A total of 27 goals were scored in 12 matches across six groups in Match-Day 1 at the Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. It has been a mixed bag of result and performances across board; defending champions Cameroon and some of the tournament favorites including Senegal, Egypt, Ivory Coast and Nigeria open their campaigns with victory while Tunisia, Ghana could only manage draws. Match-Day 2 offers some teams the opportunity to book their place in the Round of 16 if they secure a second victory while others need positive results to stay alive in Egypt.
Here is our preview of some key fixtures across the six groups.
EGYPT v DR CONGO – WED. 26 JUNE 2019, 21.00HRS
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Egypt kicked off their AFCON campaign with a hard-fought victory over Zimbabwe. The Pharaohs were not at their best in the opener but picking up three points is all that matters for the host. A second victory will guarantee them qualification to the knock out phase when Jaiver Aguirre’s team files out against Democratic Republic of Congo. The Leopards slumped to an opening defeat to Uganda which puts them in a precarious position going into this game against Egypt. A second defeat would be disastrous but their performance against the Cranes should concern Florent Ibengé.
VERDICT – The teams have met each other on seven occasions with DR Congo is yet to register a win against Egypt. Their last meeting ended 0-0 which should give the Leopards belief they can get a decent result against the Pharaohs. Egypt are favorites and will look to Mo Salah to lead them to victory in Cairo.
NIGERIA v GUINEA – WED. 26 JUNE 2019, 15.30HRS
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The Super Eagles of Nigeria broke the resilience of debutants Burundi to beat them 1-0 at the Alexandria Stadium and start off the search for a fourth Africa Cup of Nations title on a high. Striker Odion Ighalo stepped off the bench to net the winner in a tight Group B opener. Guinea could only manage a draw in their opener against another debutant – Madagascar in an historical match for the Barea. The Syli Nationale dominated the game but had to rally to level the game after Madagascar went ahead in the second half. Both teams need a victory to advance their chances in the group. What should we expect in Alexandria?
VERDICT – Both managers will likely make some changes to their starting line ups for Group B top cracker. Mikel Obi might be dropped following his lackluster performance in his advanced role while Naby Keita should take his place in the midfield for Paul Put. In the last three meetings, Guinea has managed two wins and a draw against Nigeria. However, the Super Eagles looked a well-balanced team as they seek their second win in the group.
SENEGAL v ALGERIA – THUR. 27 JUNE 2019, 18.00HRS
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The Terranga Lions dispatched Tanzania Tafia stars in their group opener without star player – Sadio Mane. In the absence of the suspended Liverpool ace, Aliou Cisse’s troops dominated the game from gun to tape and should have won by a bigger margin. Algeria equaled Senegal result in their opener against Kenya; the Fennecs dimmed Harambee stars in Cairo with a Baghdad Bounedjah penalty and Riyad Mahrez’s deflected strike. This is a battle for the leadership of Group C between the two top teams in the group; the winner would book a place in the next round while there is still a final game to be played.
VERDICT – Aliou Cisse will be ready to unleash his talisman Mane against Algeria as he targets all three points while Riyad Mahrez will aim to open up the Terranga Lions defense with his tricky. The last encounter between these two teams produced a four goal thriller and we anticipate goals at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo; over 2.5 goals.
MOROCCO v IVORY COAST – FRI. 28 JUNE 2019, 18.00HRS
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Jonathan Kodjia second half strike was enough to secure all three points for the 2015 AFCON champions in their opening Group D match. In a group where the margin for error is slim, the Aston Villa striker made up for an earlier miss for Les Éléphants. Morocco’s continuous pressure paid off in the end when Namibia striker Itamunua Keimune scored on the wrong end of the pitch to give the North Africans a winning star to the their group campaign. Herve Renard’s men had struggled to break down a resolute Namibian defence but got lucky late on. The French man will be facing the team he led to glory in 2015 on Friday at the Al Salam stadium in Cairo which gives this tie an extra incentive for both teams.
VERDICT – In previous eight meeting, Ivory Coast have three wins to Morocco’s two with the remaining ending in draws. The Atlas Lions have won the last two without conceding. Renard’s team is renowned for their strong defensive structure while the Ivoirians have explosive attackers who can unsettle any defense. Morocco has quality in attack as well therefore we anticipate a lively game with both teams getting on the score sheet at the Al Salam Stadium.
TUNISIA v MALI – FRI. 28 JUNE 2019, 15.30HRS
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The Carthage Eagles couldn’t soar against Palancas Negras at the Suez Stadium in their Group E opener. Alain Giresse’s team took the lead in the first half but got pegged back by the Angola in the second half to leave both teams sharing the spoils. Mali gave Mauritania a baptism of fire in the debutant’s opening game in the competition. Les Aigles dominated a one-sided affair in Suez and it reflected in the emphatic 4-1 score line. The Malians will be aware that Tunisia is on a different level to their first opponent when these two top footballing nations clash in an important game in the group. A victory will see the West Africans progress with Tunisia needing all three points to get back on track following the disappointment against Angola.
VERDICT – There is no guessing who is under more pressure between Alain Giresse and Mohamed Magassouba. Tunisia were considered favorites in the group but following a slow start, they facing a team filled with confidence after dominating their opener. Mali has a better head-to-head against Tunisia in their last three meetings – two wins to one. A close encounter is anticipated with the leadership of Group E at stake; don’t be surprised if this tie ends in a draw.
CAMEROON v GHANA – SAT. 29 JUNE 2019, 18.00HRS
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Defending champions Cameroon started their title defense on a high, trouncing Guinea Bissau 2-0 in their Group F opening match in Ismailia while Group F rivals Ghana could only settle for a draw in the West African derby against Benin. Goals from the Ayew brothers – Andre and Jordan gave Ghana the lead after Mickael Pote had given Benin the lead but the Black Stars were pegged when Benin were handed the numerical advantage following John Boye’s dismissal. Cameroon dominated the second half of their game with the pressure paying off with goals. Both teams have points on board but Cameroon lead thanks to their opening victory which means Ghana are the ones to push harder on Saturday evening for a victory.
VERDICT – The Indomitable Lions proved their worth in their victory against Guinea Bissau and will aim to retain top spot after the game. Kwesi Appiah team competed until the sending off which means they can match the Indomitable Lions. However, the head-to-head favors the Cameroonians but the group leadership is on the line therefore Ghana will give a good fight. Cameroon shouldn’t lose this.
It is a wrap on our previews for Match-Day 2 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.