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AFCON 2023 Day 7 Preview: Senegal and Cape Verde attempt to build on first match victories

The “Group of Death” returns to action on Friday on Day 7 of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations with defending champions Senegal among the teams in action from Group C while Group B concludes its second round of matches. Lusophone countries Cape Verde and Mozambique open up the action with an intriguing duel after both teams achieved ideal results in their opening matches. Senegal face a Cameroon side shrouded in controversy and injury issues while The Gambia look to get their campaign back on track against a Guinea team who have several players returning from injuries and suspensions. Read all about each match below:

Group B: Cape Verde v Mozambique 14:00 GMT

Two of Africa’s Portuguese speaking nations look to continue strong starts to the competition when Cape Verde and Mozambique clash in Group B with qualification for the knockout stages very much within reach. Cape Verde stunned Ghana to kick off their campaign and now an excellent opportunity arises to not only clinch advancement but also the status of Group B winners with a victory. Mozambique came so close to their first ever AFCON win against Egypt but were forced to settle for a draw.

A late goal from Garry Rodrigues secured victory for Cape Verde against Ghana and head coach Bubista emphasized the need for another win to continue the Blue Sharks’ momentum. However the tactician also was encouraging towards Friday’s opponents and the progress shown by the Lusophone participants, stating he believed both teams could advance out of the group. Bubista has a healthy squad to count on with the exception of team captain and defender Stopira who is still returning to fitness.

If Stopira is unable to play the left back duties should remain with João Paulo, a natural creative midfielder who only plays the position for his national team. Roberto “Pico” Lopes continues to be an integral part of the defense in the center and forms a strong partnership with rising star Logan Costa while Columbus Crew defender Steven Moreira did well on the right flank. Kevin Pina and Deroy Duarte are holding midfielders behind creative sparkplug Jamiro Monteiro who operates behind an attacking line that features captain Ryan Mendes, former Manchester United player Bebé and hero Garry Rodrigues.

For Mozambique coach Chiquinho Conde, the positive results earned by the Mambas continue to represent his strong leadership since taking over in October 2021. “We came to this competition with the clear intention of writing the name of Mozambique in bold letters,” said the former New England Revolution player who will likely not have the services of goal scorer Clésio Baúque due to a thigh injury picked up against Egypt.

But Conde will have the services of star attacker Geny Catamo who missed out against Egypt to a yellow card accumulation suspension. Catamo should line up on his preferred right wing so he can use his favorite left foot with Witi on the opposite flank, a player who was very impressive against The Pharaohs with a goal himself. Portuguese-born midfielder Guima, who plays at Primeira Liga side Chaves, will form a central midfielder partnership with German-born player Alfons Amade. Left back Reinildo Mandava looks to be in good shape after the first half of his club season was hampered by injury and Edmilson Dove and Mexer were excellent as a central defensive partnership against Egypt.

Group C: Senegal v Cameroon 17:00 GMT

The second match of the day will see Cameroon, a team that is surrounded by controversy, face off with defending champions Senegal who cruised to victory in their opener against The Gambia. Cameroon came back from a deficit to draw Guinea by a 1-1 score but the result remained underwhelming to Indomitable Lions supporters who hold higher standards that the team has failed to meet. Senegal will be eager to obtain a firm grip on Group C with a victory.

For reigning African champions Senegal it was business as usual for the Lions of Teranga in a 3-0 victory over The Gambia and coach Aliou Cissé has a confident atmosphere in his squad. Cissé praised the unity in his squad and continues to bring along talented young midfielder Lamine Camara, who scored twice against Gambia and paid homage to his more experienced teammates after receiving the Man of the Match award.

Camara’s central midfield partner Pape Gueye also found the net and the two should resume their duties, likely with another midfielder on this occasion who could be defensive presence Nampalys Mendy or perhaps Idrissa Gana Gueye who is back from injury. A 4-3-3 formation is likely after a 3-4-3 was used against Gambia, mainly due to injuries. The confirmed injury absence of defender Moussa Niakhaté means that Kalidou Koulibaly should partner with Abdou Diallo in the center with Krépin Diatta at right back and Ismail Jakobs at left back. Star Sadio Mané will be on the left attacking wing, Ismaïla Sarr on the right and it is anybody’s guess regarding who will be the lead striker as that is Senegal’s one notable question mark.

The mood in the Cameroonian camp is the opposite of the situation with Senegal as goalkeeper André Onana continues to dominate the news for all the wrong reasons. The Manchester United player flew in on a private jet after a club match in an attempt to arrive on time for Cameroon’s opening match against Guinea but Onana was clearly irritated when he was left out due to a delayed arrival just three hours before the match. Coach Rigobert Song insists everything is fine in the den of the Indomitable Lions but Onana’s controversy and the injury doubts of striker captain Vincent Aboubakar and central defender Christopher Wooh add further to the distress of the coach.

Fabrice Ondoa will be the goalkeeper if Song decides against using Onana. If Wooh is unable to play then Oumar Gonzalez could replace him or Jean-Charles Castelletto could move inside to open up the right back position for the inexperienced Enzo Tchato. Song appears to favor a strong three-player midfield that includes Olivier Ntcham, Olivier Kemen and star André-Frank Zambo Anguissa. Georges-Kévin N’Koudou was impressive on the left wing, Frank Magri scored a goal while playing on the right wing and veteran Karl Toko Ekambi will lead the attacking line with underwhelming alternative options.

Group C: Guinea v The Gambia 20:00 GMT

Guinea have ambitions for a deep run in Ivory Coast and the Syli National will look for three points against The Gambia who need a result to keep their hopes alive of qualifying out of Group C. The Gambia suffered a comprehensive defeat to neighbors Senegal in the opening match but the Scorpions are a very capable side who now have their most difficult Group C fixture out of the way and will be prepared after facing the champions. A 1-1 draw against Cameroon leaves Guinea in decent position but the pressure is high for a victory considering their third match is against group favorites Senegal.

Kaba Diawara, coach of Guinea, and his team leaders are emphasizing the goal of achieving victory to boost their status as a “dark horse” in the competition. After utilizing a defensive formation and strategy against Cameroon due to the absence of several key players there should be more attacking intent from the Syli who have plenty of weapons. Diawara remarked that he took two years to build this group, integrating younger players and recruited dual nationals specifically to find success in the AFCON. The main injury concern for Guinea is the status of star striker Serhou Guirassy who continues to work back to full fitness after missing the match against Cameroon.

One of those dual nationals, Mouctar Diakhaby, will lead the defense from his central position alongside veteran Julian Jeanvier. Dutch-born left back Sekou Sylla drew praise from Guinean supporters for his performance and should remain the preferred choice at the position. Aguibou Camara and Morgan Guilavogui appear to be guaranteed selections in the attack with Guilavogui on the right wing and Camara likely moving to the left wing due to the red card issued to François Kamano.

The big question and scrutiny from supporters for coach Kaba Diawara is who he will select in the midfield. Defensive midfielder Abdoulaye Touré is likely to join Amadou Diawara in returning to the eleven and news from Guinean media indicates that captain Naby Keïta will be included in Kaba Diawara’s selection at the likely expense of Ilaix Moriba. The potential selection of Keïta is open to criticism despite his legendary status because constant injuries have limited the former Liverpool player to less than ninety minutes this season at current club Werder Bremen. If Guirassy is ruled out than Mohamed Bayo is a more than capable striker who scored the goal against Cameroon.

For The Gambia their match against Senegal exposed the team’s weaknesses, particularly in the heart of the midfield and out wide where the Lions of Teranga had their way. A red card to midfield enforcer Ebou Adams is also another blow for coach Tom Saintfiet who attempted to be positive, stating his team “lost a battle but not the war”. Indeed the Scorpions proved their merit at the 2021 AFCON where they reached the quarterfinals on their debut and will be eager to make up ground against Guinea on Friday.

Wingers Ablie Jallow and Ebrima Colley missed the opening match against Senegal due to yellow card accumulation, absences that made the Gambian attack quite feeble. Saintfiet spoke highly about Colley’s form with Swiss club Young Boys and both players should start on Friday. It is difficult to know Saintfiet’s thinking regarding the striker position where Ali Sowe got the nod against Senegal. However the towering Muhammed Badamosi showed positive signs as a substitute and could get a chance considering Saintfiet’s hesitancy to use the out of form Assan Ceesay. Hamza Barry should replace the suspended Adams in midfield and central defender Omar Colley will lead the Gambian defense which will need to respond against a talented Guinean attack.

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