qualification spots.

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The fourth team are Namibia. They've got to the Cup of Nations twice before, but they've picked up two points across those campaigns. Most of their players are based at home or in South Africa and they only qualified on head-to-head record ahead of Mozambique. They did put out former champions Zambia, so there is at least some quality there. But they are very much the fourth team in this group.

Jonathan’s prediction: Morocco, Côte d'Ivoire, South Africa, Namibia


Read Jonathan's guide to Groups E & F here.

If you missed Jonathan's guide to Groups A & B read here.

And if you enjoyed that, you can read articles from our most recent issue here.