By Muambo Edward 

Football Writer, Cameroon

 


The third edition of the U-23 AFCON kicks off in Egypt on Friday October 8, 2019 and will be hosted in two stadia in Cairo, with the top three teams qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Stadium City Capacity Date Constructed Group to be hosted

Cairo International Stadium: City: Cairo, Capacity: 74,000, Date constricted: 1960, Group to hosted: Group A; Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana and Mali

Al Salam Stadium: City: Cairo, Capacity: 30,000, Date Constructed: 2009, Group to hosted: Group B; Nigeria, Ivory Coast, South Africa and Zambia.

The eight teams in the quadrennial tournament have been divided into two groups, with the top two teams qualifying for the semifinals. The best two will qualify for the final and automatically book their tickets to represent Africa at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. They will be joint by the winner of the third place playoff game.

U-23 AFCON Schedules

Tournament Stage Dates

Group Stage November 8 to 15, 2019

Semifinals November 19, 2019

Third Place playoff November 22, 2019

Finals November 22, 2019

Full Fixtures in Group Stage

Group A Fixtures:

Egypt vs Mali: November 8, 2019, 18:00 PM, Cairo International Stadium

Cameroon vs Ghana: November 8, 2019, 21:00 PM, Cairo International Stadium

Mali vs Cameroon: November 11, 2019, 18:00 PM, Cairo International Stadium

Ghana vs Egypt: November 11, 2019, 21:00 PM, Cairo International Stadium

Egypt vs Cameroon: November 14, 2019, 21:00 PM, Cairo International Stadium

Mali vs Ghana: November 14, 2019, 21:00 PM, Al Salam Stadium

Group B Fixtures:

Nigeria vs Ivory Coast: November 9, 2019, 18:00 PM, Al Salam Stadium

South Africa vs Zambia: November 9, 2019, 21:00 PM, Al Salam Stadium

Ivory Coast vs South Africa: November 12, 2019, 18:00 PM, Al Salam Stadium

Zambia vs Nigeria: November 12, 2019, 21:00 PM, Al Salam Stadium

Nigeria vs South Africa: November 15, 21:00 PM, Al Salam Stadium

Ivory Coast vs Zambia: November 15, 21:00 PM, Cairo International Stadium

Must see games:

Egypt vs Cameroon: November 14, 2019, 21:00 PM, Cairo International Stadium

The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon will be making their bow in the competition and will face one of the ever present teams since the competition was inaugurated in 2011 and host nation, Egypt.

It never gets better in African football irrespective of the category, when the two most successful nations on the continent clash against each other.

Egypt were ranked third in the maiden edition in 2011 but were eliminated at the group stage in 2015.

Rigobert Song’s Indomitable Lions will out to impress in this tournament so this promises to be a mouth watering encounter.

Ghana vs Egypt: November 11, 2019, 21:00 PM, Cairo International Stadium

Ghana are another African football and they are in the same group with Cameroon Egypt and Mali.

They are also making their debut in the tournament and will face Egypt in their second group stage game on November 11, 2019.

This is another must watch game in the tournament.

Nigeria vs Ivory Coast: November 9, 2019, 18:00 PM, Al Salam Stadium

Defending champions Nigeria will face Ivory Coast in the group B in what promises to another entertaining game.

Ivory Coast were eliminated at the group stage in 2011 just like Nigeria. But the Nigeria bounced back stronger four years later but Ivory Coast did not even qualify for that tournament.

This too is one of those games in the tournament not to miss for any reason.

Nigeria vs South Africa: November 15, 2019, 21:00 PM, Al Salam Stadium

It’s always a game of intrigue and entertainment, full of surprises and pre and post match off the field stories. These two nations always have ashes to grind against each other.

Just like Nigeria, South Africa are another ever present in the competition. They finished third in 2015 when Nigeria lifted the trophy.

This is a clash of the the tournament’s heavyweights. It is a must watch.

Favorites:

Host nation Egypt are without any doubts one of the red hot favorites to lift the trophy.

This is one of the rare trophies on the continent that country of the Pharaohs is yet to win. They will see this as golden opportunity to lay their hands on the trophy.

Playing on home soil with the majority of their players coming from Al Ahly and Zamalek, Egypt will be a strong contender for the ultimate accolade.

Defending champions Nigeria are also one of the favorites. They have experience on their side just like Egypt and South Africa who are the only teams in this tournament to have been present in the previous two.

Captain Azubuike Okechukwu and his teammates know expectations of their entire nation and they will not surrender their crown without a good fight.

Cameroon is always a contender for every international competition they enter on the continent. They are yet to make their mark in this one, but write them off at your own risk. They have a strong team of foreign based players with only their three goalkeepers plying their trades in their domestic top flight league.

Coaches:

Egypt: Shawky Gharieb Bayoumi

60-year-old Shawky Gharieb is an Egyptian football legend, with AFCON appearances in 75 caps for his country. The former U-21 coach and senior national team assistant and head coach is a experienced man in the dugout.

The former Smouha and Ismaily coach will be delighted to be the first man to win the trophy for the Pharaohs.

Cameroon: Rigobert Song

43-year-old Rigobert Song Bahanag is an African football legend. He won a record 137 caps for Cameroon and played in four FIFA World Cups. He led Cameroon to two AFCON titles in 2000 and 2002. The former Metz and Liverpool forward is yet to make his mark as a coach and will hope to seize this opportunity after a failed CHAN campaign in 2016 in Morocco with the Indomitable Lions.

Ghana: Ibrahim Tanko

1997 UEFA Champions League winner with Borussia Dortmund forward Ibrahim Tanko is the man in-charge of the Ghanaian team, looking to lift this trophy for the first time.

The 42-year-old former forward has a huge football experience to lead Ghana to glory.

Mali: Djibril Drame

59-year-old Stade Malien de Bamako coach Djibril Drame is the man in-charge of Mali. He will bring all his experience on the table to make the Eagles fly in the land of the Pharaohs and clinch a ticket for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Nigeria: Imama Amapakabo

Born on July 27, 1969 at Okrika in Nigeria, was the second choice goalkeeper for the Nigeria U-17 national team that won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in China in 1985.

He will try to make sure the Super Eagles retain the trophy they won four years ago.

South Africa: David Notoane

Amaglug-glug will be coaches in Egypt by David Notoane. He will be hoping to make it three times lucky for the team from the rainbow nation who have failed to lift the trophy in their previous two attempts.

Ivory Coast: Alain Gouamene

Capped 58 times for the Elephants of Ivory Coast, 53-year-old former goalkeeper Pierre Alain Gouamene Guiahouli is the coach of Les Petites Éléphants. The former former ASEC Mimosas, Raja Casablanca and Toulouse coach has the required experience to lead Ivory Coast to victory.

Zambia: Beaton Chambeshi

59-year-old former Nkana player Beston Chambeshi was part of the last Zambian team to play in the Olympic Games, that is the 1988 games in Seoul.

The former Power Dynamos and Nkana coach will hope to be the man to mastermind another Olympics qualification for the Chipolopolo by finishing at least third in the competition in Egypt.

It should be noted that all the eight coaches are nationals, so this is a for the local coaches to make a good case for themselves.

 


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