African Cup of Nations 2017

Folks, we are another day closer to AFCON 2017! Can you feel the excitement building yet? No? What do you mean you stumbled across this piece by accident? It’s not all about the Premier League you know! Who am I kidding? It is all about the Premier League. Let’s be honest, the international weeks come round and I feel like I’ve lost an arm so I feel your pain. But, fear not and bear with me, because today we are looking at Group C which consists of the mighty Ivory Coast.

I say mighty as they are the previous winners and also tournament favourites. The Ivory Coast. Who can forget their dramatic win in 2015 beating Ghana on penalties 9-8 after what was the dullest 120 minutes ever seen? It’s all coming back to you now, right? No, thought not. Well they did win it and it was dull. But this year is oh so different as the Ivory Coast have one Wilfried Zaha. The Crystal Palace man has something to prove, mainly as to why he chose the Elephants over the Three Lions. If he comes away with a winners medal it will all make sense. The chances are good as not only do they have the boy Zaha but also a plethora of talent ranging from Eric Bailly of Manchester United, Lamine Kone of Sunderland, Wilfried Bony of Stoke and Bournemouth’s Max Gradel; and that’s just the Premier League contingent. Add to that Salomon Kalou of Hertha Berlin,yes it’s that Kalou, and Serge Aurier of PSG and this, on paper at least, is the strongest squad at AFCON 2017 and should qualify with ease. For the record, Yaya Toure retired from international football. There is no truth in the rumour that this was down to Ivory Coast not getting him a birthday cake. Yeah, we are still rolling out the birthday cake gags. But it means the big man won’t be gracing a hard, dry pitch anytime soon which is, frankly, our loss and City’s gain.

Morocco manager Herve Renard will want to go out with a bang after stating he will return to French Ligue 1 at some point. Do we are Herve, do we? No. But The Lions of the Atlas do have some talent within their 23. Unfortunately their key player, Southampton’s Sofinae Boufal, is injured and will miss the tournament. This will be a big miss for Morocco who may struggle to create chances, let alone score goals, having lost three midfielders already through injury. Watford’s Nordin Amrabat is one of the three. This tournament could be one to forget for the Lions of the Atlas.

Next comes Togo, who actually have one Emmanuel Adebayor upfront. Still unattached since leaving Crystal Palace last summer this is his chance to shine and get another well paid six month deal. A good few games and suddenly Adebayor becomes hot property and who’s to say a Premier League return isn’t on the cards. I see it now, David Moyes in all his wisdom sells Defoe and brings in the new messiah – oh the laughter. Apart from the evergreen Adebayor , The Sparrow Hawks really don’t have anyone else to write home about. Coach Claude Leroy really has his work cut out for him.

The final team in Group C is Congo DR. Now every time I hear the name Congo, the once popular juice drink Um Bongo comes into my head. One amazingly catchy theme tune and something about Um Bongo , Um Bongo, they drink it in the Congo. That’s in my head for the day now. Anyhow, yes I’m here to talk about the team. Well, first off, Benik Afobe withdrew from the squad wanting instead to cement his place at Bournemouth. The Leopards still have some talent in the squad, with Yannick Bolasie of Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion’s Youssouf Mulumbu. Add to that Jeremy Bokila of Terek Grosny, Junior Kabananga of Cercles Burges and Hull City’s on loan striker Dieumerci Mbokani and they may have just enough to qualify from the group behind Ivory Coast.

So, with confidence, I can say Ivory Coast will storm the group. Runners up is slightly more tricky but I’m going to stick my head on the block and tip Congo DR to finish 2nd. By this stage we don’t really care where the rest will finish, but let’s be honest. Wouldn’t we all laugh if Adebayor had a stinker of a tournament and Togo finished bottom? Yep me too. Morocco to finish third and Togo bottom with no goals and no points and maybe, to add insult to injury, a red card for everyone’s favourite striker,
Now that I would enjoy.

And so onto tomorrow and the last day of AFCON pre look and a gander at Group D with big guns Ghana and Egypt plus some lesser known teams and players.

Two days left and I’m like a dog with two … hold on what’s the end of that saying? Let’s instead use the saying I’m “like a kid in a sweet shop!”