Monday, April 15, 2024
spot_imgspot_img

Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

Pan-Africa Football’s AFCON preview: Group B

It is time for Africa’s showcase football tournament as the delayed 2021 Africa Cup of Nations prepares to kick off in Cameroon starting on January 9. Pan-Africa Football will be covering the competition in depth and is previewing the tournament by going through all of the groups and identifying who and what to watch for all teams. Group B is next as Guinea, Zimbabwe, Malawi and title contenders Senegal are evaluated below.

Senegal

Manager

Aliou Cissé

The captain of the famous Senegal team that advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup and finished runner-up in that year’s Africa Cup of Nations, Cissé was a defensive midfielder who represented Paris Saint-Germain as well as English Premier League teams Birmingham City and Portsmouth FC. Since being appointed to lead Senegal in March 2015, Cissé has led the Teranga Lions to the heights they are at now by steadily building a quality team that aspires to reach the summit of African football. Doing well to guide Senegal to their second runner-up finish in the 2019 AFCON, the expectations will be even higher this time around and it will be interesting to see how he and his team deal with the pressure of being among the favorites. Under Cissé, the team will likely line up in a 4-2-3-1 with two defensive midfielders and a physical forward up top supported by three attackers who can cause issues by combining and running at opposing defenses.

Key Players

Sadio Mané – Liverpool (ENG)

The 29-year-old is an icon in his country not only due to his immense success on the pitch, but also because of his philanthropy back home. Mané started his career at Senegal’s famed academy, Génération Foot, and moved to their affiliate club FC Metz in France before launching himself to prominence at Red Bull Salzburg. Capable of scoring with both feet, he is among the best in the world when navigating through tight spaces and excels at initiating passing sequences with his teammates to get behind defenses. Scored three goals at the 2019 AFCON during Senegal’s run to the final but will be determined to be even more prolific in Cameroon and lead the Teranga Lions to their first ever AFCON trophy. While Mané will certainly contribute his fair share of goals, the key for Senegal is if he can help his talented fellow attackers reach another level.

Edouard Mendy – Chelsea (ENG)

Many goalkeepers take years to get their opportunity and Mendy is an example of how quickly fortunes can change for shot stoppers. The French-born player was playing in the country’s fourth division with Olympique Marseille’s reserve team in 2016, but his fast track to success came when Stade Reims gave him an opportunity the following season and he helped the Ligue 2 team to promotion in the 2017-18 season. A giant between the posts, Mendy’s reflexes are up there with the best in the world and he dominates when claiming aerial balls into the penalty area. Made two appearances in the 2019 AFCON group stage before breaking his finger and missing out as Senegal were defeated in the final by Algeria.

Idrissa Gana Gueye – Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)

The 32-year-old is a standout when it comes to engaging and winning the ball off opposition players. Gueye is adept at anticipating situations and being aggressive, which helps Paris Saint-Germain and Senegal be deadly in transition because he also starts many offensive movements once he wins the ball. When he plays for Senegal he has been able to showcase his attacking qualities and even his technical skill by taking on set piece responsibilities. Began his career at another famous academy in Senegal, Diambars, before finding success in Ligue 1 and the English Premier League.

PAF’s Evaluation

Goalkeeper:
Defense:
Midfield:
Attack:

Prediction

With their important core players approaching the latter stage of their careers, this Teranga Lions side will be on a mission in Cameroon because time is running out for their current group of stars to capture a trophy. The talent in this team from defense to attack is impossible to deny, and many members of the squad have experienced the pressure of an AFCON final. Therefore, due to their explosive attack and veteran leadership in the center of midfield and defense, Senegal is our pick to win the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

Zimbabwe

Manager

Norman Mapeza

Mapeza was a hard-nosed defensive midfielder in his playing days who was the second Zimbabwean to compete in the UEFA Champions League as a member of Turkish giants Galatasaray. The 49-year-old has plenty of experience as a coach with Zimbabwe, having managed the Warriors multiple times on an interim basis as well as a spell as full-time national team coach from 2011-2012. His appointment in September was greeted positively after the team’s poor results under predecessor Zdravko Logarusic. However, the circumstances could not be more difficult with multiple injuries in key positions and the possibility of a FIFA ban hanging over the team due to government interference in the country’s footballing affairs. Mapeza still has talent to work with, particularly in attack, and his team will have nothing to lose due to the adversity.

Key Players

Knowledge Musona – Al-Tai (SAU)

Known as “The Smiling Assassin” from his early days as a star player for Kaizer Chiefs in South African football, Musona always has a trick up his sleeve when on the ball and loves to produce highlight reel quality goals. With 23 international goals, the 31-year-old is Zimbabwe’s second all-time leading scorer behind the first African to ever compete in the English Premier League, Peter Ndlovu. Musona wears the captain’s armband for the Warriors and will be counted on to provide service for a talented attack. Currently in good form for Al-Tai in Saudi football where he has five goals and two assists in twelve league matches.

Tino Kadewere – Olympique Lyon (FRA)

The 25-year-old came up rapidly in his country by joining Harare City after graduating from the renowned Prince Edward School, scoring seven goals in his debut season before joining Swedish team Djurgårdens. Kadewere is now at Olympique Lyon in France’s Ligue 1 and scored ten goals in the 2020-21 season, but injuries and loss of form have relegated him to limited playing time this season for club and country. Will lead the line for Zimbabwe in Cameroon if healthy and excels at linking up with his fellow attackers. Zimbabwe missed him dearly in their disastrous 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign but if he finds his form the Warriors have the potential to qualify for the knockout stage.

Jordan Zemura – Bournemouth (ENG)

Zemura looks like he will be a prominent contributor to the Zimbabwe defense and midfield for years to come, making his debut against Algeria at the tail end of the Warriors’ successful AFCON qualification campaign. The South London-born 22-year-old emerged as the starter at left back for Bournemouth in England’s second tier EFL Championship this season and won the club’s Player of the Month award in August. Brings versatility to the team and an attacking mentality from the left wing which has resulted in Zimbabwe using him further forward in the midfield at times. The latest news has Zemura’s participation in doubt due to a Covid-19 outbreak at Bournemouth, so it remains to be seen if he arrives late in Cameroon or at all.

PAF’s Evaluation

Goalkeeper:
Defense:
Midfield:
Attack:

Prediction

Recent results have not been pretty for Zimbabwe, but the team struggled to get its best team on the field during World Cup qualifying due to injuries and circumstances off the pitch. The 2021 AFCON represents a clean slate for the Warriors and their attack is too talented to ignore. Injuries in the defense as well as the absence of defensive midfield stalwarts Marshall Munetsi and Marvelous Nakamba make it difficult to endorse Zimbabwe for a spot in the next round, however, and the Warriors are facing an uphill battle to advance despite a relatively weak group.

Guinea

Manager

Kaba Diawara

The French-born coach was a striker in his playing days and competed for the Guinea national team as well as in the top divisions of French and English football. After spending time as pundit, the 46-year-old is taking on his first assignment as head coach for Guinea and will have to learn on the job on the biggest stage in African football. Diawara has plenty of talent to work with but his squad has failed to put it together on the pitch since achieving qualification for Cameroon and a 3-0 defeat to Rwanda in a pre-tournament tune up friendly is not an encouraging result.

Key Players

Naby Keïta – Liverpool (ENG)

Injuries and inconsistent form have seen the Liverpool midfielder become a rotation piece in manager Jürgen Klopp’s system, but Keïta is up there when it comes to the best midfielders in African football. The 26-year-old from Conakry thrived in the pressing systems of Red Bull Salzburg and Red Bull Leipzig because he is always on the front foot. His ability to read the game and anticipate helps him win most of his defensive and offensive duels, but what he brings to Guinea is his skill at moving the ball forward with an eye for picking out a defense splitting pass. The Horoya AC youth product will be crucial to a Guinean attack that has struggled with inconsistency in recent months.

Mohamed Bayo – Clermont Foot (FRA)