The 32nd edition of the Total African Cup of Nations reaches the final round of group matches. The continental fiesta hasn’t really been lit with goals; a paltry return of 43 goals in 24 matches is a clear indicator that African strikers aren’t firing on all cylinders; Match-Day 2 in Group F produced no goals with two barren draws on Saturday. For the neutrals, the tournament has been a mixed bag in terms of performances; some of the power houses have impressed with results – Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria and Morocco have made perfect starts with two victories while Guinea, Tunisia and Ghana need final day wins to ensure they are not eliminated in the group phase.
Here is our preview of some key fixtures across the six groups with qualification to the knockout phase the focus on this Match-Day.
ZIMBABWE v DR CONGO – SUN. 30 JUNE 2019, 20.00HRS
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DR Congo Leopards have disappointed their fans with their poor showing at this tournament, just like in the opening game against Uganda; the Leopards looked toothless and powerless against in Egypt in their second game and are facing the prospect of elimination at the group stage with no points, four goals conceded and no goal scored. On the other hand, Zimbabwe showed resilient and fighting spirit to rescue a draw against Uganda and register points on board as they target qualification as one of the best third-placed teams or finish ahead of Uganda depending on outcome of the other group game. Make no mistake, this is a cup final for either teams and anything short of a victory will see both teams go home.
VERDICT – This is the fourth time both teams will be meeting; the Leopards from DR Congo are yet to register a win against the Warriors of Zimbabwe. The last encounter finished in a score draw with neither of the teams managing a clean sheet in their head-to-head meetings. Expect goals from both teams but this might end in a draw.
BURUNDI v GUINEA – SUN. 30 JUNE 2019, 17.00HRS
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Burundi sit at the bottom of Group B with no wins after two rounds of matches but could still sneak through as one of the best third-placed teams with a victory on Match-Day 3. Guinea find themselves in a position where they have their destiny in hands but must produce a top performance if they aim to progress. The Syli Nationale haven’t looked like the team that dominated their qualifying campaign but with one point on board and producing a full game performance like the first half against Nigeria, they should put debutant Burundi to bed. Les Hirondelles have delivered gritty performances in both games and lost; however, they can play this final game with no pressure and perhaps upset the odds in Cairo.
VERDICT – This is the first meeting between both teams at international level. The Syli Nationale have the experience and quality to win having found themselves in a must win situation. That pressure should spur Paul Put’s team to victory.
KENYA v SENEGAL – MON. 01 JULY 2019, 20.00HRS
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Kenya recovered from Match-Day 1 defeat to Algeria with a win over Tanzania in the second group game and kept their hopes of booking a place in the last 16 alive. The Harambee Stars came from behind twice against the Tafia Stars in one of the most intriguing games of the tournament till date. One of the tournament favorites – Senegal suffered a defeat against Algeria but still have one more game to make amends and book their place in the knockout stage. The defeat showed some of the weakness in the Terranga Lions and Aliou Cisse should make tactical changes ahead of the final group game against Kenya.
VERDICT – The only meeting between these two sides was in 2004 with Senegal running away quite comfortably with a 3-0 victory. Senegal possesses more quality in them and will start off as favorites to win this game. We don’t expect Kenya provide them with much difficulty, however, the Harambee Stars have shown a strong fighting spirit and they will battle for their lives and qualification. A Senegalese victory is on the cards.
SOUTH AFRICA v MOROCCO – MON. 01 JULY 2019, 17.00HRS
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The third set of group games in the Group of Death sees Bafana Bafana take on the Atlas Lions. Morocco have already confirmed their place in the knockout rounds as they have won their first two games in their group to top it on 6 points. They neat Namibia 1-0 and then beat Ivory Coast by the same score line. South Africa opened their 2019 AFCON campaign on a losing note but recovered with a victory in the second game to give themselves a chance to finish as runner up in the group or as one of the best third-place team. With Morocco already assured of qualification, Herve Renard might rotate his team to give some fresh legs a run out at the Al Salam Stadium on Monday.
VERDICT – 2013 was the last time both nations met and the match finished 1-1; the last three meetings between these sides have ended in a draw. Morocco have qualified so the desire to win might be less than usual but South Africa are in dire need of at least a point to guarantee safe passage. Going by the history between them, a draw is very likely but both teams should get on the score sheet.
MAURITANIA v TUNISIA – MON. 02 JULY 2019, 20.00HRS
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Wahbi Khazri’s deflected earned Tunisia a point against Mali as they came from a goal down to grab a 1-1 draw with Les Aigles in their second group match. The Carthage Eagles are yet to hit the expected heights in Egypt but have a last salon chance to impress and secure their first victory against bottom team Mauritania who are just a point behind them. Debutants Mauritania picked up their first ever AFCON point, holding Angola to a goalless draw and throw Group E wide open. The Lions of Chinguetti have a chance to go through to the round of 16 having produced an improved performance to their opening group game. Both teams will progress with a victory and Alain Giresse’s men are the ones under pressure to perform.
VERDICT – In the last three meetings between these nations, Tunisia have two wins and a draw. The Carthage Eagles are favorites but we are yet to see them soar. Buoyed by their performance against Angola and confidence level, Mauritania will believe they can provide a huge upset and get something out of this game. This is a winner-take-all game and Tunisia experience should give them the edge.
GUINEA-BISSAU v GHANA – MON. 02 JULY 2019, 17.00HRS
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Guinea-Bissau can still make it out of Group F as the Djurtus prepare for their Match-Day 3 clash against Ghana. The Black Stars are just a point better than their opponent which means this could go down to the wire. Guinea-Bissau adopted a cautious approach in their second group game against Benin and was able to secure a draw which still leaves them at the foot of the table but within distance of second placed Ghana. It hasn’t been the desired outcome in terms of results for the Black Stars but they can be confident of securing a victory against minnows – Guinea-Bissau having held Cameroon to a goalless draw in the epic Group F. With two draws from two games, a victory isn’t negotiable for Kwesi Appiah’s men on Tuesday.
VERDICT – It is the first meeting between both nations at this level. Ghana are one of Africa’s traditional power houses in football and should prove their mettle in a must win game to book their place in the knockout stage. Despite being underdogs, Guinea-Bissau will aim to build on the draw against Benin as they target a first AFCON victory. Ghana will be too strong and powerful, we expect nothing but a victory for the Black Stars.
It is a wrap on our previews for Match-Day 3 across the six groups at the Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. The Round of 16 is upon us; keep playing, keep winning…. Predict and win big by visiting our Sports shop Babaijebu.ng for mouthwatering offers for Africa’s biggest football showpiece.