North African side Algeria and West African’s Senegal will square off in Group C, while East African neighbours Tanzania and Kenya complete the group.
This group provides some friendly fire when Senegal meet Kenya with best of friends Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama who played together at English side Southampton going head-to-head. The two are also the captains of their respective teams.
Riyad Mahrez will feature for one-time winners – Algeria in Egypt. However, Kenya vs Tanzania tie will be one of the most interesting match-ups in the tournament – making up an East African derby with the Tanzania making an appearance for the first African Cup of Nations in 39 years.
Coach: Aliou Cisse
Africa/World Rankings: 1/24
Previous Appearances: 14
Best AFCON Finish: Runners-up (2002)
Senegal, even though, are the only one of the six top seeds never to have won the event, yet they are certainly the most eagerly anticipated nation by observers. With plenty of talent on their side – Sadio Mané, Sarr, Gueye, Kouyaté, Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy are all included in the squad – this side coached by Aliou Cissé could well be crowned champions of Africa at the end of the competition.
The Teranga Lions’ best showing at a Nations Cup was finishing as runners-up to Cameroon in 2002 in Mali. Senegal lost on penalties but went on to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup later that year in their first appearance.
With this star-studded squad, Senegal head to Egypt as a strong force likely to lift the trophy and group C should be a stroll in the park for the Lions of Teranga.
Player to Watch: Sadio Mane
The Senegalese team is boasted of a number of talent, yet their captain and Liverpool ace – Sadio Mane stands out among the rest.
The tremendous part Sadio Mane is playing in Liverpool’s season could not be more evident. His brilliance on the pitch earned him a place in the PFA Team of the Year as well the Premier League Golden Boot (shared alongside Salah & Aubameyang). He has also played a huge role in the Reds’ Champions League campaign en route the final.
The 27-year-old also finished runner-up to his club teammate Mohamed Salah as CAF African Player of the Year in January. However, Mane has always been influential for Liverpool.
Mané has earned 60 caps for Senegal since his debut in 2012, and represented the national team at the 2012 Olympics, 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2018 FIFA World Cup – scoring 16 goals in the process.
If anybody will target a best finish in Egypt, then it is Mane – who knows he could well finally land the African Player of the Year with a successful campaign in Egypt.
Coach: Djamel Belmadi
Africa/World Rankings: 13/69
Previous Appearances: 17
Best AFCON Finish: Champions (1990)
Alongside Senegal, Algeria are one of the favourites to win the 2019 AFCON. The North African nation have been off steam in recent years with their major achievement on the international scene stretching back to 1990 – AFCON triumph.
Even though they participated in the last three AFCON tournaments, the Desert Foxes’ best finish was in the quater-finals in 2015. With this, a squad with the likes of; Islam Slimani , Yacine Brahimi, Nabil Bentaleb, Sofiane Feghouli and Riyad Mahrez will hope to restore the Algerian football glory days.
Player to Watch: Riyad Mahrez
Manchester City ace – Riyad Mahrez is effortlessly the best leg in the Algerian team. The most expensive African footballer was instrumental in Leicester City’s world-shocking Premier League triumph back in 2016, earning him the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award. And he was the first African to earn the accolade as at that time.
The sleekly and skilful 2016 African Player of the Year winner is the man to watch out for in the star-studded Algerian team. Simply put, in Mahrez’s juggernaut, the Desert Foxes’ may be unstoppable.
Coach: Sebastien Migne
Africa/World Rankings: 23/106
Previous Appearances: 5
Best AFCON Finish: First round
Kenya return to Africa’s flagship competition for the first time in 15 years. The Harambee Stars have appeared in five Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, never reaching second round – as their best finish is the first round.
It is hard to see Kenya take the world by surprise in Egypt especially when they have struggled to breed players capable of taking the country’s football to the next level. For a decade now, the breakout star of Kenya remains injury-plagued Tottenham’s Victor Wanyama.
The East African nation will undoubtedly struggle to find their feet against Senegal and Algeria – and this will give continuity to their first round ‘best finish’.
Player to Watch: Victor Wanyama
Kenya captain, Victor Wanyama has been the face of Kenya for quite a time now. Even though injury has blighted the ex-Southampton player’s promising career, he still remains the man to lead Kenya charge to Egypt. It is as much as saying Kenya’s slim hopes of making it beyond round one boils down on him. You don’t expect less or more from a ONE-man team.
Restored to prominence after injury lay off, he started the rip-roaring encounter that ended with Spurs progressing to their first Champions League/European Cup semi-final since 1962.
Even with little ‘glimpse of hopes’, Kenya could still be beneficiaries of his ostensible resurgence in Egypt.
ALSO WORTH YOUR TIME: AFCON 2019 Pre-Tournament Analysis: Group B (Nigeria, Guinea, Madagascar & Burundi)
Coach: Emmanuel Amunike
Africa/World Rankings: 37/137
Previous Appearances: 1
Best AFCON Finish: First round
Tanzania are making a return to Africa’s greatest football competition after a 39-year absence. They came second behind the Cranes of Uganda in Group L of the qualifiers and will need to be at their best to overcome Saido Mane’s Senegal and the star studded Algerian side.
Albeit, it is the East African nation’s first appearance in a long time yet their head coach Emmanuel Amuneke who won the AFCON title with Nigeria in 1994 remains adamant the Taifa Stars can compete with the big guns in the group.
“The draw is very interesting and you can see all the teams are strong,” Amuneke said
“Both (Senegal and Algeria) have long experience, but it is dangerous to bet on your previous experience in this tournament. Everyone has to play and do his utmost to overcome the obstacles they face.”
The Taifa Stars will open their campaign against Senegal on June 23 and then battle Kenya in their second group game four days later before facing Algeria on July 1.
Player to Watch: Mbwana Samatta
Tanzania captain – Mbwana Samatta was a key figure as the Taifa Stars booked a place in an AFCON tournament for the first time since 1980. The KRC Genk striker saw the net twice for Emmanuel Amunike’s side in the qualifiers.
In January 2016, he became the first player from East Africa to be crowned the CAF African Player of the Year based on the continent (i.e African football) – while he was playing for TP Mazembe.
The 2019 Belgian Ebony Shoe award winner has proven over and over to be capable of putting his team offensive duties upon himself – and he will do so once anew in Egypt. Even if Tanzania go flatten in Egypt, be rest assured that Samatta will always be at the right end of showing his worth. Put an eye on him!
While Kenya and Tanzania have never made it past the first round, Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez should easily take the second qualifying place – barring any catastrophes.
Algeria and Senegal are seen as runaway favourites in the group especially with Senegal being the best ranked African team.