Total AFCON 2019 draw: groups unveiled in front of the Great Sphinx
The stage is set for the Total Africa Cup of Nations 2019. The draw was announced on April 12, during an exclusive ceremony held outside Cairo, with the world-famous Giza Pyramids serving as a backdrop. Hosts Egypt will take on Zimbabwe in the first match of the tournament, on June 21 at the Cairo International Stadium.
Five legends of African football on stage for the draw
The draw for the 32nd edition of the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations took place in front of 600 distinguished guests, including several African presidents, and FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura. A speech was delivered by Ahmad Ahmad, President of the African Football Confederation, who thanked Mr Hany Abo Reda, President of the Egyptian Football Federation (FEF), who was also present, "for his efforts in making this edition a total success.” With that, the draw of qualified countries could begin!
This honor was granted to five legends of African football—Yaya Toure, who played on Côte d'Ivoire’s winning team at the 2015 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, and was a finalist in 2006 and 2012; El-Hadji Diouf, quarter-finalist at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea / JapanTM and CAN 2002 finalist with Senegal; Mustapha Hadji, who played in two FIFA World CupsTM with Morocco; Emmanuel Amunike, who played on Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations winning team in 1994; and Ahmad Hassan, who has 184 Egyptian caps and is a four-time CAF champion (1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010).
Egypt on the hunt for a record eighth title
In addition to Egypt and Zimbabwe, Group A includes DR Congo and Uganda, and—judging by FIFA rankings alone—it is the toughest of the six groups. However, hosts Egypt will be counting on their exemplary home record to get them through their group. With star players such as defender Ahmed El Mohammady, striker Mohamed Salah and midfielder Mohamed Elneny—who play in the English Premier League for Aston Villa, Liverpool, and Arsenal, respectively—Egypt are the favorites to go all the way, and win a record eighth championship title.
Defending champions Cameroon find themselves in Group F, alongside title-contender Ghana, as well as Benin and Guinea-Bissau, both of whom will be looking to make waves with big upsets in the group stage. Nigeria look poised to dominate Group B, drawing two first-time qualifiers in Burundi and Madagascar, as well as Guinea, whose best result is a 1976 runners-up trophy.
Group D… be prepared for some breathtaking action and unexpected results
Group D is seen by many experts as the “Group of Death”. It is the toughest group according to the Elo system of rankings, which are seen as more accurate than FIFA rankings. The group will see Morocco, who qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and haven’t lost to a single African team since 2017, and the Africa Cup of Nations 2015 champions Ivory Coast, vying for the top spot. The group also includes the hosts of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, South Africa.
A little less uniform, Groups C and E will play host to two of the group stage’s big matches. Senegal and Tunisia, who played at the 2018 FIFA World CupTM in Russia, will face respectively Algeria, winner of the 1999 CAF, and Mali, finalist in 1972 and third in 2012 and 2013.
The two top teams from each group and the four best third-placed teams will qualify for the round of 16. With 24 teams competing for the first time in the tournament’s history and new dates to accommodate players signed to European clubs, the Total Africa Cup of Nations will offer some exciting football for fans across Africa and around the world.
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