2019 AFCON outright tips: Who to back to win in Egypt
With the tournament in Egypt getting under way on Friday, we give our best tips to lift the trophy in Cairo this summer.
Best outright tip
This will be the first African Cup of Nations in 60 years to be played in the summer, though the weather is likely to be of more significance this time around.
There were just three teams and three games in the 1959 tournament, which was held in what is now modern-day Egypt and played over a week in May.
This time there will be 24 teams and 52 games – 30 of which will be played in Cairo, which has an average high temperature of 35 degrees celsius in June – played across a month.
It’s fair to assume that, with 15 of their 23-man squad playing their football domestically, the conditions will give an advantage to hosts and favourites Egypt .
Those that play abroad include Aston Villa’s Ahmed El Mohamady, Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny and the Egyptian King himself Mohamed Salah.
Salah is coming off the back of a 27-goal season at Liverpool in which he won the Champions League, and he will carry much of the burden of expectancy from the home crowd.
But we are unlikely to see the same defence-minded Egypt that we did at the 2018 World Cup, where Salah was isolated and ineffectual.
New manager Javier Aguirre was appointed in August last year with a remit to play attacking football.
Since his arrival, Egypt have won five home games out of five and have scored three or more goals in four of those victories.
Salah, meanwhile, has netted in all three of their competitive home games under Aguirre.
The Pharaohs haven’t lost on home soil in their last 15 matches, while they have been beaten just once in 20 – a 1-0 defeat to Jordan in 2016.
They are the most successful team in the history of the African Cup of Nations, having won the title seven times.
Lifting the trophy for the eighth time will be the minimum their fans expect.
If not Egypt, then who?
Morocco are another side who are likely to be better suited to adapt to the conditions in Egypt.
The Atlas Lions come into the tournament with their best players both fit and in brilliant form.
Hakim Ziyech scored 19 goals and provided 16 assists in 43 games in all competitions for Ajax last season, while defender Noussair Mazraoui featured 40 times for the Eredivisie champions.
Younes Belhanda also had a positive season with Turkish Super Lig champions Galatasaray, scoring four league goals and assisting six in 23 starts.
Morocco benefit from having a manager that knows exactly how to win the African Cup of Nations in Herve Renard.
The Frenchman caused one of the biggest shocks in the tournament’s history by winning in 2012 with Zambia, before lifting the trophy again in 2015 with Ivory Coast.
He remains the only manager to win AFCON with two different teams.
They have been placed in a winnable group alongside an Ivory Coast side that lacks direction and outsiders Namibia and South Africa.
Finishing top will ensure a third-placed side from Groups B, E or F in the last-16 and a runner-up from A or C in the quarter-final.
Morocco’s pragmatic style lends itself well to tournament football and, at , they should not be discounted.
DR Congo look a big price at .
The Leopards travel to Egypt with a host of recognisable names in West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku, captain Youssouf Mulumbu and Yannick Bolasie.
But any success they have will likely rest on the performances of Cedric Bakambu, who is undoubtedly one of the best strikers at the tournament.
The 28-year-old has netted 23 league goals in his last 27 appearances for Beijing Guoan following his big-money move from Villarreal last year.
He comes into the tournament having scored five times in his last six appearances for his country.
Despite being drawn in a group with heavy favourites Egypt, DR Congo should have enough to get past Uganda and Zimbabwe and can be confident of progression.
A potential quarter-final tie with Morocco is the toughest game that stands in their way to the final, but it will difficult to back against the victor going all the way.
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