Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1242, (16-22 April 2015)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1242, (16-22 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Nigeria standing in the way

Egypt faces a tough draw in its bid to return to the Africa Cup of Nations. Marawan Zayed reports

CAF Africa Cup of Nations
CAF Africa Cup of Nations
Al-Ahram Weekly

After missing out on the last three editions of the

, Egypt faces an even more challenging task as it tries to get back among Africa’s top guns and qualify for the 2017 edition in Gabon.

The qualifying draw for the tournament saw Egypt drawn alongside Nigeria, Tanzania and Chad in what will supposedly witness a mouthwatering battle between Egypt and Nigeria over who will win the group and seal an automatic place in Gabon 2017.

There are 13 groups altogether with four teams each. Every team will play six home and away games. The winners of each group qualify directly to the tournament. The best two runners-up from the entire 13 groups, and Gabon who are hosts and qualify automatically, round up the 16 teams. All big nations will be aiming to seal the top spot of their groups and avoid the dilemma of trying to win one of the two best runners-up spots.

Group A see Tunisia take on Togo, Liberia and Djibouti with Tunisia expected to seal their automatic qualification, Group B is somehow a mediocre one as it sees Madagascar, Congo, Angola and Central African Republic draw with each other with the top place expected to go to Congo. Group C includes favorites Mali alongside Equatorial Guinea, Benin and Sudan. Group D is once again a pretty average one that sees Burkina Faso, Uganda, Botswana and Comoros Islands drawn with each other with the top spot expected to be taken by Burkina Faso.

Group E includes Zambia, Congo Brazzaville, Kenya and Guinea Bissau; the top spot will most likely be filled by Zambia. Group F sees Cape Verde, Morocco, Libya and Sao Tome drawn alongside each other and Morocco will be favorites to win this group. Group G will see Egypt and Nigeria fight it out to win the automatic place while Group H will probably be an easy ride for Ghana which is drawn with Mozambique, Rwanda and Mauritius. Group I see holders Ivory Coast take on Sudan, Sierra Leone and hosts Gabon but games against Gabon will only count as friendlies as they’re already automatic qualifiers. Group J sees Algeria drawn alongside Ethiopia, Lesotho and Seychelles in what should be a very easy draw for Algeria.

Group K will see favourites Senegal take on Niger, Namibia and Burundi while Group L includes Guinea, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Swaziland take on each other with Guinea expected to win it. Last Group M will witness another thrilling encounter between Cameroon and South Africa as they are drawn alongside Gambia and Mauritania. Cameroon will be slight favourites to win the group but South Africa will certainly make life difficult for them.

Back to Egypt, the group is considered extremely difficult given that most of the other groups have a clear favourite. Alaa Abdel-Aziz, the manager of the national team, confirmed that the group is extremely difficult for Egypt. “The draw is very tough for us as Nigeria is one of the top African teams and will complicate things for us.” Both teams did not qualify for the 2015 edition, making it three in a row for Egypt. Abdel-Aziz added that this makes it even more difficult as both national teams will be desperate to return to the competition after missing out the last time. “Egypt didn’t qualify to the last three editions while Nigeria failed the last time which will only make both teams more determined than ever.” He said that Egypt’s preparations will now be completely different as it will request from the Egyptian federation to play as many tough games as possible in addition to increasing the number of training camps ahead of the qualifying campaign to ensure the players get as much time as possible with each other.

Nigeria’s head coach and player legend Daniel Amokachi admitted that he was not happy with the draw and that Egypt will make life very hard for his side. “The draw is really tough as Egypt is one of Africa’s superpowers and only God can help us beat them to a place in Gabon. This is all what I can say now.” Because Egypt missed out on the last three editions of the tournament, it was seeded in pot B which is why it was drawn alongside Nigeria which was seeded in pot A which includes the African teams with the highest number of points.

The chance that Egypt or any other team qualifies is now as follows: either it tops the group and seal automatic qualification or enters the dilemma of trying to be one of the best two runners-up which will be beyond tough because this is about the best two runners-up out of 13 groups.

Nigeria, the 2013 ACN champions, might still be strong, however, it is not as formidable as in the past which is somehow the case for Egypt as well. Egypt has won the tournament a record seven times, three of them consecutively, also a record. But the three previous no-shows have set Egypt back. So the chances should be equal for both teams.

New Argentinean coach of Egypt Hector Cuper will hope to guide the national team to the tournament to avoid the automatic termination of his contract if he fails to qualify to the ACN.

The 2017 African champion will qualify for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.  The event is also part of the Africa Cup of Nations 60th anniversary.

It will be the second time for Gabon to play hosts, having previously shared duties with Equatorial Guinea.

Gabon will use four venues for the 16-team tournament, which will be played in January and February.

The tournament was scheduled to be hosted by Libya until CAF rescinded its hosting rights due to the ongoing war in the country.

Qualifying games begin in June and stretch to September next year.

add comment

  
 
 
  • follow us on