By Chima Ebube
The 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, the biennial international men’s football championship of Africa organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), which will see the new phase of teams, as a previously 16-team tournament would have 24 teams participating.
And it’s just 3 months and few days away as Egypt prepares to host 23 other teams across Africa from the 21st of June to the 19th of July.
Already 14 teams have already sealed qualification, with Egypt having their qualification as hosts.
There are some issues that might be raised about some done teams qualifying and some not. Here’s an information on it
Due to Morocco withdrawing from being hosts of the 2015 edition, CAF banned the national team of Morocco from entering the 2017 and 2019 Africa Cups of Nations.
However, the ban was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, CAS meaning Morocco, having qualified for this edition(2019) of the African Cup of Nations, can participate in the tournament.
Due to the withdrawal of Chad during 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualification, they are banned from entering the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
The final phase of the qualifier, which is Match Day 6 comes up on the week of 18th -26th March as we’ll see 10 other teams join the already qualified 14.
TEAMS WHO HAVE ALREADY QUALIFIED AND THEIR REGION
EGYPT (UNAF): Egypt are the hosts of this tournament, and so that’s automatic qualification for the North African nation. The 2019 African Cup of Nations will be the 24th appearance for them, and their last appearance at the competition was 2017, the previous edition, they have won the competition 5 times.
MADAGASCAR (COSAFA): Madagascar, the country of the CAF President, Ahmad Ahmad, qualified to the AFCON tournament for the very first time in their history.
Their qualification came in a very scintillating form, winning 4 games,(2 away) and drawing 1 at home to Senegal and already sealed qualification as far as the 16th of October 2018.
They are currently second on the log with 13 points and will get the opportunity to finish top of the group when they face Senegal on Match Day 6 for the final game.
TUNISIA (UNAF): Tunisia who have won the competition for once, in year 2004, are in the same Qualifying group with Egypt. (Egypt previously participated in it because Cameroon were to host the competition before being stripped, and Egypt won In their bid to host the tournament) Tunisia have got 12 points and are currently second.
SENEGAL (WAFU A): Senegal are in the same group as Madagascar, and currently lead the group A standings due to a better Goal’s Difference between themselves and Madagascar. They look likely to remain top spot, as the final game for then is their hone ground which they remain invisible there with 6 goals from 2 games without conceding at home.
Senagal are making their 15th appearance in AFCON and sealed qualification for 2019 on the 16th of October as well, and they have never won the competition. The closest they came was coming 2nd as Runners-Up in 2002.
MOROCCO (UNAF) Morocco sealed qualification on the 17th of November 2018 with them participating in the last edition.
This will be their 17th participation, winning only once in 1976.
NIGERIA (WAFU B): The Super Eagles make a return to Africa’s biggest competition after missing out on two editions in a row. Nigeria started Afcon 2019 qualifiers on a bad note losing to South Africa 2 nil at home albeit, head coach Gernot Rohr has been able to steady the ship ensuring the 3-time African Champions were able to dispatch Seychelles and Libya easily while getting a draw in South Africa, in a game the Super Eagles could have easily won but the Referee’s decision was against them.
They sealed qualification on the 17th of November 2018, and their last appearance was in 2013 Under Late Stephen Keshi of Blessed Memory.
UGANDA (CECAFA): The Cranes of Uganda secured qualification for 2019 Cup of Nations topping in a group comprising of Tanzania, Cape Verde and Lesotho. The Cranes are looking forward to attending back to back edition of AFCON for the first time since 1980.
Head Coach, Sebastien Desabre would be looking forward to a better tournament compared to the embarrassing display they had in Gabon 2 years back where they only managed to get 1 point and a goal in a group comprising of Egypt, Ghana and Mali.
The cranes haven’t won the AFCON tournament before, but only ended as runners up in 1978.
MALI (WAFU A): Table toppers in Group D, Mali qualified for AFCON 2019 staying ahead of Burundi, Gabon and South Sudan.
The narrow win away to Gabon on 17 November, 2018 was enough to book their place in Egypt 2019 AFCON. The Eagles have never won AFCON in their history with their best ever finish being 2nd in 1972 and have finished 3rd in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
With Skipper Sadio Mane leading the line, Malians would be hopeful of a better tourney compared to the group stage exit in 2017.
GUINEA (WAFU A): In a group comprising of Ivory Coast, Central Africa Republic (CAR) and Rwanda, Guinea surprisingly are table toppers. The Djurtus secured qualification after playing out a score draw with Ivory Coast at home topping the group with 11 points.
Their last AFCON appearance was 2015, and have not won the tournament before, but ended as Runners up in 1976.
ALGERIA (UNAF): The Desert Foxes qualified as table toppers in a group consisting of Benin, Togo and Gambia.
The Algerian side would be looking forward to winning AFCON for the second time since 1990 where they won has host.
Head Coach, Djamel Belmadi would be seeking to at least better his side’s performance in the last AFCON where they failed to make it out of the group stage.
Stars like Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez and Porto’s Yacine Brahimi would lead the county’s quest for a second AFCON title.
MAURITANIA (WAFU A): Making their first ever appearance in the AFCON tournament in an emphatic fashion beating Botswana 2 -1 at home to secure 12 points in Group I, leaving Angola and Burkina Faso to fight for the remaining ticket.
One thing on the minds of the team, definitely would just be to make a good debut, probably just get to the next round, in all, as debutant, they’ll be so elated regardless of how their AFCON outing looks.
IVORY COAST (WAFU B): 2015 African Champions had to settle for second place in Group H behind table toppers Guinea.
The Elephants have struggled on the continent ever since they won AFCON 2015, this can be seen in their failure to qualify from the group stage in AFCON 2017 and also failing to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Russia. With past events behind them, the Elephant would be hoping to have a decent tournament in Egypt come this summer.
KENYA (CECAFA): Returning to the AFCON tournament since 2004, Kenya topped group F consisting of Ghana, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. The Harambee Stars qualified thanks to FIFA’s ban on Sierra Leone ensuring Kenya qualifies for AFCON for the first time since 2004.
This would be their 7th appearance at the AFCON tournament, and have never been winners of the competition.
GHANA (WAFU B): The Black Stars of Ghana are gunning for theAFCON title for the first time since 1982.
37 years and counting, Ghanaians are eagerly waiting for AFCON success.
Currently second in group F, a win in the final group game against Kenya would see them top the group. The Black Stars would be making their eight consecutive appearance at the AFCON in Egypt this summer .
This summer’s tournament will make the 23rd appearance for Ghana, showing how they’re used to playing at the AFCON tournament, despite always not winning in recent times.
These are the teams that have officially sealed qualification, till next weekend when 10 others will have the Final Match day to seal a spot for themselves in Egypt.