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2021 AFCON Group C Preview

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On January 9, the 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations will kick start in Cameroon. This edition was delayed due to the bad weather conditions in the summer. The various teams participating have been grouped into 6 groups with each group consisting of four teams. Three matches would be played in each group.

After the group stage, the top two teams from each group and the four highest-ranked third-placed teams will advance to the round of 16.

Our main focus for now would be in group C which has been touted to be one of the most difficult groups in the competition. 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. Group C includes four-time champions Ghana, Morocco, Gabon and debutants Comoros.

GHANA

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Ghana is currently ranked 52nd in Fifa ranking and have made a total of 23 appearances in AFCON.

The search for a fifth trophy would commences when they face Morocco in their first group stage match after coming close to win the trophy three times since 1982.

In 2019, Ghana suffered an early elimination at the round 16th stage as they were beaten on penalties by Tunisia.

Milovan Rajevac was re-appointed as the team’s head coach in September and has been mandated to bring back the trophy. A lot of Ghanaians believe in Rajevac, as he was the man in charge of the team at the 2010 AFCON. The man was able to reach the finals but was beaten 1-0 by Egypt.

Two notable names amongst that squad are Jonathan Mensah and Andre Ayew, who is now the captain of the side. Premier League duo Thomas Partey and Jordan Ayew will be hoping for a better tournament than they did in Egypt in 2019.

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The Ghanaian squad can also boast of youthful exuberance taking inspiration from young lads like Kamaldeen Sulemana, Abdul Fatawu Issahaku. They are set to be the game changers for the Black Stars and with this being their maiden major tournament with the national team, they will look to leave a mark.

GHANA AFCON SQUAD:

Goalkeepers: Joseph Wolacott (Swindon Town), Abdul Manaf Nurudeen (Eupen), Richard Attah (Hearts of Oak), Lawrence Ati Zigi (St. Gallen).

Defenders: Andy Yiadom (Reading FC), Philemon Baffuor (Dreams FC), Baba Abdul Rahman (Reading FC), Gideon Mensah (Girondins Bordeaux), Daniel Amartey (Leicester City), Alexander Djiku (Strasbourg FC), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew), Khalid Abdul Mumin (Vitoria de Guimaraes).

Midfielders: Baba Iddrissu (Real Mallorca), Edmund Addo (Sherif Tiraspol), Thomas Teye Partey (Arsenal FC), Mubarak Wakaso (Shenzhen FC), Mohammed Kudus (Ajax Amsterdam), Daniel Kofi Kyere (St. Pauli), David Abagna (Real Tamale United).

Forwards: Abdul Fatawu Issahaku (Dreams FC), Samuel Owusu (Al-Fayha), Kamal Deen Suleymana (Rennes FC), Dede Ayew (Al Sadd SC), Joseph Paintsil (Genk), Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace), Richmond Boakye Yiadom (Beitar Jerusalem), Maxwell Abbey Quaye (Great Olympics), Benjamin Tetteh (Malatyaspor).

MOROCCO

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For Morocco, they are ranked 2nd in Africa and they will be seeking to improve on the last 16 exist in 2019.

Their head coach Vahid Halilhodzic, after another setback and poor performance last edition was appointed to help build a new team for the future. The Bosnian gaffer has then improved the team after taking over, taking the team through a lot of changes. In the latter part of last year, he had issues with Chelsea’s, Hakim Ziyech which has led to the player not being called to participate in this competition.

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However, the atlas lions have enough firepower to boost their squad. Players like Romain Saiss of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Achraf Hakimi of PSG would all be vital for the success of the Moroccan National Team.

MOROCCO AFCON SQUAD:

Goalkeepers: Yassine Bounou (Sevilla, Spain), Monir El Kajoui, (Hatayspor, Turkey), Anas Zniti (Raja Casablanca, Morocco).

Defenders: Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Sofiane Alakouch (Metz, France), Souffian El Karouani (NEC Nijmegen, Netherlands), Adam Masina (Watford, England), Sofian Chakla (OH Leuven, Belgium), Samy Mmaee (Ferencvaros, Hungary), Romain Saiss (Wolves, England), Nayef Aguerd (Rennes, France).

Midfielders: Aymen Barkok (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany), Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina, Italy), Faycal Fajr (Sivaspor, Turkey), Azzedine Ounahi (Angers, France), Ilias Chair (QPR, England), Imran Louza (Watford, England), Selim Amallah (Standard Liege, Belgium).

Forwards: Munir El Haddadi (Sevilla, Spain), Zakaria Aboukhlal (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Abdessamad Ezzalzouli (Barcelona, Spain), Sofiane Boufal (Angers, France), Ryan Mmaee (Ferencvaros, Hungary), Youssef En-Nesyri (Sevilla, Spain), Ayoub El Kaabi (Hatayspor, Turkey).

GABON

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Gabon National Team have only seen eight appearances in the African Cup of Nations and their best performance attained in the competition was in 2012 and 1996, reaching the quarter-finals in both years.

They have a young squad and their aim is to at least qualify to the next stage of the competition. Patrice Neveu made a very crucial decision to leave Ndong Didier out of the squad.

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The Panthers as they are called, would be led by Arsenal star, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who was stripped of his captaincy role at the club. This could be an opportunity for him to silence his critics as he is amongst the top-scorer contenders in this competition. It will not going to be an easy test for the Panthers in the group stage but the presence of Aubamenyang could be enough to help the team qualify for the next stage.

In 2019, Gabon failed to qualify for the competition but a return to the continental showpiece is the needed boost they need.

GABON PROVISIONAL AFCON SQUAD:

Goalkeepers: Anthony Mfa Mezui (Rodange 91), Donald Nze (Maniema Union), Jean-Noel Amonome (Uthongathi), Fortson Noubi Junior (Vannes).

Defenders: Lloyd Palun (Bastia), Johann Obiang (Rodez), Bruno Ecuele Manga (Dijon), Gilchrist Nguema (Maccabi Ahi Nazareth), Anthony Oyono (Boulogne), Sidney Obissa (Olympic Chaleroi), David Sambissa (Cambuur), Wilfried Ebane (Vannes), Junior Assoumou (Le Mans), Yannis N’Gakoutou (Lyon-La Duchere), Yrondu Musavu-King (Bengaluru).

Midfielders: Andre Biyogo Poko (Altay), Mario Lemina (Nice), Louis Ameka Autchanga (Chamois Niortais), Guelor Kanga (Red Star Belgrade), Serge-Junior Martinsson Ngouali (Gorica), Alex Moucketou-Moussounda (Aris Limassol).

Forwards: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal), Denis Bouanga (Saint-Etienne), Kevin Mayi (Umraniyespor), Axel Méye (Ittihad Tanger), Fahd Ndzengue (Tabor Sezana), Aaron Boupendza (Al Arabi), Ulrick Eneme Ella (Brighton and Hove Albion), Jim Allevinah (Clermont), Biteghe Medwin (Al Adalah).

COMOROS

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Since the Comoros Football Federation was formed in 1978, this would be the first time they would be representing their country in Africa’s biggest tournament.

They joined the Confederation of African Football in 2003 and they later became a member of FIFA in 2005.

Comoros have nothing to lose in this competition as they have been able to qualify their country for their first appearance of in the competition.

Head coach Amir Abdou’s men would be showcasing their skills despite being in a tough group. They would start their journey in the competition against Gabon.

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One player who would be vital for Comoros is El Fardou Ben, who is their top scorer and plies his trade at Red Star Belgrade. He has a total of 15 goals for his national team.

They would be going into this tournament as underdogs and would be very surprising should they qualify for the next stage of the competition.

COMOROS AFCON SQUAD:

Goalkeepers: Salim Ben Boina (Endoume, France) Ali Ahamada (Unattached), Moyadh Ousseni (Frejus, France).

Defenders: Nadjim Abdou (FC Martigues, France), Bendjaloud Youssouf (Chateauroux, France), Abdallah Ali Mohamed (Stade Lausanne, Switzerland) Kassim Mdahoma (US Avranches, France), Younn Zahary (SO Cholet, France), Chaker Alhadhur (Ajaccio, France), Mohamed Youssouf (Ajaccio, France), Kassim Abdallah (Marignane Gignac, France).

Midfielders: Fouad Bachirou (Omonia Nicosia, Cyprus), Youssouf M’Changama (Guingamp, France), Yacine Bourhane (Go Ahead Eagles, Netherlands), Nakibou Aboubakari (FC Sete 34, France), Iyad Mohamed (Auxerre, France), Rafidine Abdullah (Stade Lausanne, Switzerland).

Forwards: Faiz Selemani (KV Kortrijk, Belgium), Mohamed El Fardou (Red Star Belgrade, Serbia), Nasser Chamed (Gaz Metan Medias, Romania), Ahmed Mogni (FC Annecy, France), Faiz Mattoir (SO Cholet, France), Ali M’Madi (SAS Epinal, France), Said Bakari (RKC Waalwijk, Netherlands), Moussa Djoumoi (AS Saint-Priest, France), Mohamed M’Changama (FC Nouadhibou, Mauritania).

GROUP B FIXTURES

Monday, 10 January: Morocco vs Ghana, Comoros vs Gabon.

Friday, 14 January: Morocco vs Comoros, Gabon vs Ghana.

Tuesday, 18 January: Gabon vs Morocco, Ghana vs Comoros.

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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