African Cups of Nations have become better and better over the years, and this one is set to be great, despite missing the defending champions of Nigeria, who failed to qualify. Rather than saying it is because Nigeria were bad, I would argue that the fact that the champions did not qualify shows the versatility and strength in depth of African football. The only ones who will not be missed are Morocco, who were correctly disqualified for not wanting to host the tournament for their exaggerated panic for Ebola. I hope they stay out of African football for a long time.
The groups are as follows:
- Equatorial Guinea
- Burkina Faso
Last tournament Burkina Faso made it to the final, and will again be a team to watch, although one should also note that Gabon won their qualification ahead of exactly the Burkinabe. A lot of the Gabonese hopes are set on Pierre-Emerick Aubemegyang, who is certainly one of the players to watch in the tournament, but also watch out for Burkina Faso's own Jonathan Pitroipa, who was the most scoring player in Africa during qualification!
This is set to be a very close group!
- Cape Verde
- DR Congo
Although DR Congo qualified as the best third placed team, it was behind the giants of Cameroon and Ivory Coast, and should thus not be underestimated. Nevertheless, the favourites of this group should be the Tunisians with an experienced side of European and Tunisian based players who qualified ahead of Senegal and Egypt.
- South Africa
Ghana enter the tournament as favourites yet again, this time under the tutelage of the former Chelsea manager Avram Grant. He has gone for a more young side with a lot of experience though, and captained by a very experienced Asamoah Gyan.
Finally, Algeria, after their splendid World Cup, are certain to be going for the title. They have a strong side with the fantastic trio of Sofiane Feghouli, Yacine Brahimi and Nabil Bentaleb having become household names in Europe.
I cannot wait to see the Algerians in action, but of course, my heart is with GHANA!
- Ivory Coast
Cameroon in fact qualified ahead of Ivory Coast. Without any big superstars, Cameroon look more stable, and should be focusing at washing away the pathetic display they gave at the World Cup, where they were an embarrassment to watch.
Neither Guinea or Mali seem to be threats to Cameroon and Ivory Coast. Guinea were one of the last teams to qualify when they defeated Uganda in their last match, which was played in Casablanca due to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea (and yet the weird Moroccans did not want to host the tournament...), and expectations will not be as high as for other sides. Mali has an old side led by the veteran Seydou Keita, and only qualified after a last match victory over Algeria (who had already won the group).