Africa: What to Look Out for at Afcon 2019

Photo: CAF
AFCON 2019 logo.

The 2019 Afcon finals, which will be played across four Egyptian cities for the next four weeks, kicked off on Friday with the hosts entertaining Zimbabwe in Cairo. There appears to be general consensus that the Pharaohs along with Senegal's Lions of Teranga, Morocco's Atlas Lions and the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia are the teams to beat in the tournament.

Egypt, who have won three of their unprecedented eight titles on home soil, are erroneously dismissed for supposedly being overly dependent on Mohamed Salah. Which team wouldn't! Thing though is that they are that and more. In fact, it is the team ethic and collective coursing through their ranks that makes them particularly dangerous.

It also helps a great deal that in the Mexican Javier Aguirre the Pharaohs have a coach who not only seems untroubled by the hostility of their unforgiving media, but also sets up to exploit their strong points. Of which they are many!

Previous Pharaohs coach, the Argentine Hector Cuper was often derided by observers for needing little invitation to have the team retreat to a defensive crouch.

In the 2019 Afcon qualifying campaign, Egypt were back to their scintillating best. They used their trademark speed and acceleration to help themselves to 16 goals. No team came close to matching that scoring record. Such a gargantuan appetite for goals will bode well for Egypt in African football's showpiece tournament.

It, however, remains to be seen whether the Pharaohs have nerves of steels to deal with the pressures their tough, unyielding, passionate and relentless fans will heap on them. That is a loophole the likes of Senegal and Morocco -- to mention but two -- will be keen to take advantage of.

Aside from the question about who will rule the roost at Egypt 2019, the tournament will also give a platform for African coaches to throw the proverbial hat in the ring. Aliou Cisse already put in a strong audition during last year's World Cup, and he is expected to continue in the same vein.

Keen to replicate the steady hand Cisse has shown will be Ibrahim Kamara who walks into the cauldron that is Ivory Coast. Florent Ibenge has already been there and done that for the Democratic Republic of Congo. But can he repay the faith that the Democratic Republic of Congo's FA has showed him over the past couple of years? You get the sense that the Mike Mutebis and Moses Basenas of this world will be watching with keen interest.

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