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2023 Africa Cup of Nations Preview: Group B

Group B at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations gets underway on Sunday as the action continues in Ivory Coast for the continent’s showcase national team competition. With Mohamed Salah leading group favorites Egypt, Mohammed Kudus looking to establish his star status with Ghana and the experienced teams of Cape Verde and Mozambique eager to represent Africa’s Portuguese-speaking contingent there is plenty to watch for. Read more about each team in Group B below:

Egypt

Resumé

FIFA Ranking: 33

CAF Ranking: 5

Nickname: The Pharaohs

Previous Appearances: 25

Best Finish: Champions (1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010)

Manager

Rui Vitória

A winner of eight trophies in Portuguese football, primarily at Lisbon giants Benfica where he won two consecutive Primeira Liga titles, Vitória also had a successful spell in Saudi football where he led Al-Nassr to the 2018-19 Saudi Pro League title. The 53-year-old took over The Pharaohs following a six-month break from managing after an unsuccessful spell with Russia’s Spartak Moscow and steered Egypt out of a period of crisis. Since he took over Egypt has only lost once (a 1-3 friendly defeat to Tunisia in September) and is undefeated in competitive matches under his watch. Based on the positive results and experience in the team, no team will want to face Egypt when elimination is at stake.

2023 AFCON Squad

Key Players

Mohamed Salah
Club: Liverpool (ENG)
Position: Winger/Forward

As long as the icon of Egyptian football is involved his team always has a chance to win the trophy. The Liverpool superstar creates space for his fellow attackers to thrive and he is always capable of making the important individual play to either set up or finish crucial goals. Salah is enjoying yet another productive campaign in the English Premier League and the 31-year-old is still in his prime to help Egypt make another deep run in Africa’s top national team competition.

Mohamed Abdelmonem
Club: Al Ahly (EGY)
Position: Central Defense

In a team that typically relies on veterans, Abdelmonem stepped into the eleven following an injury to Mahmoud “El Wensh” Hamdy and became the breakout star of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. Now an important player at current club Al Ahly, the tough 24-year-old central defender has his sights set on a move abroad and another strong Africa Cup of Nations tournament could provide him with a ticket to Europe or the financially lucrative leagues of the Middle East. After two seasons of excellent contributions to his club as well as the Egypt national team, the scorer of the winning goal in the 2022-23 CAF Champions League final is perhaps the best player in African club football at the moment.

Mostafa Mohamed
Club: Nantes (FRA)
Position: Striker

The former Zamalek star and current FC Nantes striker came under a fair amount of criticism before the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations but his toughness and development into a strong target forward is highly valued by coaches. With talented wingers like Salah and Trezeguet providing creativity and skill on the ball, the 26-year-old keeps opposing defenders engaged with his constant runs and ability to thrive in physical duels. However he will need to improve his goal scoring on the big stage after failing to find the net in seven appearances in the 2021 edition.

Other Players to Watch

Mohamed Elneny- Injuries and a lack of regular playing time continue to negatively impact his spell with English Premier League club Arsenal but the veteran central midfielder always gives his all with the Pharaohs. It was a similar situation for Elneny ahead of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations but his performances continue to be strong for his nation and once again he will add to the organization and composure of the Egyptian team.

Trezeguet- A tricky attacker who continues to play well in Turkish club football, the 29-year-old former Al Ahly youth product is crucial because he gives the Egyptian attack balance by operating on the left wing opposite from Salah. With his strong ability to score goals as well as create with excellent dribbling, Trezeguet will have the opportunities to be a major contributor in Ivory Coast with the space created by Salah and Mostafa Mohamed.

Mohamed El Shenawy- The Al Ahly goalkeeper has put himself close to the elite company of Egyptian goalkeepers in the country’s footballing history and now the only thing missing is an Africa Cup of Nations title. A steady and reliable presence, the veteran performed well in Egypt’s debut appearance at the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and he has plenty of experience in important matches from his time at Africa’s greatest club in the CAF Champions League and especially in the FIFA Club World Cup.

Evaluation

Goalkeeper:
Defense:
Midfield:
Attack:

Cape Verde

Resumé

FIFA Ranking: 73

CAF Ranking: 14

Nickname: Os Tubarões Azuis (The Blue Sharks)

Previous Appearances: 3

Best Finish: Quarterfinals (2013)

Manager

Bubista

The former national team defender has been in charge of The Blue Sharks since 2020 after many years working as an assistant with the national team along with head coaching spells in the domestic football scene of Cape Verde. After a Round of 16 finish in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, the expectations will be for Cape Verde to reach the knockout stages again but the challenge for Bubista is to find a way into the quarterfinals this time around. Considering the veterans he continues to rely on, particularly in the attack, this will be the last chance for many well established players before a transition to the next generation is necessary.

2023 AFCON Squad

Key Players

Roberto Lopes
Club- Shamrock Rovers (IRL)
Position- Central Defense

Known popularly as “Pico”, the veteran central defender is a native of Ireland who is tough as nails and is a favorite of Bubista since making his debut for Cape Verde in 2019. Lopes just clinched his fourth consecutive League of Ireland Premier Division title and is an important defensive leader in the Blue Sharks team.

Ryan Mendes
Club: Fatih Karagümrük (TUR)
Position: Winger/Forward

After a successful five-year spell in Emirati club football, the Cape Verde captain is back in Turkey where he is a regular contributor for relegation battlers Fatih Karagumruk. The 33-year-old is one goal away from becoming his country’s all-time leading scorer and will lead an attack that is filled with veterans. In a group that includes strong strikers Julio Tavares and Djaniny, the infamous former Manchester United attacker Bebe and enigmatic wingers Garry Rodrigues and Jovane Cabral, it is difficult to predict who will make the biggest impact but Mendes has the most accomplished record.

Vozinha
Club: AS Trenčín (SVK)
Position: Goalkeeper

At 37 years of age, the goalkeeper is set for what will likely be his last Africa Cup of Nations and continues to maintain a high level. The veteran currently based in Slovakian club football has featured in all except one of Cape Verde’s eleven matches in its history at the AFCON and will need to be at his best for a defense that has struggled at times to keep the goals out against stronger opposition.

Other Players to Watch

Garry Rodrigues- One of the most unpredictable attackers in the competition, Rodrigues offers pace and explosiveness on the wing and scored one of the best goals at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations as Cape Verde advanced to the knockout stages. Consistency is an issue for the 33-year-old but he could make the difference at crucial times either as a starter or as a substitute.