AFCON matchday preview: Algeria begin title defence, while heavyweights Nigeria and Egypt tussle

Algeria
will
be
unequivocal
favourites
as
they
look
to
begin
Group
E
in
positive
fashion,
with
Djamel
Belmadi’s
men
unbeaten
in
34
competitive
matches.

Their
success
in
last
month’s
Arab
Cup
contributed
to
that
run
and
provided
part
of
their
squad
with
a
solid
period
of
preparation.

African
Cup
of
Nations
(AFCON)
2021:
Full
schedule,
timing
in
IST,
venues,
teams,
groups
and
telecast
details

But
the
biggest
game
of
the
day
will
take
place
between
Group
D
rivals
Nigeria
and
Egypt,
who
will
both
be
hoping
to
make
early
statements
in
their
respective
title
bids.


Algeria
v
Sierra
Leone
(13:00
GMT/6:30
PM
IST)

It
is
déjà
vu
for
Sierra
Leone,
as
they
faced
Algeria

their
only
previous
AFCON
meeting

when
they
last
qualified
for
the
competition
back
in
1996.

But
AFCON
stalwarts
Algeria
will
be
massive
favourites
here
as
they
begin
their
19th
participation
in
the
tournament,
aiming
to
become
the
first
team
to
win
back-to-back
titles
since
Egypt’s
three
in
a
row
between
2006
and
2010.

Few
will
envy
the
task
on
Sierra
Leone’s
hands,
with
Algeria
having
scored
more
goals
(19)
in
qualifying
than
any
of
the
24
teams
in
Cameroon.

If
they
avoid
defeat
on
Tuesday,
Algeria
will
beat
their
previous
best
unbeaten
run
(eight
matches)
at
the
AFCON.


One
to
watch:
Said
Benrahma
(Algeria)

The
Fennec
Foxes’ squad
is
packed
full
of
experience
and
quality,
with
as
many
as
five
players
boasting
double-figures
for
international
goals.

West
Ham
star
Benrahma
is
yet
to
establish
himself
among
their
key
players,
but
this
season
has
found
another
level
in
the
Premier
League,
his
nine
non-penalty
goal
involvements
being
bettered
by
only
seven
forwards.


Nigeria
v
Egypt
(16:00
GMT/9:30
PM
IST)

On
paper,
Group
D
looks
very
tough
to
call

this
encounter
could
at
least
give
us
an
idea
of
who
is
likeliest
to
finish
top.

Either
way,
this
is
a
proper
heavyweight
duel
between
two
of
the
AFCON’s
most-recognisable
nations.

This
will
be
Egypt’s
25th
appearance
at
the
AFCON,
more
than
any
other
country,
and
they
are
aiming
to
win
it
for
a
record-extending
eighth
success.

But
Nigeria’s
pedigree
is
similarly
impressive
given
the
fact
they
have
reached
the
semi-finals
in
14
of
the
previous
16
tournaments.

If
they
do
emerge
victorious
on
Tuesday,
it
will
end
Egypt’s
16-match
group
stage
unbeaten
run,
which
dates
back
to
2004.


One
to
watch:
Mohamed
Salah
(Egypt)

Obvious?
Perhaps.
Justified?
Absolutely.
Many
would
argue
Salah
has
been
the
best
player
in
the
world
over
the
past
year,
and
so
he
has
high
expectations
to
meet
here.

No
other
player
in
Carlos
Queiroz’s
squad
has
more
than
seven
international
goals
and
despite
only
being
29,
he’s
at
least
four
years
older
than
any
other
forward
in
the
selection

and
let
us
not
forget,
he
already
has
25
Premier
League
goal
involvements
this
term,
12
more
than
anyone
else.


Sudan
v
Guinea-Bissau
(19:00
GMT)
(12:30
AM
IST,
January
12)

Sudan
will
be
hoping
it
is
a
happy
return
to
Africa’s
biggest
tournament
as
they
prepare
for
a
first
outing
since
the
2012
edition.

Ending
a
run
of
no
clean
sheets
in
the
competition
since
beating
Ghana
2-0
in
the
1970
final
would
certainly
go
along
way
to
giving
them
a
platform
to
build
on
over
the
next
month.

Since
that
success
52
years
ago,
Sudan
have
only
picked
up
three
wins
from
a
possible
13,
but
they
will
not
head
into
the
fixture
scared
of
Guinea-Bissau,
even
though
they
lost
to
them
4-2
as
recently
as
September.

Baciro
Cande’s
men
have
finished
bottom
in
each
of
their
previous
two
AFCON
appearances
and
go
into
this
game
without
a
goal
in
437
minutes
in
the
competition,
the
worst
goalless
run
of
this
year’s
participants.


One
to
watch:
Mohamed
Abdelrahman
(Sudan)

The
Falcons
of
Jediane
will
be
pinning
most
of
their
hopes
on
striker
Abdelrahman,
who
scored
a
third
of
their
nine
goals
in
the
qualification
campaign.

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