Who’s king of the jungle?

2016-10-23 05:37

Johannesburg - Next year’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations hosts Gabon and Zimbabwe, both of whom are listed at 110, the lowest-ranked countries going into the tournament.

But their rankings will be neither here nor there when the hosts kick off the tournament against newcomers Guinea-Bissau on January 14 in front of their home supporters in Libreville.

The Panthers have been drawn in a relatively open group that features three west African countries.

Gabon will look to their captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, for inspiration.

The Borussia Dortmund striker has been in good form at his club and will carry the hopes of his nation.

On paper three-times champions the Indomitable Lions look set to dominate the group, but none of the sides will have it easy.

Guinea-Bissau, who will be making their maiden appearance in the finals, are the dark horses of the group.

But they should not be taken lightly, particularly after winning in a group that consisted of former champions Zambia and Congo-Brazzaville.

Zimbabwe will also be making their return to the continental tournament, having last taken part in Tunisia in 2004.

But they find themselves in a tough group of household names: Algeria, Senegal and Tunisia.

But Warriors players are good enough to make a lasting impression.

They will rely on Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat to make their mark, but it will not be easy.

Two-time winning coach Hervé Renard is bidding for his third continental title.

The Frenchman, who helped Zambia win in 2012 in the same country and Ivory Coast last year, is in charge of north African sleeping giants Morocco. Renard will face the team he guided to the championship last year when his side takes on Ivory Coast in the group stage.

The tournament will also see veteran Togo coach Claude le Roy making his ninth appearance at the Cup of Nations finals.

The much-travelled coach has won it once with Cameroon in 1988 and will be hoping for his second title.

Ivory Coast should still be strong for their Group C opponents.

Interestingly, Group C pits three countries – Ghana, Uganda and Egypt – that are in the same group vying for the 2018 World Cup spot.

Uganda and Ghana, who played to a goalless draw in the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifier last month, will meet again in their opening Group D campaign in Gabon.

The two teams have a score to settle before their second World Cup qualifier in Kampala in November next year.

The Uganda Cranes, who return to the finals after a 38- year absence, have seven-time champions Egypt and Mali in their group.

The Black Stars and the Pharaohs will meet in Cairo next month before their second clash in Gabon.

Read more on:    2018 world cup  |  caf  |  football

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