The star studded African national teams go head to head at AFCON this year. Who are the favourites to take it home?
It's barely a few days before the kickoff of the Africa Cup of Nations and the hysteria on the continent is reaching it's peak. FIFA has realised it's latest report of the world's best ranked football teams. The rankings for the African teams are not exactly how many we would expect with favourites such as Egypt not making the cut for the top five.
The West African team does not boast big superstar names, however, they have proved to be tactical and clinical over the past tournaments. Leading their attack is Mousa Marega who scored 11 goals and provided 6 assists for FC Porto in the just ended season. Their best performance at AFCON was as runners-up in 1972.
9. Burkina Faso
The Stallions' charge is led by Lyon forward Bertrand Traore and look set to also light up this year's tournament. Impressively, it's one of the rosters with a large share of home grown talent. The best ever finish of the team was reaching the finals in 2013. They have so far made 11 appearances at the tournament since their fisrt appearance in 1978.
The host team, the Pharaohs, make an entry at number 8. It's a very low ranking for a team which has won the tournament for a record 7 times. Will Mo Salah lead this team to an eighth title? The expectations of playing on home turf will definitely be high fpr the team aftet failing to impress at the Russia World Cup last year. They kick off the tournament against Zimbabwe on the 21st.
The Indomitable Lions are the reigning champions of the continent and go into tournament to defend their pride. Once led by the formidable Eto'o , the team is still putting up a good football show and remain one of the most entertaining sides in African football. The team has made more appearances at the FIFA World Cup than any other African country. They managed to rise to Olympic glory in 2000, scooping a gold medal at tournament. They have lifted the AFCON trophy five times, coming second to Egypt.
The Black Stars have made 22 appearances at AFCON and four times they ended in triump. The star power of the team has dazzled from one tournament to the other. Who can forget Asamoah Gyan's iconic celebration at the 2010 World Cup as they cruised to the quarter-finals?
5. Democratic Republic of Congo
Two time champions, The Leopards, go into the tournament having not found any glory since 1974. As Zaire, they were the first sub-Sahara team to qualify for the World Cup and their recent performances in the last few international tournaments have offered a glimmer of hope.
Hakim Ziyech appeared in 29 matches for the youthful Ajax side, scoring 16 goals and making 13 assists. An impressive feat for an attacking midfielder. Will he be able to find the same rhythm for his country? The Atlas Lions only tasted glory once, in 1976 and have since failed to bring the trophy home.
Pride is at stake for the whole nation after the disappointing start their women's team had in the Women's World Cup last week. The Super Eagles are three time champions with the most recent triumph coming against Burkina Faso in 2013. The team's line up includes John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho; creating a foolproof machinery.
Despite his consistent performances with the al Ahly of Egpyt, Ali Maaloul was left out of the Tunisia squad that will take part in 2019 Africa Cup Of Nations. The Tunisian team is made up of mostly players plying their trade in North African leagues. The team will also be sharing the same group with number 9 Mali, a face off that will likely be one of the most entertaining.
Sadio Mane charges The Lions of Teranga into battle just after winning the Champions League with Liverpool and winning the joint Golden Boot with African counterparts Mo Salah and Aubemayang. Their best performance came in 2002 as runnersup and they will be hoping to eclipse that performance in this year's tournament.
Header Image Credits: Eurosport
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