AFCON 2019 Rough Guide – Group E
Tunisia have the status of ‘not quite’ in the Nations Cup. Not just they don’t quite get that far in the competitions, it’s that they’re never quite formidable, never quite able to roll against the big boys and come unscathed. Since lifting the trophy on home soil in 2004, the Carthage Eagles have never made it to the semi-final, and even had successive group stage exits in 2012 and 2013.
Going home after three games will probably not happen this time, as they are the top seeds in Group E, and, after not having him for last year’s World Cup due to injury, have star man Youssef Msakni available. But, how far can they really go after the group phase?
Last Seen: Tunisia lost to Burkina Faso in the quarter-finals in 2017.
Record: The Carthage Eagles were champions on home turf 15 years ago.
The Gaffer: European Championship winner with France, Alain Giresse has managed Senegal and Mali. The former Bordeaux man took Mali to a third-place finish in the Nations Cup in 2012.
In 2012 and 2013, Mali were the unfancied little gun stories, finishing third on both occasions. But The Eagles followed that up with successive group stage exits in 2015 and 2017, and their overachievement bubble has well and truly burst. They go into this tournament in Egypt without star midfielder Yves Bissouma, which may likely hinder their already slim chances of going far here. But a last 16 place is the first aim, and with the group they’ve been drawn in, should be the minimum.
Last Seen: Mali failed to win any game as they were knocked out at the group stage in 2017.
Record: The Eagles were runners-up in Cameroon in 1972.
The Gaffer: Mohamed Magassouba has been manager since 2017, but is still officially a caretaker boss.
When Mauritania managed a win in Botswana in their first game of AFCON 2019 qualifying in June 2017, not many saw it as a setting stone for a first ever Nations Cup appearance. After all this, was a nation that didn’t enter a Nations Cup qualifier until prior to the 1980 tournament, and have had more lack of entries and withdrawals than actual qualifying campaigns.
But the Lions of Chinguetti finished second in Group I in qualifying, and with some room to spare, as they could afford defeat away at Burkina Faso on Matchday 6. A side that has never ranked above 81st in the FIFA rankings, they’re very much minnows here in Egypt. Not many expect them to stay long, but then again not many saw them getting here at all.
Last Seen: This is their competition debut
The Gaffer: Former Auxerre midfielder Corentin Martin was appointed in October 2014.
Angola were the side that topped Group I – ahead of Mauritania – in qualifying, to make their return to the continent after a two-year absence, but their two recent appearances ended with group stage exits. A rather open group, and a possibility of three sides going through from it, means qualification for the knockout round is very much plausible. Then again, the Palancas Negras had a quite open group when they fluffed their lines in 2013. The days of Angola ruffling feathers to get to the quarter-final in 2008 looks so long gone in the memory now, you’d doubt it ever happened.
Last seen: Angola lost to Cape Verde in their final group game in 2013 to leave South Africa after three matches.
Record: They’ve never gone beyond the quarter-finals, which they last reached on home soil in 2010.
The Gaffer: Srdjan Vasiljevic was appointed in December 2017. He had a two-year spell as the assistant manager of the Serbian national team.
June 24 – Tunisia v Angola (Suez)
June 24 – Mali v Mauritania (Suez)
June 28 – Tunisia v Mali (Suez)
June 29 – Mauritania v Angola (Suez)
July 2 – Mauritania v Tunisia (Suez)
July 2 – Algeria v Mali (Ismailia)