AFCON 2021 : Nigeria in tricky Group with Egypt, as sports aficionado bemoans decline of African Football
By Our Sports Desk
The Super Eagles of Nigeria have been grouped in Group D with Egypt in the 2021 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, which is scheduled to hold in Cameroon between January 9 and February 6, 2022.
Football analysts believe Nigeria and Egypt will be between the top two teams to lead the group.
The other teams in the group include Sudan and Guinea-Bissau, who have been transformed from minnows to qualifying three times in a row.
Meanwhile,The Desert Foxes of Algeria will face the Ivory Coast, the only team they failed to defeat in winning the last Africa Cup of Nations.
The teams drew 1-1 after extra time in the quarter-finals and the Desert Foxes advanced by winning a penalty shootout.
Matches decided by spot-kicks are officially classified as draws by FIFA, and it was the only time in a seven-match march to the title that Algeria needed a shootout to succeed.
Algeria and the Ivory Coast were placed in Group E with Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea when the draw was made in Yaounde on Tuesday.
It would be a shock if the Algerians and Ivorians did not fill the top two spots, leaving the other two countries to fight for possible qualification as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Although ranked third in the continent this month behind Senegal and Tunisia, Algeria are the form team as they boast an African record 27-match unbeaten run since November 2018.
Cameroon, seeking a sixth Cup of Nations title, were put in Group A with Burkina Faso, who they will face in the opening match in Yaounde, Ethiopia and Cape Verde.
It is hard to imagine the Indomitable Lions failing to make the last 16 and Burkina Faso will also be confident of progressing.
Sadio Mane-inspired Senegal, beaten by Algeria in both the group stage and the final two years ago, will be hotly fancied to top Group B, which includes Zimbabwe, Guinea and Malawi.
Tunisia, who have qualified for every Cup of Nations since 1994, are in Group F with Mali, Mauritania and the Gambia, who along with the Comoros are debutants.
The Atlas Lions of Morocco, whose only Cup of Nations success came in 1976, and four-time champions Ghana look the strongest contenders in Group C, with the Comoros Island and Gabon to compete.
Commenting on the draw, Ag.Director-General GlobaL Center for Media and Human Empowerment(GCMHE) Charles Ejoh said he hoped for an “exciting, competitive and successful” tournament as Cameroon play hosts for a second time.Adding that African Football is on the decline due to unforeseen factors.
The football aficionado reminiscence the 1988 AFCON hosted by Morroco, describing it as one of the best in terms of organization,quality of the teams and content of play .
He said that the tournament was truly a display of real African football:”The 1988 AFCON was a master stroke, it had all the trappings of a major tournament compared to the World Cup. In fact, it was a conglomeration of stars.
Recall that Zaire had a Yugoslavian Coach and they came with 22-man foreign based football stars that includes their lethal striker , Kabongo Ngoy while Morrocco the hosts who were Africa’s representative at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico paraded such vibrant stars like goalkeeper Badou Zaki,dark skinned player Merry Krimo,Mohammed Timouni and Azeez Bouderbala.
Nigeria’s Green Eagles as they were called then were not left out, being coached by a German Manfred Hoener,the Green Eagles had wonderful players like Henry Nwosu,late Sam Okwaraji,Ndubuisi Okosieme,late Yisa Sofoluwe just to mention but few that dazed the world though Nigeria narrowly lost to perennial arch rival Cameroun through a controversial penalty awarded to the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun in the final”.
Cameroon were originally due to stage the African football showcase in 2019 but fell behind with preparations and Egypt stepped in as late replacements.
The 2021 tournament dates have changed twice, first because of fears that torrential seasonal rains could affect the tight schedule, and then because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Group A: Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Cape Verde
Group B: Senegal, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Malawi
Group C: Morocco, Ghana, Comoros, Gabon
Group D: Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, Guinea-Bissau
Group E: Algeria, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast
Group F: Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania, Gambia
Note: Group winners and runners-up and the four best third-placed teams qualify for knockout stage