On the eve of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, Kwesé Sports’ team on the ground in Gabon deliver their predictions for the continental fiesta.
In this feature, our four-man team offer their forecast for the tournament’s dark horses, ie, which of the Afcon’s less heralded sides have the potential to go all the way over the coming weeks?
Colin Udoh: Democratic Republic of Congo
Florent Ibenge has built a side that is not only swashbuckling going forward, but have enough resolve at the back to keep out just about anyone.
The loss of Yannick Bolassie could prove to be a major blow, but these lads have shown that they can be trusted to carry the torch irrespective of who is or is not playing.
Michael Oti Adjei: Democratic Republic of Congo
Not many will give Congo the chance of matching their semi-final finish in the last edition, but Florent Ibenge’s team could be contenders to recreate their fine run to the latter stages once again, and possibly even go further.
There is enough quality across the side, while Dieumerci Mbokani is a good finisher who thrives at the Nations Cup.
The Leopards also have the squad stability that is so vital to thriving in a major tournament.
Maher Mezahi: Morocco
Very few are picking Morocco to progress in a group with champions Cote d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially in the wake of a handful of serious injuries.
It is difficult, however, to listen to Herve Renard address the media and not retain a measure of belief in his confidence.
The Savoyard has mentioned surprising even the all-knowing Moroccan media, and you would not put winning a third trophy with a third nation past him.
Ed Dove: Ghana
I was tempted to jump on the bandwagon and plump for the DRC as well, but unlike some of my colleagues, I fear that the loss of Bolasie may hurt them more than some realise – and then there’s the fact they have to negotiate both Renard and the reigning champions Cote d’Ivoire in the opening round.
Instead, I’m going for Ghana.
On paper, perhaps the Black Stars ought to be considered among the favourites for the tournament due to their recent tournament record and their international pedigree, but the mood around the team, their form in 2016 and the stodgy football played under Avram Grant has prompted an atmosphere of pessimism.
With a tricky group, it could all go wrong, but they have a settled team, a strong starting XI, and with a bit of momentum, could go all the way.