Five things we learned from the past week’s AFCON qualifiers

Five things we learned from the past week’s AFCON qualifiers
Baghdad Bounedjah of Algeria celebrates goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals Final football match between Senegal and Algeria at the Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt on 19 July 2019 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

by Staff Reporter

Wednesday Nov 20, 2019. 12:00

Following an exciting week of 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers, identifies FIVE things we have learned from the opening two rounds of matches.

Defending Afcon champions Algeria continued their dominant run as they ended a remarkable year on a high, while traditional powerhouse Egypt’s recent struggles dragged on.

Here are FIVE talking points heading into 2020:

Algeria are Africa’s best team (and rightfully so)

This might sound quite self-explanatory, but despite winning the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, Algeria are ranked as the fourth best team in the world in the latest FIFA Rankings.

That, though, might change very soon with a 5-0 win over Zambia and a 1-0 victory over Botswana over the last few days stretching the Dessert Foxes’ unbeaten run to an incredible 18 matches.

Even without captain Riyad Mahrez (he missed the match in Gaborone), Algeria have assembled a squad that can beat anyone on the continent, even without some of their star players.

There seems to be a real feel good vibe in Djamel Belmadi’s squad and with several players yet to reach their prime, they will continue to be a hard team to beat all the way leading into the next Afcon tournament.

Egypt are too dependant on Mohamed Salah

The seven-time champions were a dominant force on the content, winning three titles on the bounce between 2006 and 2010. The Pharaohs, though, failed to qualify for three successive tournaments before finishing as runners-up in 2017.

They were expected to build on that with victory on home soil this year, but were unceremoniously bundled out of the tournament by South Africa in the Round of 16.

Their post tournament struggled continued with two draws against Kenya and Comoros as they seemed to have grown over-reliant on Liverpool star Mohamed Salah who missed the back-to-back qualifiers with an ankle injury.

Madagascar’s Afcon display in Egypt no flash in the pan

The Island nation continued from where they left off in Egypt, with wins over Ethiopia and Niger – beating the later 6-2 in Niamey!

Madagascar’s performance at the most recent Afcon was one of the fairytale stories of the tournament and while many have have gone on to write off Barea, there seems to be no stopping them.

They will now be hoping to build on an incredible 2019, with an ever better 2020 in build-up to the showpiece in Cameroon.

Nigeria will be hard to stop in Cameroon

The Super Eagles have bounced back to establish themselves as one of the best teams on the continent, alongside the likes of Algeria and Senegal.

A few barren years followed their 2013 triumph in South Africa, but a third-place finish in Egypt seems to be but a precursor for what promises to be an exciting time for Nigerian football fans.

With the likes of Alex Iwobi, Samuel Chukwueze, Victor Osimhen, Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo and Ola Aina still under the age of 25, it is scary to think how good the West African’s can be over the next four years.

Winning away no impossible task anymore

While winning away on the African continent was almost taboo for several decades, that seems to be something that is well and truly in the past.

South Africa proved that over the last few years, especially under Shakes Mashaba and later Stuart Baxter, but it seems most nations now fancy their chances of getting a point or even a win on their travels.

On Tuesday alone, Tunisia, Morocco, Zimbabwe and Madagascar won away from home and while ‘home town decisions’ still plague the game on occasion, countries don’t see away games as lost points anymore.

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