The 2022 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) slated to take place in Cameroun is just less than four days to the commence with 24 countries competing from the 9th of January to the 6th of February, 2022.
One thing that will be going through the minds of people now especially spectators is, who will win this year’s tournament?
There is no doubt that in every tournament or competition, there are contenders and pretenders competing. Even before the commencement of the tournament, there are countries pundits and spectators will always tip to win the trophy and the AFCON is not an exemption.
However, in this year’s AFCON, the countries that will come to minds are the North African countries and some few West African countries, and maybe the host considering the home support.
Many people are already tipping the duo of Algeria and Egypt because the former is the defending champions. With the absence of their captain, Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City, Algeria won the FIFA Arab 2021 recently beating Tunisia to the trophy. And AFCON with Mahrez, of course, they look more dangerous. He is one player that will be missed by his club because of his fantastic form of late as he has scored some remarkable goals for Manchester City this season which is one of the reasons why they are presently on top of the English Premier League, EPL.
Egypt on the other hand is also being tipped because it is the most successful country in the cup’s history with the highest number of trophy. They have won it seven times and considering the present form of Liverpool’s deadly striker, Mohammed Salah, no one will doubt if Egypt will be able to win it or not.
Meanwhile, one of the West African countries that people are also listing as one of the contenders is Senegal and the reason is not just because of Liverpool’s forward, Sadio Mane but because of the number of their players plying their trade abroad and also in great forms.
Chelsea’s first choice goalkeeper, Edouard Mendy is one that everyone knowsthat he will give coverage to the team at this year’s AFCON considering his current form for his club. His performance is one of the reasons why the London club won the last UEFA Champions League for the second time and why they still maintained their second position on the EPL table. If Mendy’s form is anything to go by and if the other players like Mane, Keita, Sarr, Koulibaly and others raise their game, then Senegal will definitely be one of the contenders.
In every football tournament, one country that is always considered as a team that will spring surprise is the Super Eagles of Nigeria. The reason is because of what they have done in the past both at the continent and international tournament but in this AFCON, they don’t seem to be one of the contenders because of some factors.
Many Nigerians might fault this but the truth is that many factors are against the Super Eagles. Firstly, many of their keys players have withdrawn from the tournament leaving the team depleted due to injury, illness and club’s refusal to release them. However, those called upon to replace them might spring a surprise by taking the opportunity given to them by proving themselves but inexperience might be their undoing.
Secondly, the change of coach no doubt will have an impact on the team either positively or negatively. Some players might find it difficult to settle down or understand the tactics being introduced by the coach amongst others. Though we have seen at clubsides where when new coaches take over, the teams begin to do well but can that happen in the national team especially with the Super Eagles? Only time will tell.
Thirdly, can the inputs of the technical crew made up of Austin Eguavoen, Salisu Yusuf, Paul Aigbogun, Joseph Yobo give any reasonable result considering their antecedents? However, the presence of ex-internationals like Kanu Nwankwo, Jay-Jay Okocha and others will be a good influence in the team as the players will have people who have played the game before around, motivating and encouraging them but how far can that go? The first game on January 11 will confirm that.
Fourthly, majority of the Super Eagles’ players are average players compare to other teams participating in this year’s AFCON. Many of them hardly make the first team in their various clubs, they warm the benches week-in week-out and even when eventually make the team, they play only few minutes.
Fifthly, research has shown that the Super Eagles is one of the most pampered teams in the world hence they allow this to get into their heads and proud sets in and eventually get humbled, probably after they have been humiliated on the pitch by a lowly-rated team on the continent. This might play out at this year’s AFCON especially with the presence of the large federal government delegation that will storm Cameroun to give the players pep talk and of course, promise them of millions of dollars rain as usual.
Sixthly, the distraction from politicians is another factor that will not allow the team to concentrate or even get close to the trophy because as we speak now, a large delegation of politicians is set to storm Cameroun on Monday ahead of their game on Tuesday, January 11 in Garoua.
Some people might argue that the Super Eagles team that won the AFCON in 2013 was at the same level with the present team and that it was miracle that gave them the trophy but they forgot that the technical input of late Stephen Keshi and Eguavoen are not on the same level. Secondly, that year, most of the other participating teams were not in good form and thirdly, the Eagles did not meet strong oppositions until they got to the quarter-final stage compare to this year’s AFCON where the Super Eagles will battle with Egypt, Guinea Bissau and Sudan in Group D in Garoua before they can book a ticket to the next round.
And if they eventually qualify, they might likely face bigger oppositions like Ghana, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Algeria, etc, in the next stage of the competition. Can they survive if they are still struggling with the likes of Cape Verde, Sierra Leone, Madagascar and other smaller teams in the continent.
We cannot forget in a hurry how Madagascar took the Super Eagles to the cleaners and how Algeria edged out the team in the semi-final. Another factor is that the team have been struggling and that was one of the reasons why the former coach, Gernot Rohr was relieved of his job but is there any difference between the present sets of coaches and Rohr?
Well, there is nothing God cannot do, that is the slogan of a typical Nigerian and since the country is a praying nation according to former president of the Nigeria Referee Association, NRA, Barr. Ray Nnaji, the prayer should start now so that the main contenders will not do well and that thing that happened in 2013 can happen again, that is, lifting the trophy for the fourth time. Hmm… if wishes are horses, of course, beggars will definitely ride!