Power Ranking: The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations contenders


Africa’s World Cup campaign was short and not so sweet, but the continent’s five failures in Russia have less than a year to wait before they can banish those memories by bringing home continental gold. The extended field for the 2019 tournament means that there’s less chance that any of Africa’s traditional heavyweights will miss out, while the continent’s top sides will have learned some serious lessons after their time in Russia.
Nigeria: The optimism that accompanied Nigeria’s stylish qualification for Russia soon evaporated when they were outclassed—comfortably—by Croatia in their opener. Despite the errors that were made, and their subsequent first-round elimination at the hands of Argentina, there are positives to take from their showing in Russia. This is a young side, with various exciting elements, and the performances of players such as Ogkeneharo Etebo during the World Cup suggests that the Super Eagles will be contenders again in Cameroon. Can Gernot Rohr make amends for their toil this summer?
Egypt: It’s not all doom and gloom for Egypt despite their miserable campaign in Russia. Admittedly, their showing during the World Cup was dire, but the Pharaohs have parted ways with Hector Cuper and will hope that his successor can let the shackles off a bit. While Mohamed Salah was a muted presence after the injury he suffered in the Champions League, he ought to be back, fighting fit, and keen to make up for lost time this summer. Could the Pharaohs bounce back in style and go one further than they did in 2017?
Cameroon are the only team in our power rankings who didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup, as they—like Algeria and Ghana—didn’t qualify for the global showpiece. However, their status both as hosts and holders means that the Indomitable Lions are genuine contenders for this tournament and cannot be overlooked. Before his exit, Hugo Broos had begun to bolster his Afcon-winning squad with fresh blood, and his interim successor Alexandre Belinga has continued the process. How many of the team’s high-profile players will return for a shot at glory on home soil?
Senegal only have themselves to blame for letting their strong position in Group H slip as they limped out of the World Cup. However, they clearly have the basis of a really excellent team under Coach Aliou Cisse, and while they struggled against set pieces during the World Cup, their defensive unit stood out. If Sadio Mane enjoys the kind of spell of form that he’s capable of, then he can be the hub of an outstanding offensive unit which includes Keita Balde, Ismaila Sarr and Mbaye Niang. This team appear primed to redeem themselves after their near miss in 2018 with a strong showing next year.
Morocco: We’re backing Morocco as favourites for next year’s tournament after they delivered, in Russia, the kind of performances that few of Africa’s teams can match. Some tough refereeing decisions and, arguably, the lack of a key cutting edge up front cost them. However, they have Africa’s best defence, some of the continent’s most talented creative players, and perhaps Africa’s best coach. Indeed, if Herve Renard sticks around—there’s been interest from Algeria and Egypt—then he has the strategic nous and the experience to take Morocco all the way.

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