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The Likely Outcomes of the Next Round @ AFCON 2015

AFCON 2015 analysis: Group A, B, C, D - Favorites and Surprises

January 16, 2015 By Mutembei Kevin
The wheat has been separated from the chaff. But out of the 16 good teams that remain, which can be the best?

It was one of the most thrilling qualification stages since in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations. Some countries, like Angola, Egypt and Nigeria, were shocked out of the competition, leading to a last 16 list devoid of some of the most prominent names on the continent. Others that were given almost no chance by pundits and betting tipsters, like DR Congo, proved their doubters wrong and booked their place in Equatorial Guinea. Hosts Guinea, on their part, qualified for reasons that were not entirely related to their footballing ability.

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Either way, the list has been compiled. Those whose hearts have been broken can try again at the next tournament, and those who have made it can now concentrate on winning the prestigious AFCON 2015 trophy for their country. What can we expect to see from the new groups that have been constituted? Are there more surprises on the way? Will the strong teams just romp their way through? Who will make it to the knockout stage? Read on!

Group A

Group A is distinct for its lack of a clear favorite. The group consists of Burkina Faso, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. Burkina Faso and Gabon qualified out of the same group in the previous round, with the Gabonese edging their counterparts by a single point to win the group.

  Dortmund star Aubameyang was central to Gabon's AFCON 2015 qualification

Hosts Equatorial Guinea were initially disqualified for fielding an ineligible player but lucked out they won the bid to host the tournament after Morocco’s refusal. They are probably less deserving of being at the tournament than any the others but this doesn’t mean they won’t put in a strong push for the trophy.

Long story short, Group A is a wildcard sort of group. Based on performances during the qualification round, it can be argued that the Gabonese are the strongest of the quartet but not by much. Even if Gabon are to win the group, it is extremely difficult to speculate who might follow them into the knockout phase. It could be anyone, including CAN 2015 hosts Eq. Guinea.

Group B

Immediately one looks at the Group B entrants, their eyes rest on Tunisia as the strongest team in the group. The 2004 African Cup of Nations winners coasted through the qualification stages, winning four out of six of their qualification games and losing none. Only Africa’s top ranked team, Algeria, raked up more points (15) than Tunisia’s 14. Their opponents in Group B are DR Congo, Cape Verde, and Zambia.

The Eagles of Carthage will not expect to walk into the knockout phase unopposed, though. Zambia, who won the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, will look to cause the Tunisians problems. The islanders of Cape Verde, who are ranked 7th on the latest FIFA CAF rankings, are also a stern opposition for any team to face.

The fourth team, DR Congo, managed one of the greatest upsets of this year’s qualification stage by beating Ivory Coast 4-3 in a match played in the country’s economic capital of Abidjan. After qualifying as the best third-placed team of the previous round, the Congolese have nothing to lose and will look to embarrass top sides like Tunisia. In summary, the Tunisians will likely find their way through followed by any of the three.

Group C

Group C is the metaphorical group of death in this year’s tournament. When one quickly glances at the four teams, their eyes immediately fall on South Africa as the probable whipping boys of the group. Bafana Bafana’s three opponents are Algeria, Ghana, and Senegal, all of whom are formidable teams with tons of experience in the competition.

The Algerians are not ranked as the top team in Africa and 18th worldwide by mistake. The 1990 Africa Cup of Nations winners have flown the African flag high in the most recent world cups as well as performing very well in the continent’s international tournaments.
  Strength in every part of the pitch: The Black Stars squad that faced in the USA at the 2014 World Cup

Not much need be said about the Black Stars of Ghana, except that they are a top class African side and one of the clear favorites for the coveted trophy. Having won the competition four times already (1963, 1965, 1978, and 1982), this team has the quality and big-game experience to go all the way.

Senegal boast arguably the best collection of young hotshot strikers with the hunger and desire to prove themselves on the big stage. The fact that Demba Ba did not make Senegal’s 23-man AFCON 2015 roster says a lot of the trust and faith that has been placed on the likes of Mame Birame Diouf, Moussa Konate, and Sadio Mane.

A quick verdict about this group is that Algeria and Ghana will go through at the expense of South Africa and Senegal. While Senegal do have a quality squad, their lack of tournament-winning experience will likely hamper their prospects.

Group D

Two heavyweights stand out in Group D: Ivory Coast and Cameroon. The Ivorians are however nowhere near having the outstanding form displayed by their Cameroonian counterparts, with life after retiree Drogba beginning with a few hurdles. Their 4-3 defeat in Abidjan at the hands of the DRC stands out in this regard.

  Gervinho receives some rough treatment from the Indomitable Lions during their qualifiers

On the other hand, The Indomitable Lions seem to be coping quite well without former captain Eto’o. The four-time Africa Cup of Nations winner’s 14 points was the joint second-highest tally of the qualification round, enabling them to qualify as winners in a group that included Ivory Coast.

Though arguably not as accomplished as Ivory Coast and Cameroon, Guinea are by no means a push over. If the Ivorians display the kind of shambolic defending they did in their 4-3 embarrassment by the DRC in Abidjan, either of Guinea or 10th-ranked Mali could easily take advantage and follow the Cameroonians into the knock-out round.

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