By DEWAH Fabrice TEH
Sports writer, Kick442.com-Cameroon
The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations tournament will kick off in Cameroon in barely two weeks from now with a total of 24 nations spread in six pools battling for glory.
Ahead of the competition, Kick442.Com is carrying out in-depth presentation of the various pools and the teams of the prestigious Pan-African football showpiece.
Here is a preview of Pool E of the tournament consisting of Algeria, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast.
Games of the pool will be staged at the newly constructed football jewel, the Japoma Stadium in Douala.
Teams playing at the facility will hold trainings in several complexes in the city of Douala including the two annexes of the main structure.
Pool E has been tipped by analysts as one of the groups to look out, harboring defending holders Algeria and giants Ivory Coast.
Here is a team-by-team presentation of the various outfits in the group including brief history of the various outfits in the pool, squad situation and other latest news about the teams.
The West Africans will be in their first participation in the AFCON in 25 years, having last competed in the competition in 1996 in South Africa. It will be the outfit’s third all-time appearance following their debut in the Pan African football showpiece in 1994 in Tunisia.
The Sierra Leoneans led by former Leone Star, John Keister, will be looking forward to going beyond the group stages of the event for first time.
The outfit is regarded as one of the possible surprised packages and arguably one of the outfits with one of the most inspiring stories of resilience in quest of AFCON glory.
These, after 25 years of turbulent that saw football in the country disrupted by several crisis including a civil war in the 90s, the Ebola health crisis between 2014 and 2015 and most recently the Coronavirus pandemic which all massively affected the team’s participation in international games.
The Sierra Leoneans will be heading to Cameroon with very few known players on the African continent with most of the team’s stars competing in Europe’s inferior leagues as well as second tier championships most dominant leagues in the world.
Head Coach John Keister last week, released the country’s 40-man provisional squad for the tournament, including former England defender, Steven Caulker, midfielders Prince Barrie and Issa Kallon as well as forwards, Musa Noah Kamara.
The outfit will be expected to jet into Cameroon late this month.
The Central Africans will be one of the underdogs of the group alongside returnees, Sierra Leone.
The team will also be in its third participation. The Equato-Guineans made their debut in the competition in 2012 when the nation co-hosted the tournament with Gabon.
The outfit’s finest run in the event came 6 years ago when the team hosted the tournament and finished 4th in 2015.
Like the case of Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea will be travelling to Cameroon with few or no well-known player in their team.
Head Coach, Juan Micha Obiang Bicogo will be relying on the services of free-scoring right back and Captain, Emilio Nsue.
The Cyprus based Apoel star who has scored 12 goals in 24 appearances to become the Nzalang National’s all time lead score since his 2013 debut, will be looking forward to pull the trigger for the Central Africans.
The 32-year-old will be expected to make use of his rich experiences gathered from his participation in the outfit’s two previous AFCON appearances, to help lead the relatively inexperienced Equato-Guinea sides to glory in neighboring Cameroon next January and February.
Coach Juan Micha, himself a former Nzalang national, will equally be hoping to replicate his huge exploits displayed during the qualifiers to the 2021 event where he dispatched rising African football powerhouse, Tanzania to seal tickets to the tournament in Cameroon.
The Elephants of Ivory Coast will be one of the biggest contenders for the much coveted title.
The two time holders will be in their 24th appearance in the final phase of the competition, the second highest number of participation in the soccer showpiece behind Egypt with 25th.
The team will be looking forward to correcting their errors of the past including a shambolic 2019 display in Egypt and the team’s final defeat to Zambia in 2012.
The Elephants will be bringing in one of the toughest and talent-filled outfits to the tournament.
According to a list released by Head Coach Patrice Beaumelle late last week, the Ivorians will be banking their luck on the likes of England based pair of defender Eric Bailly of Manchester United and Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace who will be returning to the team after excusing himself from the squad early last month for personal reasons.
Patrice Beaumelle will also be hoping to see on fire striker, Sebastien Haller who has netted over 18 goals for Dutch side, Ajax of Amsterdam, consolidating his fine form for the 2015 AFCON champions.
These, as the West Africans hunt a third crown in the competition after their titles in 1992 and 2015 under the leadership of Ethiopia based goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohou who will be one of the rare AFCON 2015 winners participating in the 2021 festival for the Elephants alongside attacking midfielder, Max Alain Gradel.
The Ivorians will also be helping for fate to repeat itself in pure superstitious beliefs, the Elephants having bagged their first AFCON title in 1992, two years after Algeria who the 1990 edition.
Statistically, the defending champions stand well on course of retaining their in the competition.
The Desert Foxes who went on an over 32-match-unbeaten-trek, will be in Cameroon with hopes of pushing for a third crown in the tournament and desires of equaling feats achieved by Egypt, Cameroon and Ghana who have won the event at least twice successively.
The North Africans currently ranked 3rd on the African continent, recently emerged champions of the 2021 FIFA Arab World Cup held in Qatar after sweeping aside the likes of Tunisia on their path to success.
Manchester City forward Riyad Mahrez will be leading the Algerian team during the tournament.
The team’s 2019 title winning Head Coach, Djamel Belmadi , last week, made public the team’s final list of players for the 2021 event in Cameroon, summoning a cream of both experienced and young players in the squad.
The likes of midfielder Sofiane Feghouli and defender Djamel Benlamri both 32 year old, expected to help the team to success.
Full Group E fixtures
January 11, 2022
Algeria vs Sierra Leone
January 12, 2022
Equatorial Guinea vs Ivory Coast
January 16, 2021
Ivory Coast vs Sierra Leone
Algeria vs Equatorial Guinea
January 20, 2021
Ivory Coast vs Algeria — Japoma Stadium Douala
Sierra Leone vs Equatorial Guinea — Limbe Omnisport Stadium
Group A: Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Cape Verde
Group B: Senegal, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Malawi
Group C: Morocco, Ghana, Comoros, Gabon
Group D: Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, Guinea-Bissau
Group E: Algeria, Sierra-Leone, Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire
Group F: Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania, Gambia
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