Star strikers should enable hosts Cameroon to top Group A

Knowledgeable forwards Vincent Aboubakar, Karl Toko Ekambi and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting ought to guarantee hosts Cameroon surface initially in Group A at the Africa Cup of Nations, which begins next Sunday.

Saudi Arabia-based Aboubakar scored the late winner when the Indomitable Lions originated from behind to beat Egypt in the 2017 last and win the flagship African competitors a 5th time.

Ekambi bets Lyon and Choupo-Moting for Bayern Munich and they become part of a 27-man team made up of stars based in Europe and the United States, with no regional making it.

Here, AFP Sport puts the spotlight on the 4 Group A hopefuls with the winners and runners-up ensured of last-16 locations while the very best 4 third-placed groups from 6 groups likewise certify.

Cameroon

In the early editions of the Cup of Nations, hosts carried out effectively, winning 3 of the very first 4. However times have actually altered.

Only two of the last 12 tournaments were won by the host nation with Tunisia triumphant in 2004 and Egypt two years later.

Cameroon are staging the Cup of Nations a second time after finishing third behind Congo Brazzaville and Mali in 1972 when only eight countries competed.

“They can win it,” says Cameroon legend Samuel Eto’o of the Aboubakar-captained class of 2022, whose immediate goal will be to top Group A and meet one of the third-placed qualifiers in the second round.

Burkina Faso

The Stallions enter the Cup of Nations in a confident mood after twice drawing with 2019 Cup of Nations winners Algeria in recent World Cup qualifying.

Blida, 45 kilometres (28 miles) southwest of Algiers, is known as the “slaughterhouse” and Djibouti and Niger will attest to that moniker having conceded eight and six goals there in World Cup thrashings.

While the Burkinabe failed to secure the win in Blida that would have actually taken them to final round, a depleted side clawed back twice to draw 2-2 with captain Issoufou Dayo converting a late penalty.

Major boosts are the returns from injury of Aston Villa forward Bertrand Traore and Abdoul Fessal Tapsoba, a Standard Liege attacker who starred in the World Cup campaign.

Cape Verde

A win and draw against Cameroon in 2021 Cup of Nations qualifying and a draw away to Nigeria in 2022 World Cup qualifying suggest that the Blue Sharks will not be pushovers.

They represent a Portuguese-speaking nation off the west coast of Africa with a population of less than 600,000, whose football team is on the rise again.

Cape Verde reached the quarter-finals in their 2013 Cup of Nations debut and goal difference prevented them repeating the feat two years later.

They missed the last two editions, but have bounced back under coach Pedro ‘Bubista’ Brito and captain and forward Ryan Mendes, who was involved in the previous two finals appearances.

Ethiopia

Just 2 of the 25 players chosen by coach Wubetu Abate play abroad — midfielder Shemeles Bekele with El Gouna in Egypt and forward Mujib Kassim with JS Kabylie in Algeria.

Ethiopia, one of four founder members of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in 1956, featured in the first seven Cup of Countries up to 1970, but this will be just the fourth appearance since.

Abate has developed a team captained by veteran forward Getaneh Kebede that favours one-touch football and single-objective losses away to Ghana and South Africa in World Cup qualifying offered encouragement.

The 2nd lowest ranked group in the tournament were the very first to arrive in Cameroon and will probably be among the very first to leave.

AFP forecasts: 1. Cameroon, 2. Burkina Faso, 3. Cape Verde, 4. Ethiopia

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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.