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Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Preview – (First Round, Match-Day 1)

The 32nd edition of Africa’s biennial competition kicks off on Friday with record winners Egypt also the host of the competition welcome 23 other African nations for the continental fiesta which would be held in six stadia across four cities – Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Ismaila. The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations features the continent’s best sides in what should be an intriguing tournament. Host, Egypt takes on Zimbabwe at the Cairo International Stadium in Cairo in the opening game of the tournament.

Here is our preview of all Match Day 1 fixtures across all six groups.

Group A;

EGYPT v ZIMBABWE – FRI. 21 JUNE 2019, 21.00HRS
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Egypt kicks off their AFCON campaign against Zimbabwe with a weight of expectation from fans inside the Cairo International stadium as well as across the country. The Pharaohs fell short in the 2017 finals and would be eager to make amends as host. The Warriors from Zimbabwe are eyeing their first win at this competition since 2006 when they surprised the continent with a victory against Ghana. Africa’s finest – Mo Salah is undoubtedly the star of Javier Aguirre’s team and he is the man to watch in the opening game. Can Sunday Chidzambwa’s troops provide us with an opening day upset?

VERDICT – Egypt have won the four previous meetings between these teams scoring at least two goals in each game. The Pharaohs are the favorites for this opener, with a fully fit Mo Salah spearheading the attack, there should be only one outcome. Over 1.5goals is the least expected outcome.

Group B;

NIGERIA v BURUNDI – SAT. 22 JUNE 2019, 18.00HRS
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The Super Eagles of Nigeria open their AFCON account against the Chayfs of Burundi in Alexandria. The 2013 winners will be facing a tournament debutant; however, many of the Eagles expected to be on parade will be making their competition debut as well with Nigeria missing the last two AFCON editions. Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr has a talented pool at his disposal, it is a matter of choice and system that would determine who gets the nod to start in Alexandria. Debutant, Zimbabwe produced an excellent run in the qualifiers to book their place in Egypt, they would be eager to upset the odds in Alexandria with Skipper Selemani Ndikumana and Fiston Abdul Razak – the livewire of The Swallows.

VERDICT – This is the first international meeting between one of Africa’s giant and a rising footballing nation. With nothing to lose, Olivier Niyungeko might set his up team to rattle the Super Eagles who can be pedestrian some times. Nigeria has experience at major tournaments and that should give them the edge. Nigeria should win at least one half.

Group C;

SENEGAL v TANZANIA – SUN. 23 JUNE 2019, 18.00HRS
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Senegal are in the hunt for their first AFCON title in Egypt; the West African nation have to navigate their way through Group C including facing Taifa Stars of Tanzania in their opening game. Emmanuel Amuneke has done an excellent job to bring Tanzania back to the summit of African football after almost four decades non-appearance at AFCON. The Terranga Lions looked unstoppable during the qualifiers; they beat Nigeria in their last warm up game to send out a strong statement of intent ahead of the tournament in Egypt. On the other hand, Tanzania lost to Egypt in one of their warm up matches but ended their preparation with a draw against Zimbabwe.

VERDICT – Aliou Cisse’s team is eyeing a seventh consecutive win in all competitions ahead of their group opener. The Terranga Lions have conceded once in their last six matches and they look unstoppable at the moment. Tanzania fans going to 30 June Stadium in Cairo can only hope for the best on Sunday. Senegal are favorites for this game, they would expected to dominate and win easily; Over 2.5 goals.

Group D;

IVORY COAST v SOUTH AFRICA – MON. 24 JUNE 2019, 15.30HRS
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Ivory Coast resounding 4-1 victory over Zambia in their final preparatory game before taking on South Africa at Al Salam stadium in Cairo should give Les Éléphants fans with belief in their team. Group D also known as the Group of Death is one where every game is like a cup final and both teams would be treating their opening game as such. Bafana Bafana had a quiet preparation away from the continent; they played a goalless draw agaisnt Ghana in their last warm up match with Coach Stuart Baxter turning his team attention to the business in Egypt. What can we expect on Monday afternoon?

VERDICT – South Africa have not lost in either of the two meetings with the Ivoirians, they will aim to keep that record intact on Monday. Ibrahim Kamara’s team have their eyes on three points in this group opener and will likely adopt an attacking approach led by Wilfried Zaha and Nicolas Pépé in attack. A close encounter is on the horizon with very little separating both sides. Both teams should get on the score sheet.

Group E;

TUNISIA v ANGOLA – MON. 24 JUNE 2019, 18.00HRS
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Tunisia will aim to maintain their excellent qualifying series run at the main tournament starting on Monday. They have equally been producing fine performances in the warm-up games including a 2-1 victory over 2018 World Cup runners up – Croatia earlier this month. On the other side, Angola’s abysmal record at AFCON is well pronounced since their quarter final run in 2010. The Palancas Negras didn’t progress beyond the group phase in 2012 and 13; they are making a return to the competition after missing out on the last two and will be keen to impress their fans back at home. What should expect in this Group E opener?

VERDICT – Tunisia failed to impress at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and, will aim to make amends with a better outing in Egypt. The Carthage Eagles are favorites for this game; Wahbi Khazri is the expected outtlet for the North Africans. We are expecting a lively encounter in Suez with both teams in fine form – three match winning run ahead of this game. Expect goals at Suez stadium.

Group F;

GHANA v BENIN – TUE. 25 JUNE 2019, 21.00HRS
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Ismailia is the venue for the West-African derby between the Black Stars of Ghana and the Squirrel of Benin. The Ghanaians are in the hunt for their first AFCON title since 1982 having come close in 2010 and 2015. The Black Stars are one of the continent’s most consistent performers at this competition; they have made it to the last four in each of the last six editions and there is an obsession to finally lay their hands on the trophy in 2019. The squirrels have had their ups and downs in recent time but were able to get themselves over the line in the qualifiers. 2019 AFCON is Benin fourth appearance in the continent’s biggest football showpiece.

VERDICT – Michel Dussuyer’s team arrival in Egypt in good form winning their last three preparatory matches while Ghana’s preparation hasn’t produced any excitement, no victory in their last two matches. Ghana have the slight edge in head-to-head meetings, they would be expected to kick start their campaign on a winning note.

It is a wrap on our previews for Match-Day 1 across the six groups at the Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Keep playing, keep winning…. Predict and win big by visiting our Sports shop Babaijebu.ng for mouthwatering offers for Africa’s biggest football showpiece.

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