In this edition of the African Cup of Nations 2015, several national teams stand out in the fixtures. Algeria, Ghana, Senegal and Ivory Coast are top favorites.Here are the African Cup of Nations Fixtures 2015.
Who are the Contenders and who are the Pretenders
The African Cup of Nations 2015 will be hosted by Equatorial Guinea, who had only recently hosted the 2012 edition of the tournament.
Equatorial Guinea where only chosen as the hosts for the tournament as late as November, 2014. Morocco were initially chosen as the hosts but were disqualified as they hesitated to host the tournament in light of the Ebola epidemic that has been wrecking havoc in the African continent since last year. This gave Guinea a very short time to prepare for the event.
Equatorial Guinea will count themselves lucky to be in this year’s tournament having been initially disqualified in the qualifying round for fielding an ineligible player.
Now let’s look at the teams in contention and see if there are any team that stand out as an eventual winner.
The hosts Equatorial Guinea are drawn along with Burkina Faso, Gabon and Congo.
Equatorial Guinea’s best performance till date in the Africa Cup of Nations came when they last hosted the tournament back in 2012 reaching the Quarters before getting knocked out by Ivory Coast. They are the lowest fifa ranked team in the tournament but you can’t count them out, especially since they are going to playing in front of their own audience.
Burkina Faso, last tournaments finalists qualified for this year’s finals after finishing second in their qualifying group behind Gabon. They will look towards last AFCON player of the tournament and 2015 AFCON qualifying top scorer, Jonathan Pitroipa from Al-Jazira, to power them forward. Much can’t be expected from Burkina Faso this year apart from qualifying from their group and progress to the quarters.
Gabon finished first in there qualifying group ahead of Burkina Faso, and did beat Burkina Faso once and draw a second time when they met in the qualifying group. Led by the Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Gabon should qualify for the quarters finals from their group.
Congo qualified for the finals from a tough qualifying group which had South Africa and Current AFCON champions Nigeria. Congo managed to knock the current holders out of the tournament after finishing second in the group two points behind South Africa, but more importantly two points ahead of Nigeria. Congo is the highest ranked FIFA team in the group and has always been a world favorite.
Group B consists of Zambia, Tunisia, Cape Verde and DR Congo.
Cape Verde’s first AFCON tournament was in 2013, which was a great surprise when they managed to reach the quarters. This time around they were dominant in the qualifying round finishing first in their group and looks set for a good 2015 AFCON tournament. They have been given a relatively easy group and matches against Zambia and DR Congo will prove crucial if they are to qualify for the quarters.
Last time the AFCON tournament was held in Equatorial Guinea, Zambia came out champions and lifted their first ever AFCON trophy. They finished second in qualifying group behind Cape Verde. Zambia will need to put in a better performance in the group stages if they are to progress to the quarters.
Tunisia qualified for the finals after topping the qualifying group. Currently ranked 22nd in the world by FIFA, Tunisia’s AFCON resume is nothing short of a disappointment having lifted the trophy only once back in 2004. They have been blessed with an easy group this time so they should breeze into the Quarters without much trouble.
DR Congo qualified for the tournament finals after ending up as the best third place team in the qualification series. But they did manage to give a good account of themselves in qualifying because they were grouped in the death group along with Cameroon and Ivory Coast. In the tournament finals though they have a relatively easy group so if they show the same level of determination they did in qualifying stage, they might well have a chance to get out of the group and into the quarters.
Ghana is undoubtedly one of the favourites for this year’s title. Ghana had a difficult FIFA 2014 World Cup where they failed to qualify to the knockout stages, but did manage to draw 2-2 against eventual champions Germany. They have not managed to go past the quarters in the last four AFCON tournaments.
Qualification was not easy as expected, but they eventually qualified for the tournament finals as group toppers. Ghana is one of the most successful teams in AFCON history having won the tournament 4 times before. They have a whole host of talent in their squad which includes the likes of Christian Atsu (Everton), Andre Ayew (Olympique de Marseille) and Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain from United Arab Emirates).
They have a tough group at hand so it’s difficult to predict how they’ll do but for Ghana nothing short of a Semi-final berth is acceptable.
Algeria is the highest ranked team in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations and on sheer form as a parameter they should be the one’s lifting the AFCON trophy come February 8th. They were the best African team in the 2014 FIFA World Cup reaching round 16, were they fell against the eventual champions Germany but only after giving the Germans a real scare.
They did stumble once in the qualifying of AFCON 2015, against Mali, but still qualified for the tournament finals without breaking a sweat. They have a whole host of talent in their squad which includes the likes of Yacine Brahimi (FC Porto) and Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham Hotspur). But the player to watch out for will be the 26 yr old sporting striker Islam Slimani (Sporting of Lisboa).
It’s a tough group but Algeria shouldn’t have much trouble in reaching the Quarter-Finals.
South Africa is the lowest ranked team in group C but managed to book a spot for the tournament finals without losing a single match in the qualifying stage and finishing first in their group. South Africa has been unlucky to have landed in a group as tough as this one, but you cannot write them out just yet because they are fully capable of causing an upset. They conceded only three goals in the qualifiers so they are still contenders for the 2015 trophy.
Senegal are unquestionable contenders and there is no question about it. They qualified to the finals finishing second in the qualifiers group behind Tunisia, and have a whole lot players in their side who are playing in the top leagues of Europe. They will look to the likes of Papiss Cisse (Newcastle), Sadio Mane (Southampton Football Club) and Cheikhou Kouyat (West Ham United) to pull them out of the tough group.
Similar to Ghana and Algeria, Senegal’s AFCON ambitions are to win the tournament for the first time in their history.
Ivory Coast qualified for the tournament finals after a tough qualifying campaign where they narrowly got past DR Congo to finish second in group and book a ticket to the finals.
As always, Ivory Coast begins as one of the favourites for the title but their habit of underperforming in big events is what worries most of their fans. If the competition was won on paper then Ivory Coast would win it easy with the likes of Captain Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Wilfried Bony (Swansea City), Gervinho (AS Roma), Lacina Trarore (AS Mónaco), Check Tiote (Newcastle United), Salomon Kalou (Hertha Berlín) and Kolo Toure (Liverpool F.C.) in their team but big names only matter if they perform and if they do perform Ivory Coast are the team that can win it all.
Mali struggled to reach the tournaments finals this year but came through by beating Algeria in their last group game and for their efforts they have landed in a tough group. Mali has been having a good time in AFCON tournaments of late finishing third in the last two editions of the tournament and is fully capable of producing an upset with the likes of Seydou Keita (A. S. Roma), Bakary Sakho (Wolverhampton Wanderers) and Mustapha Yatabare (Trabzonspor of Turkey) on their side.
Mali will look to make an impact in this year’s tournament and they will do so if they manage to halt the progress of either one of the group favourites, Ivory Coast or Cameroon.
Cameroon had a disappointing FIFA 2014 World Cup campaign, where they finished last in their group with zero points. The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations is Cameroon’s chance to come back with a bang. They showed every intention of doing so winning their group with ease and letting in only goal in the process.
They have big names in their squad, the likes Stephane Mbia (Sevilla F. C), Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting ( FC Schalke) and Vincent Aboubakar (F.C. Oporto). All of which need to step up and deliver if they are to get out of the death group, but anything short of a semi-final berth will be deemed as a poor campaign for Cameroon.
Guinea are the unknown entity in this year’s AFCON tournament after having qualified for the tournament finals, finishing second in the qualifying group behind Ghana. Their best performance in an AFCON tournament has been a second place finish way back in 1976. They do have some good players in their team which includes Idrissa Sylla (Zulte Waregem, Belgium), Seydouba Soumah (Fortuna Liga, Slovenia) and Mohamed Yattara (Olympique de Lyon). Guinea needs to win their match against Mali and then work for an upset against either Ivory Coast or Cameroon if they are to qualify for the Quarters.
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