Cairo, Egypt |URN | The 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) enters the semi final stage on July 14th with Senegal facing Tunisia in the first match before Nigeria take on Algeria.
It is not by surprise that the best three FIFA ranked teams in the African continent Senegal, Tunisia and Nigeria as per June 14th have qualified for the semi finals.
Senegal brushed off edged Benin 1-0 at the quarter final stage, while Tunisia brought Madagascar’s good run in the tournament to an end winning 3-0. Nigeria needed a late goal against South Africa to win 2-1, while Algeria slipped through after a hard fought 4-3 win over Ivory Coast after the two teams tied 1-1 after 120 minutes.
Aliou Cisse, Senegal’s head coach told this publication that he is very proud of guiding the Teranga Lions (ranked 22 in the world and top in Africa) to the last four which they have not achieved in over 10 years. “We are very happy to get to this stage, but the battle is not won yet,” said Cisse.
With the likes of Sadio Mane, winner of the 2019 UEFA Champions league with Liverpool, Balde Keita and Idrissa Gava Gueye who scored the lone goal at the quarter final stage, the Senegal team that has a winning bonus of US$10,000 (Shs 37million) per game at the tournament has what it takes to win the trophy.
The Tunisian team which started the tournament unconvincingly where they bagged three draws to finish second in Group E behind Mali have showed that experience plays a big part in such tournaments.
Tunisia who are ranked 25th in the world and 2nd in Africa will look to players like Youssef Msakni who has already netted two goals in the toutnament together with Wahbi Khazri and Taha Yassine Khenissi.
Alain Giresse, Tunisia’s head coach and former French International told this publication that they will treat every game as it comes. “We shall respect Senegal because they are the best ranked in Africa, but Iam happy that we have now taking our chances like were did in the 3-0 win over Madagascar,” he added.
After the shocking 2-0 loss to Madagascar in the Group stage where they finished second, the Super Eagles have continued to show that they are a motivated team on a mission. “We just need to keep getting the results to make Nigerians back home happy. The boys are well motivated and money is not the problem now, but getting the wins,” said Amuju Pinnick, the Nigeria Football Federation President.
The Super Eagles players have already bagged US$40,000 (Shs148 million) each with an additional US$20,000 (Shs74 million) given in cash by a Nigerian business man for the win against Cameroon in the Round of 16.
On the field the Nigerian team is yet to show that they have what it takes to win the trophy, but the experience of most of the players is something is one that cannot be ignored.
With skipper Mikeal Obi not enjoying good form, the likes of Odion Jude Ighalo, already three goals to his credit, Alexander Chuka Iwobi and defender Kenneth Joseiah Omeruo have played pivotal roles for the team.
The Desrt Fennecs of Algeria remain the clear favourites to win the title considering the competitive displays they have shown since the tournament started.
They scored six goals in the Group stage and conceded none. In the Round of 16 they brushed a side Benin 3-0 before they conceded their first goal of the tournament in the 1-all draw against Ivory Coast at the quarter final stage on Thursday but won on penalty shoot outs.
Team captain Riyad Karim Mahrez who continues to play a big role in the team with two goals already to his credit told this publication that they are not taking any team for granted. “We are very focused to first try and get to the final,” said the Manchester City player.
With on-form players like of Adam Ounas who has scored three goals so far, Islam Slimani and the enterprising Sofiane Feghouli, the Algerian team remain the favourites to win the 2019 AFCON trophy.
Uganda Cranes were the best performing team in the Council of East and central African Football Associations (CECAFA) region having reached the Round of 16. Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi all failed to make it out of the Group stage.