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What’s the best 2017 Africa Cup of Nations group draw for Egypt?
The last few years have been miserable for the Egyptian national team. Thanks to missing a succession of Africa Cup of Nations, the wound of missing the 2014 FIFA World Cup remains fresh. You therefore understand why the tournament in Gabon will be so important for a country that has won the competition a previous seven times.
Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps, for Egypt, this coming AFCON is just a camp for the “more important” matter of World Cup qualification. But that’s a flame war to start on another day.
Hector Cuper has been steering the team in the right direction, yet his work has largely been under-the-radar. Few people are raving about Egypt at the moment and understandably so — after all of Bob Bradley’s work was undone, spectacularly, in one match.
The 2017 Africa Cup of Nations will be the proper test for the Cuper era. Like the other 15 countries, Egypt will want to get far. Yes, you have to beat the best to get far. Nevertheless, an easy group (and an easy quarterfinal match) is always a welcomed path to this goal. Egypt is lucky to be in pot three with other underperforming giants. This means they truly only have to worry about who they face from pot one. That’s why we will start looking at the possible AFCON group draws from pot four.
Which team can flatter Egypt the most?
Even in these times, Egypt has shown that they will beat the typical weak team of CAF. Pot four’s draw should have you rubbing your hands, as a fan of the Pharaohs. Three of the teams are not at all Africa Cup of Nations regulars and all four have come to expect to be dominated in a tie against Egypt.
Uganda appears to be the most difficult draw here and it’s the one Egyptians will want. The two are in the same 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification group. It’s therefore natural that fans will want a taste of what’s to come. The East African side is as strong as they’ve ever been; even then, they still qualified as one of the best runners ups.
If it’s a question of which team can flatter Egypt the most, surely it’s Guinea-Bissau. They were never in the discussion to qualify but somehow topped their group. There was a time when the phrase, “an unknown quantity” gave a team good repute. This is not those times.
Tunisia is in pot two
Pot two is made up of those horrible teams that play to the strength of their opposition. Among them is Tunisia. The Carthage Eagles have a history with Egypt going beyond the fight for group A of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. Since they are a North African side, you are right to expect that they have Egypt’s number.
This writer thinks if they are drawn together, Tunisia will win the tie (then be knocked out by a Togo or an Equatorial Guinea). Actually, the last four meetings between these two have all ended in defeats for Egypt. This will be a draw to dread.
Egypt is better than DR Congo and Mali, but it will best if Burkina Faso is the team they are drawn against. They scored the fewest goals in the AFCON qualifiers, among the group winners who played six matches. We know Hector Cuper likes the idea of few goals so he would not have to worry about losing to Burkina Faso.
The pot one teams
Many think the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations winner will come from this pot. What do you think? There is little room for picks and preferences in pot one. Salah and co. will just have to show how far Egypt has come against whoever they meet.
It is easy to choose Gabon as the easiest draw. Very few teams in Africa have failed to live up to their hype as have Gabon. All the same, they are the hosts and this could give them that extra mile in the engine. It’s always better to bet against the home team in the knockout rounds rather than in the group stage. When was the last time an AFCON host failed to reach the quarterfinals?
That leaves Ivory Coast, Algeria and Ghana. Ivory Coast was woeful in the qualifiers for this tournament. But their one win in the World Cup Qualifiers has had everyone changing their tone, including you and me. Ivory Coast, now built from the back, is probably still the strongest team on the continent. Serge Aurier against Egypt’s left side is not what Egyptian fans have in their mind in their wish for a proper test.
Is Algeria imploding two months to the AFCON? For the first time in a long while the Algerians are having your typical selection problems. The PSG of Africa (not because of French players, please read on) did sub on Brahimi and Feghouli, against Cameroon, but Egypt has to feel they are there for the taking. Not just because of the bad blood, but also due to the fact that this Algeria team has underwhelmed in the Africa Cup of Nations. There is also the small matter of them lacking a coach at the moment.
Ghana is probably the weakest team in the pot, with Gabon being hosts. The pedigree of your name can carry you only so far as Cameroon has found out in recent years. The space the Black Stars find themselves in, right now, feels eerily similar to that of Nigeria; when Egypt dashed their AFCON 2017 hopes. Ghana and Egypt will play an important match before they land in Gabon but you can be sure the result won’t matter if they have to play again in Central Africa.
Hardest Group: Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Egypt, Uganda
Easiest Group: Ghana, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau
Have you reached a different conclusion? Share with us on the comment section below.