Analysts favour Senegal at Afcon
Ghana tipped to be strong
09 January 2017 | Sports
The 31st edition of the African Cup of Nations will see 16 teams challenging each other for Africa's greatest football trophy.
Gabon will open the competition on Saturday with a game against Guinea-Bissau, while 2015 Ivory Coast begin their assignment against Togo.
Most of the teams in the competition are equipped with European-based players who ply their trade at top clubs.
There will be a strange feeling to the competition, given the absence of one of Africa's greatest football nations Nigeria, who failed to make it to the tournament.
When asked about their favourite teams in the competition, football analysts said that the Senegalese side looks like a force to be reckoned with this time around.
Tura Magic executive member Isack Hamata said: “My views on AFCON 2017 are that Cameroon would have been my obvious choice to win the Afcon 2017, but the withdrawal of eight key European-based players from the squad has seriously limited their chances of making any impact at the competition.
“Senegal, even without Liverpool's Sadio Mane is firm favourite to at least reach the finals, but the two finalists of 2015, Ghana and the eventual winners Ivory Coast will not simply roll over and die.
“Ghana has retained the majority of their players from the previous Afcon and Ivory Coast who are boosted by the inclusion of Wilfred Saha, will be out to show Africa that their victory two years ago, was no fluke.
“The north African giants, Tunisia and Morocco have not had a serious impact on continental football in the past four years. This is their chance to stake their claim for African dominance.”
Hamata also said that he was worried that many of the players who play in Europe will bring tired legs to the tournament.
He feels that some of the players just go through the motions and do not bring out their best football, which they reserve for their European clubs.
“We recall that CAF decided in 2010 to move the Afcon tournament from even to odd years. That has helped African teams' performance in the World Cup competitions, but it has helped little in terms of getting fresh legs in the Afcon tournament.
“Many European-based players will be participating in Afcon with an eye on their respective leagues, and also avoiding injury while representing their countries.
“What we can expect to get is half-hearted performances as we have seen in the past from some of the so-called great African players.
“We have also seen how some players are very happy for their countries to lose early in the competition, which allows them to go back to their European league clubs. That does little for the development of football or to generate excitement at the Afcon tournament.
“It is difficult to find a solution to this since CAF has no say over how the European leagues must be run and whether they should suspend programmes while their African players are playing in Afcon.
“The players should just show extra commitment to their continent and play as hard and well as we know they are able to,” Hamata said.
FNB Orlando Pirates coach Woody Jacobs also shared the same views as Hamata, stating that the 'Lions of Teranga' have a very good chance of winning the competition given the depth in their squad.
Jacobs also feels that the North African sides which include Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria will not be a walk in the park for the West African nations.
“I think there is plenty of talent on display at this year's competition, which gives the tournament an exciting prospect.
“My money at the moment will be on Senegal, because I watched them play against Namibia and they showed great strength,” Jacobs said.
Retired award winning sports journalist Hector Mawonga however disagrees with the two analysts, suggesting that Ghana looks good.
“It is sad that we only have one Southern African team playing in the competition given that the likes of Zambia, South Africa and Namibia all failed to qualify.
“I do believe that Ghana is the hot favourites given the amount of depth and talent which is in their squad. Senegal is almost a one-man team, because if Mane is not playing well, they fail to come up with a plan B.
“I do expect them to progress far in the tournament and I do think they have enough to win it, because we also have Algeria and Egypt who have always done well throughout the competition's history,” Mawonga reiterated.
Jesse Jackson Kauraisa.