Predicting the final standings for every Africa Cup of Nations group
Egypt are certainly favourites to advance on home soil, particularly if Mohamed Salah demonstrates the kind of form he showed as Liverpool dispatched Chelsea on Sunday.
However, this group isn’t as straightforward as the Pharaohs will be hoping for. They face a Uganda side who know them well and defeated them during the World Cup qualifying campaign, while the Democratic Republic of Congo are a tight unit under Florent Ibenge and took bronze as recently as 2015.
Zimbabwe, despite being in Pot Four, actually took four points from the Leopards during qualification, and boast a genuine threat going forward.
This is perhaps the toughest group to predict, with none of the teams safe, and it may be that the DRC—vulnerable during qualification—just miss out.
Prediction: Egypt, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo
Nigeria will be delighted with their group-stage draw after being pitted into the group which—according to the Fifa world rankings—is the easiest of the lot. It’s hard to see the Super Eagles slipping up, and Guinea have enough quality to join them in the next round.
The group’s two debutants—Madagascar and Burundi—have enough quality to trouble points from the bigger sides, but in the unfamiliar tournament environment, will they hold their nerve to see contests through?
The match between them will likely be decisive, and it’s Madagascar who may lack the experience and composure to progress, while Burundi drew away at both Mali and Gabon during qualification.
Prediction: Nigeria, Guinea, Burundi, Madagascar
On paper, Senegal should have this one in the bag, but like Group A, the heavyweights may have been pooled in a deceptively tricky group here.
Algeria boast a plethora of quality attacking players and look to have come out of their slump; they may not boast the defensive strength of the Teranga Lions, but they’ll enjoy playing in North Africa.
Either Kenya or Tanzania could advance alongside the two heavyweights, but we’re plumping for the Harambee Stars, who can call upon the kind of defensive solidity that Tanzania—who conceded home and away against Lesotho in qualifying—cannot.
Prediction: Algeria, Senegal, Kenya, Tanzania
Even though Group A actually looks like a trickier, more balanced field, Group D is being considered the ‘Group of Death’ in light of the draw. It’s not too difficult to see why, with three former winners set to duke it out.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to see Namibia not finishing bottom of this group, and while they might have been competitive in a few of the other pools, they might exit without a point here.
Prediction: Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa, Namibia
Tunisia, like Nigeria, will surely be delighted with their draw. As well as the familiarity of playing in North Africa, the Carthage Eagles are unlikely to be daunted by their three group-stage opponents.
Mali—undefeated in qualification—are the main threat, but Alain Giresse’s side will likely have too much for Angola and Mauritania. The latter, maiden qualifiers under Corentin Martins, were eclipsed by Os Palancas Negras in Luanda during the qualifiers, but learned their lessons to defeat them 1-0 in Nouakchott four days later.
Could the Lions of Chinguetti follow up their first-ever showing at the tournament by reaching the knockouts?
Prediction: Tunisia, Mali, Angola, Mauritania
Group F pits together two of the continent’s giants, as Cameroon and Ghana—who have nine titles between them—will meet in an early rematch of the 2017 semi-final.
Neither side are the complete package yet, and their duel in Ismaila on June 29 will be an early indication of whether either can challenge their fellow continental heavyweights.
Either way, both should advance, and Guinea-Bissau ought to be confident of joining them. They’ll be stronger than they were two years ago, and Benin, who were thumped 3-1 by The Gambia in Bakau as recently as November, are vulnerable.
Prediction: Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Benin