Bertrand Traoré and Trézéguet will both be in action for their sides in the African Cup of Nations. Marvelous Nakamba misses out due to an injury he suffered in Villa’s 1-0 defeat to Liverpool in December. The tournament runs from the 9th of January to the 6th of February.
The competition sees many premier league stars descend on Cameroon such as: Mo Salah (Egypt), Riyad Mahrez (Algeria), Sadio Mane (Senegal), Wilfrid Ndidi (Nigeria), and Edouard Mendy (Senegal). The tournament was due to have been held in the summer of 2021 but was changed due to poor climate conditions. Heading into the tournament Senegal are considered the favourites, due to a period of recent good form, having not lost in their last 11 games. Algeria have also not lost in their last 33 fixtures heading into the tournament. If they continue this run of form through to the quarter finals they would break Italy's 37 game undefeated record.
Bertrand Traoré’s Burkina Faso take on hosts Cameroon in the opening game of the tournament tomorrow, and Egypt make their first appearance the following Tuesday against Nigeria. The 2019 AFCON was one to forget for both countries, with Egypt being knocked out in the first round, and Burkina Faso not qualifying. They will then perhaps be wishing for a performance like 2017, with Egypt and Burkina Faso coming second, and third. Both teams seem likely to make it out of their groups, with Egypt having a high chance to make it to the final rounds.
Bertrand Traoré – Burkina Faso
FIFA Ranking – 60th
Traoré’s key role in his national side will be an exciting one for villa fans to watch, especially with his few opportunities at club football in recent months.
The side failed to qualify for the 2019 tournament, but coming into this year’s event they have not lost in eight matches. Traoré did not feature in any of these. Burkina Faso have never won the competition, but in the last 4 tournaments they’ve finished both Runners-up (2013), and third place (2017). In 2017 Traoré scored to send his team to the quarterfinals. Despite having an unlikely chance at making it to the last rounds, Burkina Faso are a team who’ll almost certainly make it out of their group, and make a strong push into the knock-out rounds.
Other Notable players:
Edmond Tapsoba (Bayer 04 Leverkusen) - A Young Talented centre back, who came to prominence for his 2019 Europa League performances. Not afraid to carry the ball and pass with confidence. His playstyle can be likened to that of Chelsea’s Rudiger.
Trézéguet – Egypt
FIFA Ranking - 45th
Whilst not out and out favourites, Trez’s Egypt side are easily in the running for the title. They are the most successful AFCON side and have won the cup seven times. They head into the tournament having not played any warm up matches, due to failed agreements between the Egyptian Football Association, and other national teams. Egypt had to delay their initial flight on Friday, due to positive Covid-19 cases in their squad.
Overwhelming favourites in their group, it would not be a surprise to see Egypt lift the trophy for the 8th time.
They’ll certainly be looking to improve on their shock round of 16 exit from the last tournament, against South Africa.
Other Notable Players:
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Considered by many to be the best in the world at the moment, his 2021/22 premier season has been nothing short of exceptional. Not just Egypt’s star man, but also possibly the face of the tournament. He’ll certainly make this team one to watch.
Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal) – Elneny has struggled to secure himself permanent starting football for his club side, but has featured consistently for his country garnering 83 caps.
All Games will be broadcast live on Sky Sports
Burkina Faso Group Games
Egypt Group games
Sun 9 Jan. 4pm. Cameroon
Tue 11 Jan. 4pm. Nigeria
Thu 13 Jan. 7pm. Cape Verde
Sat 15 Jan. 7pm. Guinea-Bissau
Mon 17 Jan. 4pm. Ethiopia
Wed 19 Jan. 7pm. Sudan