While the Africa Cup of Nations is set to begin on January 9, Group B’s fixtures commence on Monday. The second group in the tournament will be using the Kouekong stadium.
Premier League News Now turns its attention to Group B, where we have last year finalist Senegal, Guinea, Zimbabwe and Malawi, look at the favourites to advance from the group as well the teams’ performances in their involvement at the continental showpiece, their best players to watch and the skippers from each side.
Senegal come into this year’s tournament following a convincing second-place finish in the 32nd edition in Egypt. The Teranga Lions lost to Algeria in the final in 2019.
Senegal come into this year’s event as big favourites and they have every right to be given that tag considering the performances they have churned out in the last few years on the continent.
Allou Cisse’s side qualified for the Afcon with an unbeaten record, keeping a threatening character in front of the goal in all their games. Sadio Mane will be relieved to have found the back of the net just before the start of the continental showdown. The Liverpool forward scored against Chelsea in the 2-2 draw in the Premier League.
A parade of stars in the Senegal squad include the likes of Edouard Mendy, Iddrisa Gueye and Kalidou Koulibaly. The team also hopes Watford‘s Ismaila Sarr could be given the go-ahead to participate in the competition should he recover in time.
His incredible form for Liverpool means, Mane will be key for Senegal and it will only be right to have eyes on him.
SENEGAL AFCON SQUAD:
Goalkeepers: Edouard Mendy (Chelsea, England), Alfred Gomis (Rennes, France), Seny Dieng (Queens Park Rangers, England).
Defenders: Bouna Sarr (Bayern Munich, Germany), Saliou Ciss (Nancy, France), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli, Italy), Pape Abou Cisse (Olympiakos, Greece), Abdoulaye Seck (Royal Antwerp, Belgium), Abdou Diallo (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Ibrahima Mbaye (Bologna, Italy), Fode Ballo-Toure (AC Milan, Italy), Cheikhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace, England).
Midfielders: Pape Matar Sarr (Metz, France), Pape Gueye (Marseille, France), Nampalys Mendy (Leicester City, England), Idrissa Gana Gueye (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Moustapha Name (Paris FC, France), Mamadou Loum (Alaves, Spain), Joseph Lopy (Sochaux, France).
Forwards: Boulaye Dia (Villarreal, Spain), Sadio Mane (Liverpool, England), Habib Diallo (Strasbourg, France), Bamba Dieng (Marseille, France), Ismaila Sarr (Watford, England), Famara Diedhiou (Alanyaspor, Turkey), Mame Baba Thiam (Kayserispor,Turkey), Keita Balde (Cagliari, Italy).
Guinea could only manage a one-eight finish in the last Africa Cup of Nations as they were beaten by Algeria, who went on to lift the trophy. The 2021 Afcon will be Guinea’s 13th appearance at the continental showpiece with their best ever performance coming in 1976, when they finished as runners up.
Liverpool’s Naby Keita is included in the Syli National’s final 28-man squad for the tournament. Keita is likely to wear the armband for Guinea as they go into another major tournament.
Former Arsenal striker, Kaba Diawara will be on the touchlines for the team as they seek their first competitive win since March 2021.
Keita will be the player to watch on the path of the Guineans in Group B.
GUINEA AFCON SQUAD:
Goalkeepers: Aly Keita (Ostersund, Sweden), Ibrahima Kone (Hibernians, Malta), Moussa Camara (Horoya, Guinea).
Defenders: Saidou Sow (St Etienne, France), Ibrahima Conte (Niort, France), Florentin Pogba (Sochaux, France), Ousmane Kante (Paris FC, France), Mohamed Aly Camara (Young Boys, Switzerland), Pa Konate (Botev Plovdiv, Bulgaria), Issiaga Sylla (Toulouse, France), Antoine Conte (Universitatea Craiova, Romania), Mikael Dyrestam (Sarpsborg 08, Norway).
Midfielders: Amadou Diawara (Roma, Italy), Ibrahima Cisse (Seriang, Belgium), Mory Konate (Sint-Truidense, Belgium), Ibrahima Sory Conte (Bnei Sakhnin, Israel), Ilaix Moriba (RB Leipzig), Mamadou Kane (Neftci, Azerbaijan), Morlaye Sylla (Horoya, Guinea), Aguibou Camara (Olympiacos, Greece), Naby Keita (Liverpool, England).
Forwards: Seydouba Soumah (Kuwait SC, Kuwait), Morgan Guilavogui (Paris FC, France), Mamadou Diallo (Grenoble, France), Jose Kante (Kairat, Kazakhstan), Mohamed Bayo (Clermont France), Sory Kaba (OH Leuven, Belgium).
Zimbabwe have huge injury concerns ahead of the tournament with Marvelous Nakamba (Aston Villa), Brendan Galloway (Plymouth) and Marshall Munetsi (Reims) all expected to miss the competition. The Warriors will also be without starman Khama Billiat, who has announced his retirement from international football.
Zimbabwe’s last Afcon appearance saw them take home just one point in three games as they finished bottom, conceding six goals in the games they played.
Breaking it down, Zimbabwe last won an Afcon game in 2006.
The inexperienced Zimbabwe side will be looking at leader, Knowledge Musona to take their inspiration. They are also fortunate to have Olympique Lyon forward Tino Kadewere as they go into the tournament.
ZIMBABWE AFCON SQUAD:
Goalkeepers: Petros Mhari, Martin Mapisa, Talbert Shumba.
Defenders: Peter Muduhwa, Alec Mudimu, Teenage Hadebe, Jordan Zemura, Godknows Murwira, Gerald Takwara, Gilroy Chimwemwe, Bruce Kangwa, Onismor Bhasera.
Midfielders: Kelvin Madzongwe, Thabani Kamusoko, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Ishmael Wadi, Never Tigere, Kundai Benyu.
Strikers: Admiral Muskwe, Prince Dube, David Moyo, Knowledge Musona, Tinotenda Kadewere.
For the first time since 2010, Malawi will be making an appearance at the continental showpiece. The team has not been to the last five editions of the Afcon but would be excited to have the opportunity to fight with some of Africa’s biggest teams in Cameroon.
The tournament in the Central African country will be the Flames third appearance at the Afcon since their maiden appearance. In the previous two they have played in, they have failed to go past the group stage.
Charles Petro, who is the only European-based player in the squad, will look to help his side with his experience upon their return to the competition.
Malawi can only get better from here and it will be interesting to see how far they can go this time.
MALAWI PROVISIONAL AFCON SQUAD:
Goalkeepers: William Thole (Be Forward Wanderers), Ernest Kakhobwe (Nyasa Big Bullets), Charles Thom (Silver Strikers).
Defenders: Limbikani Mzava (Amazulu), Dennis Chembezi (Polokwane City), Nickson Nyasulu, Mark Fodya (Silver Strikers), Sankhani Mkandawire (Nyasa Big Bullets), Gomezgani Chirwa(Nyasa Big Bullets), Lawrence Chaziya (CIVO Sporting), Paul Ndlovu (Mafco), Stanley Sanudi (Be Forward Wanderers), Peter Cholopi(Be Forward Wanderers).
Midfielders: John Banda (UD Songo), Charles Petro (Sheriff Tiraspol), Chimwemwe Idana (Nyasa Big Bullets), Chikoti Chirwa (Red Lions), Micium Mhone (Blue Eagles), Gerald Phiri Junior (Al Hillal).
Strikers: Robin Ngalande (St. George), Yamikani Chester (Be Forward Wanderers), Schumacker Kuwali (UD Songo), Francisco Madinga (FC Dilla Gori), Peter Banda (Simba Sporting Club), Zebron Kalima (Silver Strikers), Richard Mbulu (Baroka FC), Khuda Muyaba (Polokwane City), Henry Kumwenda (Butler Bulldogs), Gabadinho Mhango (Orlando Pirates), Stain Davie (Silver Strikers).
GROUP B FIXTURES
Monday, 10 January: Senegal vs Zimbabwe, Guinea vs Malawi.
Friday, 14 January: Senegal vs Guinea, Malawi vs Zimbabwe.
Tuesday, 18 January: Malawi vs Senegal, Zimbabwe vs Guinea.
FAVOURITES TO QUALIFY