By Chima Ebube
The AFCON 2019 holds this summer in Egypt, countdown has begun for the biggest sport competition in the continent.
The 32nd edition of Africa’s Cup of Nations would see an increment in the number of participating teams from the traditional 16 teams to 24 teams’ tournament.
Countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal and even the host Egypt would slug it out for the crown of the best team in the continent. As with every competition in the world, there is bound to be new debutants and in this special edition of AFCON, Madagascar, Burundi and Mauritania would be making their debut at AFCON in Egypt come this summer.
Burundi, a population of 10.6 million qualified for AFCON for the first time in their history in a dramatic fashion. The Ticket was secured in their final group game at home to Gabon, in a game that was winner take all. The Swallows were able to hold Gabon to a score draw to secure qualification for AFCON 2019, drawn in Group B alongside fellow debutants Madagascar, Nigeria and Guinea.
Burundi are drawn in a difficult group where on paper, it’s difficult to envisage them making it out of the group stage albeit as football have proved on countless of occasion upset do happen and you only underrate your opponent at your own peril.
For Burundi to have a chance at having a decent tournament in Egypt, Head Coach Olivier Nyungeko would be hoping his team can both up a show piece with a slight upgrade from the performance they gave during the qualifiers.
Having been with the national team since 2016, Olivier who is a Burundian would be banking on Fiston Abdul Razaq who is the county’s highest goal scorer in history of the game to find his goal scoring boot while being assisted by the likes of Cedric Amissi and Saido Berahino while veteran defender and team captain Karim Nizigiyimana leads the team from the back.
The Island of Madagascar would be making their first ever appearance in AFCON this June in Egypt. Finishing runners-up to Senegal in a group comprising of Equatorial Guinea and Sudan, Madagascar were able to secure second spot comfortably being one of the first countries to secure qualification spot late 2018.
The draws for AFCON 2019 pitched debutant Madagascar alongside fellow debutant Burundi in Group B with Nigeria and Guinea completing the group.
Nicolas Dupuis is the french man behind the incredible achievement for Barea although he is taking Barea to the AFCON without any experience on how African teams play their game having been in charge from 2017 till date would be looking to implement his fresh ideas in the continent this summer and hopefully giving Malagasy an amazing tournament to be crested into nation’s history.
Barring any occurrence of injury, Malagasy would be led on the pitch by veteran striker, team’s captain and county’s highest goal scorer Faneva Imà Andriatsima to inspire the younger generation to go on to make history against all odds. Interestingly, the second game for Madagascar at AFCON 2019 would be against fellow debutant Burundi,
From the Northern part of Africa, Mauritania secured her qualification to AFCON 2019 as runners-up in group I although they were tied on the same point with group winner Angola but were separated on goal’s difference.
Having Secured qualification late 2018, Mauritania lost the opportunity to top the group when they lost their last qualifying game to Burkina Faso vacating the spot to Angola who had superior goal difference when compared to Mauritania.
Al- Murabutin under head coach Corentin Martins plays a rather conservative football with little goal scoring and much emphasis placed on defending. In a twist of fate, Mauritania have been placed in group E alongside Angola whom they faced off during qualifiers with Mali and Tunisia completing the group.
The group looks difficult on paper, bookmakers does not favor Mauritania to proceed out of this group as they have been drawn alongside Africa’s heavy weight in the competition who have better experience in this stage.
An opportunity presents itself for Mauritania to announce herself in Africa and what better platform to do so than the AFCON which is the biggest competition in the continent. Mauritians would look up to Ismaël Diakité and Bessam (Moulaye Ahmed Khalil) to lead the country in terms of supplying goals and inspiring the younger members of the squad into giving their all for their National team.
Keen eye would be placed on all the debutant at this year’s AFCON to see how well they fare in an historic outing for their country.
Changes would be expected before the tournament kicks off in Egypt, it would be interesting to see how each gaffer of these countries would set up their team to play against the more experienced sides in Egypt