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2021 AFCON Group A Preview

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We are just three days until the taste of yet another Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament on the African continent.

The tournament, which will be held in Cameroon will be the 33rd edition since the inception of the Africa Cup of Nations in 1957.

With just a little or no time to go, Premier League News Now brings you a look at Group A, which features host nation Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Ethiopia. We also look at the favorites to advance from the group as well the teams’ performances in their involvement at the continental showpiece, their best players to watch and the skippers from each side.

Cameroon

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Cameroon have been one of the top performers on the African continent for more than a decade. The Central African side have made a total of 20 appearances at the Afcon (including the 2021 edition). They will begin their campaign as the host nation after they earn the right to host the competition.

During the previous 19 times that Cameroon have been to the showpiece, they have won it on five occasions (1984, 1988, 2000, 2002, 2017).

The Indomitable Lions will go into the tournament with Vincent Aboubakar as their skipper. The Al-Nassr forward will be a leader on and off the pitch for the team following his experience from the last tournament in 2017, before missing out on the 2019 edition.

Aboubakar has been involved in 10 league goals in the Saudi Professional League and head coach Toni Conceicao will be hoping the player’s club form will be essential for his side making an impact at the Afcon.

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Among the stars for Cameroon, Andre-Frank Zambo will be one of the key players to watch. The Napoli midfielder, following his spell in England and Spain is now flourishing with the Italian side and availability will be important for the host nation.

CAMEROON AFCON SQUAD:

Goalkeepers: Simon Omossola (AS Vita Club, DR Congo), Devis Epassy (OFI Crete, Greece), Andre Onana (Ajax, Netherlands).

Defenders: Collins Fai (Standard Liege, Belgium), Olivier Mbaizo (Philadelphia Union, USA), Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui (Gent, Belgium), JC Castelletto (Nantes, France), Harold Moukoudi (St Etienne, France), Enzo Ebosse (Angers, France), Ambroise Oyongo Bitolo (Montpellier, France), Jerome Onguene (Red Bull Salzburg, Austria), Nouhou Tolo (Seattle Sounders, USA).

Midfielders: Jean Onana Junior (Bordeaux, France), Malong Kunde (Olympiakos, Greece), Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (Napoli, Italy), Samuel Gouet Oum (Mechelen, Belgium), Martin Hongla (Hellas Verona, Italy), James Lea Siliki (Middlesbrough, England), Yvan Neyou (St Etienne, France).

Forwards: Ignatius Ganago (Lens, France), Christian Bassogog (Shanghai Shenua, China), Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Bayern Munich, Germany), Stephane Bahoken (Angers, France), Karl Toko-Ekambi (Lyon, France), Moumi Ngamaleu (Young Boys, Switzerland), Vincent Aboubakar (Al Nasr, Saudi Arabia), Clinton Njie (Dinamo Moscow, Russia).

Burkina Faso

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With 12 appearances at the event, Burkina Faso’s best performance at the Afcon came in the 2013 edition, where they beat Ghana on penalties to make a final finish at the competition eventually losing the title to Nigeria.

The Stallions have since failed to replicate such performances on the continent as they have struggled in the subsequent ones. Burkina Faso also missed out on the last edition of the Afcon, having failed to progress to the knockout stages of the one held in 2017.

A recent upsurge in performances means Kamou Malo’s side are back among one of the favorites to fight for the Africa cup this year in Cameroon. They won three and drew three of their six qualifying games for the tournament, scoring six times and conceding just two.

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Aston Villa’s Bertrand Traore is one player to watch in the Burkina Faso squad. In his last Afcon tournament, the 26-year-old scored one and assisted the other as Burkina Faso exited in the group stages. The Stallions will also be boosted by the addition of Edmond Tapsoba and Issa Kabore.

BURKINA FASO AFCON SQUAD: TBC

Cape Verde

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Cape Verde will be making what is just their third appearance at the Afcon since they made their debut in 2013. Just like Burkina Faso, Cape Verde’s best outing at the continental showpiece came during the 2013, where they also faced the Black Stars of Ghana, losing 2-0 in that game.

The Blue Sharks failed to win or loss any of their games during the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. Having drawn all three matches, they were unable to go past the group stage as goal superiority ensured DR Congo occupied the second position at the expense of Cape Verde.

With an improved squad from their last Afcon, Cape Verde are also toted as one of the best teams to look out for in the upcoming competition.

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Pedro Leito Brito has entrusted Ryan Mendes with the captain’s armband and the forward’s presence in front of goal will be the needed spark the Blue Sharks need.

CAPE VERDE AFCON SQUAD:

Goalkeepers: Vozinha (AEL Limassol, Cyprus), Marcio da Rosa (Montalegre, Portugal), Keven Ramos (Mindelese, Cape Verde), Elber Evora (AEL Limassol, Cyprus).

Defenders: Stopira (Fehervar, Hungary), Steven Fortes (Oostende, Belgium), Jeffry Fortes (De Graafschap, Netherlands), Steve Furtado (Beroe, Bulgaria), Roberto Lopes (Shamrock Rovers, Republic of Ireland), Joao Paulo Fernandes (Feirense, Portugal), Diney Borges (AS Far, Morocco), Ponck (Istanbul Basaksehir, Turkey), Dylan Tavares (Neuchatel Xamax, Switzerland), Delmiro Nascimento (Aris Limassol, Cyprus).

Midfielders: Kenny Rocha (Oostende, Belgium), Nuno Borges (Casa Pia, Portugal), Patrick Andrade (Qarabag, Azerbaijan), Jamiro Monteior (Philadelphia Union, USA), Nenass (Aalesund, Norway), Marco Soares (Arouca, Portugal).

Forwards: Ryan Mendes (Al Nasr, UAE), Willy Semedo (Pafos, Cyprus), Gilson Tavares (Estoril-Praia, Portugal), Willis Furtado (FK Jerv, Norway), Julio Tavares (Al Faisaly, Saudi Arabia), Garry Rodrigues (Olympiakos, Greece), Lisandro Semedo (Fortuna Sittard, Netherlands), Djaniny Semedo (Trabzonsport, Turkey).

Ethiopia

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The Walyas, despite making 11 appearances at the tournament have not been present since 2013. They have failed to qualify for the last three editions of the Afcon. In 2013, they exited the competition in the group stage without a win and finished bottom in Group C.

Ethiopia have won the trophy once in their history, beating Egypt to the title in 1962, in their own backyard. For Wubetu Abate, the 33rd edition of the Afcon is a very good opportunity to restore themselves onto the African scene as a good footballing nation.

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Getaneh Kebede is definitely an option to keep an eye on. He will also be the player to captain the national team at the showpiece.

ETHIOPIA AFCON SQUAD:

Goalkeepers: Teklemariam Shanko (Sidama Coffee, Ethiopia), Fasil Gebremichael (Bahir Dar Ketema, Ethiopia), Jemal Tassew (Adama Ketema, Ethiopia).

Defenders: Asrat Tunjo (Ethiopian Coffee, Ethiopia), Suleiman Hamid (St George, Ethiopia), Remedan Yesouf (Wolkite K, Ethiopia), Desta Yohannes (Adama K, Ethiopia), Aschalew Tamene (Fasil K, Ethiopia), Yared Bayeh (Fasil K, Ethiopia), Mignot Debebe (St George, Ethiopia), Menaf Awol (Bahir Dar K, Ethiopia).

Midfielders: Amanuel Yohannes (Ethiopian Coffee, Ethiopia), Gatuoch Panom (St George, Ethiopia), Shemeles Bekele (El Gouna, Egypt), Mesoud Mohammed (Jimma AJ, Ethiopia), Fitsum Alemu (Bahir Dar K, Ethiopia), Firew Solomon (Sidama Coffee, Ethiopia), Bezabeh Meleyou (Fasil K, Ethiopia).

Forwards: Abubeker Nassir (Ethiopian Coffee, Ethiopia), Getaneh Kebede (Wolkite K, Ethiopia), Amanuel Gebremichael (St George, Ethiopia), Shemeket Gugsa (Fasil K, Ethiopia), Mujib Kassim (JS Kabylie, Algeria), Mesfin Taffese (Hawassa K, Ethiopia), Dawa Hotessa (Adama K, Ethiopia).

Group A fixtures

Sunday 9 January: Cameroon vs Burkina Faso, Ethiopia vs Cape Verde

Thursday 13 January: Cameroon vs Ethiopia, Cape Verde vs Burkina Faso

Monday 17 January: Burkina Faso vs Ethiopia, Cape Verde vs Cameroon

Favourties to Qualify

         












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Manchester United Transfer Rumours: Rangnick left to fail?

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Manchester United Transfer Rumours: Manchester United’s failure to sign their primary targets is known to everyone. The Red Devils are struggling in the Premier League. Yet, they are doing nothing to land the player’s Ralf Rangnick’s wants.

Amadou Haidara is high on Rangnick’s list of things to get. Moreover, United’s interval manager has effectively placed in calls to his old club to arrange the signing.

Rangnick is very eager to reinforce his midfield and sees Haidara, 23, as a fair securing for both the short and long haul.

Leipzig is available to sell the Malian worldwide. He is addressing his country at AFCON and has verbally agreed to a £33million charge with Rangnick right now.

Manchester United Transfer Rumours: United in danger of losing out on Haidara?

Manchester United Transfer Rumours: Rangnick left to fail?

United is yet to make a proper bid to the German club and could miss out on Haidara after all.

Their advantage has gotten the attention of Newcastle’s new owners. They are anxious to show their muscle in the January window.

That could demonstrate United’s weakness, with club bosses delaying over burning through cash while Rangnick is in charge. The United board is hesitant to give Rangnick free reign in the exchange market.

Rangnick is very irritated with United’s inability to move in the market so far, yet the fates of a few United players are yet hanging out there.

Which players want to leave United?

Jesse Lingard is out of the agreement in the next 6 months. Newcastle, Tottenham, and West Ham pursuing his signing this month. However, he could hold on until the late summer to see who is willing to pay him the wages he wants.

Paul Pogba is living in his own world. The midfielder is out injured and showing no signs of signing a new deal with the club. His deal also ends in 6 months’ time and his agent can talk to other clubs.

Donny van de Beek has additionally become baffled with life at the club. However, Rangnick has encouraged the Dutchman to remain until the finish of the season.

The possibility of Lingard or Van de Beek being sold this month isn’t with regards to the inquiry. Still, United bosses are making it difficult for the interim manager. not eager to supply Rangnick with the funds to finish his transfer business.

Is Rangnick having doubts?

All things considered, Rangnick is presently scrutinizing the degree of impact he will have on signings going ahead. His consultancy job will be starting from this summer itself.

He really loves Borussia Monchengladbach’s Denis Zakaria, who will be a free agent in the summer. The Swiss international is available for a meager transfer fee of 6m pounds.

Brighton’s Yves Bissouma is also scouted. However, the decision will be made in the summer window only after the appointment of a new manager.





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Liverpool Transfer News: Barcelona are monitoring Roberto Firmino as they look to replace Sergio Aguero

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Liverpool Transfer News: Roberto Firmino has had a torrid season owing to injuries. But it looks like Barcelona are monitoring the Brazilian as they look to sweep him in the summer. 

FC Barcelona signed Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero in the summer. But tragedy struck the Argentine within months of making his debut for the Spanish Giants. 

The striker fell to the pitch in the match against Deportivo Alaves after he complained of chest pain. He was diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia following which he announced his retirement in December last year.

Barcelona have since signed another Manchester City striker in Ferran Torres. But now they are looking to add another striker to their roster, for which they are targeting Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino. 

Barcelona look to swoop Roberto Firmino in the summer

Liverpool Transfer News: Barcelona are monitoring Roberto Firmino as they look to replace Sergio Aguero

According to Spanish news outlet El Nacional, FC Barcelona are looking to sign a striker in the summer. And as per the report, the Spanish Giants see Roberto Firmino as the perfect replacement for Sergio Aguero. 

The report states that Roberto Firmino would be in the last year of his contract in the summer transfer window. Hence, the Brazilian would cost only around €20m if Barcelona were to sign him. 

Roberto Firmino has had just 4 Premier League starts in the 2021/22 season. The striker has been sidelined for almost half the games owing to injuries. Hence, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has replaced the striker with Diogo Jota in the attack. 

Jota has made the most of Roberto Firmino’s misfortune. The Portuguese forward has scored 10 goals in 19 Premier League games this season. Of which, the Portuguese have started 16. 

Roberto Firmino though has got to play a key role for Liverpool in January. With Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane participating in the Africa Cup of Nations, Firmino would be leading the lines for the Reds. 

The 30-year olds resume has also been impressive with Liverpool. Having joined in 2015, Firmino has scored 94 goals in 309 appearances in all competitions for the Reds. He has also played a key part in the club winning the UEFA Champions League and Premier League titles in recent years. 

Should the Reds let Firmino leave?

As stated earlier, Roberto Firmino is in the last 18-months of his contract with the Reds. To add to this, there is still no update of an extension from Liverpool or the forward. 

Though Roberto Firmino has not scored more than 9 Premier League goals in the last three seasons, his gameplay is crucial. The Brazilian is one of the few low-lying center forwards who helps get the winger’s score. Hence Liverpool should surely try to keep Firmino if he wants to extend his stay in Merseyside.



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Algeria vs Equatorial Guinea: Match Preview

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After that disappointing game against a less fancied, Sierra Leonean side, Algeria comes up against Equatorial Guinea for their second round of matches in the group stage.

Equatorial Guinea also lost to Ivory Coast by a lone goal scored by Max Gradel very early in the game. Max Gradel’s 5th-minute opener is the fastest goal so far in the competition.

Thus, both teams come into this game without a win. A win will increase the chances of both teams towards securing qualification to the knockout stages. This match is a chance for the Algerians to get back to winning ways after being given a reality check by 108th ranked Sierra Leone earlier in the First Round of Matches.

Algeria huffed and puffed looking at a momentary lapse of concentration from the Sierra Leoneans but were left disappointed at the end of the game. The Desert Foxes created few chances and were wasteful even with the few chances they created. Bounedjah, Benrahma and Mahrez were the culprits. Algeria are on a quest to become the 4th nation after Egypt, Ghana and Cameroon to win the AFCON title back to back.

For Equatorial Guinea, this is their 3rd AFCON appearance and their 1st without being hosts. They will be seeking to equal their Quarter-final appearance at the 2015 AFCON.

WHERE AND WHEN?

Time: 7 pm.
Date: Sunday, 16 January 2022.
Venue: Japoma Stadium.

TEAM NEWS

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Youcef Belaili took a knock in the first half of the game against Sierra Leone and was therefore sluggish and lethargic.

Record goalscorer for Algeria, Islam Slimani really offered nothing to the Desert Foxes against Sierra Leone and will be replaced in the starting lineup by Baghdad Bounedjah.

PRE-MATCH ANALYSIS

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Even though they lost their opening game, the Equatorial Guinea team gave a good account of themselves and are expected to lineup in the 4-3-3 formation. They have a lot of quick players in attack who also have great shooting abilities and can wreak havoc from long range as they will be offered very limited spaces against Algeria.

The team’s weak spot is in defence as displayed against the Ivory Coast where they succumbed to incessant attacks from their Ivorian opponents. Coach Djamel Belmadi is obviously disappointed with the lacklustre performance of his team in general and how blunt his attack was.

The Desert Foxes will be alternating between the 4-3-3 and the 4-1-4-1 formation with Haris Belkebla acting as the anchorman. In a 4-3-3 formation, the Algerian front three consisting of Mahrez, Bounedjah and Benrahma will be very pacy and will maraud the defence of the National Thunder. Abdelkader Bedrane, centre-back for the Desert Foxes was also very poor, making several defensive errors in the Sierra Leone game and was hauled off.

He should be replaced by the experienced Djamel Benlamri. Bounedjah is expected to start over Islam Slimani.

PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYER FEATURE

RIYAD MAHREZ

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The Manchester City forward was spiritless, and passive in the Sierra Leone game. He was man-marked throughout the game and offered next to nothing to the Desert Foxes. He will need to go the extra mile to be the creative spark in the team so as to make the work of Baghdad Bounedjah very easy.

SAID BENRAHMA

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West Ham forward, Benrahrima was brought with about a quarter of an hour left to play and missed a glorious opportunity to give the defending champions the lead. He made all the needed runs and was always in the right positions to wreak havoc to the opponents. He has been rewarded a starting berth against Equatorial Guinea.

PREDICTED LINEUPS

Algeria possible starting lineup: M’Bolhi; Bensebaini, Atal, Mandi, Djamel Benlamri; Belkebla, Brahimi, Boulaya; Mahrez, Bounedjah, Benrahma.

Equatorial Guinea possible starting lineup: Sapunga; Ndong, Coco, Akapo, Obiang; Salvador, Ganet, Buyla, Machin; Nsue, Hanza.

MATCH PREDICTION

Algeria 3- 1 Equatorial Guinea












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