From favourites to dark horses we preview Afcon teams

Egypt's Mohamed Salah with team mates during training.
Egypt's Mohamed Salah with team mates during training.
Image: REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Tiyani wa ka Mabasa previews the teams.

Egypt

The Pharaohs have won this tournament a record seven times. With Liverpool star Mohamed Salah in their corner, they would go in as one of the favourites to win again, especially because they are in their own backyard.

It's been nine years since they won their last Afcon when they beat Ghana in the decider in 2010, which was hosted by Angola. With mostly locally based players in their squad, the spotlight will be on Salah to deliver the trophy on home soil, but Mohamed Elneny of Arsenal is equally capable.

Not only have they participated in 23 Afcon tournaments, they have an experienced manager in Mexico's Javier Aguirre. The question mark would be on their form; they have recovered a bit with five wins in their last seven matches. Before that they had lost six times in 10 games.

The squad

Goalkeepers: Ahmed El-Shennawy, Mohamed El-Shennawy, Mahmoud Gennesh

Defenders: Ahmed Elmohamady, Baher El-Mohamady, Ahmed Hegazi, Mahmoud Alaa, Mahmoud Hamdy El-Wensh, Ahmed Mansour, Omar Gaber, Ayman Ashraf

Midfielders: Tarek Hamed, Mohamed Elneny, Ali Ghazal, Nabil Emad Dunga, Abdallah El-Said, Walid Soliman, Mohamed Salah,Mahmoud Hassan Trezeguet, Amr Warda

Strikers: Ahmed Ali, Marwan Mohsen, Ahmed Hassan Kouka

Coach: Javier Aguirre (Mexican)

DR Congo

Ranked fifth in Africa, the two-time African champions have shown great improvement under Florent Ibenge. They have a strong attack with the likes of Yannick Bolasie and Cedric Bakambu in their ranks.

It's in defence that things don't appear well, having kept one clean sheet in the qualifiers against Liberia at home. From being knocked out in the first round in the SA tournament edition, they improved in 2015 (third place) and 2017 (quarterfinals). With a squad of players in competitive European leagues, they may not be favourites, but will certainly be one of the dark horses to win the tournament.

They have made 18 appearances at this tournament.

The squad

Goalkeepers: Parfait Mandanda, Anthony Mossi, Ley Matampi Vumi

Defenders: Djuma Shabani, Glody Muzinga, Issama Mpeko, Christian Luyindama Nekadio, Arthur Masuaku, Wilfred Moke, Marcel Tisserand, Merveille Bope Bokadi, Beaudrick Ungenda

Midfielders: Chadrac Akolo, Paul-Jose Mpoku, Chancel Mangulu, Tresor Mputu, Youssouf Mulumbu, Jacques Maghoma

Forwards: Britt Assombalonga, Cederic Bakambu, Yannick Bolasie, Jonathan Bolingi Mpangi, Elia Lina Meschack

Coach: Florent Ibenge (Congolese)

Zimbabwe

The Warriors are one of Southern Africa's representatives and in their 23-man squad, they have 14 players competing in SA's Premier Soccer League.

For those predicting that Egypt and DR Congo would probably be the two teams to advance, they have another thing coming. This is the Zimbabwe side that beat DR Congo 2-1 away during the qualifiers, so they have the psychological edge over the central Africans.

This Warriors team has been together for sometime. Coach Sunday Chidzambwa has also been around the national team for a long time and probably understands the players better than anyone. What they lack is experience; this Afcon edition is their fourth. Knowledge Musona will be key.

The squad

Goalkeepers: George Chigova, Edmore Sibanda, Elvis Chipezeze

Defenders: Jimmy Dzingai, Alec Mudimu, Teenage Hadebe, Divine Lunga, Ronald Pfumbidzai, Tendai Darikwa

Midfielders: Danny Phiri, Marshall Munetsi, Marvelous Nakamba, Tafadzwa Kutinyu, Ovidy Karuru, Khama Billiat, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Talent Chawapihwa, Thabani Kamusoko

Forwards: Knowledge Musona, Nyasha Mushekwi, Evans Rusike, Tinotenda Kadewere, Knox Mutizwa

Coach: Sunday Chidzambwa (Zimbabwean)

Uganda

It's concerning that the Cranes have in the squad some players who are without clubs, such as former Kaizer Chiefs left back, Godfrey Walusimbi. They may compensate for this with the fact that they've always been a part of this team.

Uganda's defence, built around goalkeeper Denis Onyango of Mamelodi Sundowns, was strong in the qualifiers, but it must be added that they had opponents such as Botswana and Comoros, with the strongest being the group winners, Burkina Faso.

The squad

Goalkeepers: Denis Onyango, Jamal Salim, Robert Odongkara

Defenders: Nico Wakiro Wadada, Brian Mukiibi, Murushid Jjuuko, Bevis Mugabi, Isaac Muleme, Hassan Wasswa, Joseph Ochaya, Timothy Awanyi, Godfrey Walusimbi

Midfielders: Mike Azira, Allan Kateregga, William Kizito Luwagga, Khalid Aucho, Faruku Miya, Abdul Lumala, Tadeo Lwanga

Strikers: Patrick Henry Kaddu, Derrick Nsibambi, Allan Kyambadde, Emmanuel Arnold Okwi

Coach: Sebastien Desabre (French) 

GROUP A FIXTURES

Date Match Time Venue

June 22 Egypt v Zimbabwe 10pm Cairo International

June 22 DR Congo v Uganda 3:30pm Cairo International

June 26 Egypt v DR Congo 9pm Cairo International

June 26 Uganda v Zimbabwe 6pm Cairo International

June 30 Uganda v Egypt 8pm Cairo International

June 30 Zimbabwe v DR Congo 8pm  

Lookout for more analysis of the groups in our sister publication Sowetan from Tuesday.

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