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Africa Cup of Nations

‘It’s difficult to predict Afcon 2021 winner’ – Former Tanzania coach Amuneke

1:16 AM MYT 08/01/2022
Emmanuel Amuneke - Tanzania coach
The African football fiesta will begin in Cameroon on Sunday with the opening game between the Indomitable Lions and Burkina Faso

Former Tanzania coach Emmanuel Amuneke finds it difficult to predict the winner of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

24 teams including defending champions Algeria are set to battle for the prestigious continental trophy starting from Sunday.

He tipped the Desert Foxes who are unbeaten in their 40 international matches as favourites to lift the trophy again.

Meanwhile, Amuneke – who was part of Nigeria’s victorious squad at the 1994 Afcon – hailed the progress made in the organisation of the biennial showpiece and the quality of players participating in the competition.

“Algeria is the reigning champions, and they are the favourites,” Amuneke told Caf's website. “Senegal is a very strong team, so are the hosts Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

“It will be very difficult to predict who will win the title because we have so many great teams here. There are big changes in African football, players with a global dimension, it is promising.

“In Europe today, African footballers play the leading roles in their clubs and evolve in the top clubs in the world. That must be reflected in this competition.”

The former Super Eagles and Barcelona forward rued the absence of Napoli star Victor Osimhen in Austin Eguavoen’s selection due to a face injury and coronavirus infection.

Nigeria will take on Egypt in their Group D opener in Garoua before they face Sudan and Guinea-Bissau on January 15 and 19 respectively.

He added: “We would have liked to see players like Victor Osimhen who is doing very well in a very tough league in Italy. But the most important in life is health and we pray he will regain his health very quickly.

“He will play other tournaments for his country and certainly the World Cup qualifying play-offs. Oshimen is a young footballer, but he is part of the present and future of Nigerian, African and world football.

“It’s sad not to see him at TotalEnergies Afcon, but he will be there soon. Despite everything, the selected players have a lot of quality. Nigeria will bravely defend their chances in this competition.”

The 51-year-old is also expecting the 33rd edition of the Afcon to be better than the last edition in Egypt and he is looking forward to seeing new rising stars in the tournament.

“I expect it to be better than the previous edition. The 2019 edition in Egypt was the first Africa Cup of Nations with 24 teams, and this will be the second time,” he said.

“We have newcomers like Gambia and Comoros, this shows that African football is progressing. Afcon is a tournament watched and followed around the world. Therefore, despite the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, this tournament must rise to international standards.

“Africa must show that its flagship competition is making giant strides. We are going to discover new stars. I am very positive.”