LIBREVILLE – THE much-anticipated Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) bursts to life on Saturday with host nation Gabon entertaining Guinea-Bissau at Stade d’Angondje in the capital Libreville.
The opening match kicks off at 18h00, followed by an encounter between Burkina Faso and Cameroon at 21h00 at the same venue.
The following day, a highly-billed tie between 1990 champions Algeria and Zimbabwe will be played at the Stade de Franceville.
Kickoff is at 18h00.
Algeria’s Desert Foxes will be eager for revenge after the Warriors upset them 2-1 at this stage of the competition in Tunisia in 2004.
Zimbabwe, the only hope for southern Africa, boasts individual talent like South Africa’s reigning Player of the Year, Khama Billiat, Premiership leading goalscorer, Tendai Ndoro, and versatile striker Knowledge Musona to ensure maximum points.
On the other hand, Algeria will be looking forward to their English Premiership duo at Leicester, Africa Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez, and Islam Slimani. Watford’s Adlene Guedioura will come in handy in their bid to outdo Zimbabwe.
This encounter in the so-called Group of Death that also includes Tunisia and Senegal is likely to draw attention of the entire continent with its billing as Goliath versus David affair.
The Zimbabwe Warriors go into this match wearing the David tag while Algeria will be boasting the favourites tag.
Algeria’s coach George Leekens hinted that their assignment against Zimbabwe would be crucial if they were to make an impact in this tournament.
“We need to try and get the first goal. The important thing is not to chase after the ball in the opposition’s half, but to make sure we don’t squander the chances that come our way and that we don’t give goals away,” said Leekens.
However, the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) Chairman, Phillip Chiyangwa, said the Warriors would not be intimidated by Algerians.
“We need men of steel and our coach (Callisto Pasuwa) knows how to work around the mental aspect of the players,” said Chiyangwa.
Some 16 teams will contest the 31st edition of the continent’s prime football tournament which ends on February 5 at the Stade d’Angondje. Ivory Coast are the defending champions.
– CAJ News