THE 32nd Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) which features 24 teams for the first time kicks off in less than three weeks in Egypt and Nigeria’s Super Eagles will be making a return to the continent’s footballing showpiece after missing out on the last two editions in Equatorial Guinea in 2015 and Gabon in 2017.
The run towards the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations edition to kick off in Egypt in a fortnight is fast taking shape with news that Umbro replaced Mitre as the official match ball supplier for the Africa Cup of Nations.
The official match ball, named Neo Pro, was unveiled on 29 May 2019.
In a month that opened up with a Liverpool Uefa Champions League glory mastered by two players of African origin Mohammed Salah of Egypt and Belgian Divon Origi whose ancestry originates in Kenya, focus however, remained on the forthcoming 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations.
Not even the ill-fated Caf Champions League final won by Esperance over Wydad could steal away the attention despite all the drama.
While for some finalists the final has given shape for some it has been burdened with injuries with Mali the most affected with withdrawals.
Just when Mali lost goalkeeper, Mamadou Samassa through withdrawal, midfielder Yves Bissouma pulled out injured.
The Troyes shot-stopper however, denied initial allegations by his national team boss that he wanted guaranteed game time at the continental showpiece.
Samassa stepped in to “clarify” the situation regarding his omission from Mohamed Magassouba’s provisional Africa Cup of Nations Mali squad.
Magassouba claimed the shot-stopper refused to be included in the side as he wanted to be the Eagles’ first-choice stopper at the upcoming biennial showpiece.
As reported by Footmali, the Troyes goalkeeper responded by accusing the Mali trainer of broken promises.
“I read and heard a lot of comments about my non-participation in Afcon, and through this message I wanted to clarify things,” Samassa said in a statement on social media,” said Samassa.
This was to be followed by Bissouma who has been ruled out of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations after suffering a shoulder injury.
He is back to his club Brighton and Hove Albion for treatment.
Another finalist that lost to injury is Tunisia who will be at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations without midfielder Saif-Eddine Khaoui as ASEC Mimosas and Ivory Coast goalkeeper Abdoul Karim Cissé confirmed he will miss after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Elsewhere, Uganda Cranes stylish winger Kizito Luwagga remained hopeful they will have rectified all their mistakes in time for their June 22 opening game against Democratic Republic of Congo.
Luwagga joined the Cranes camp at Park Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi with custodian Salon Jamal and appreciated the choice of the camp the football authorities made by adding the condition in terms of weather almost similar to Egypt.
“We have got a chance that we have joined camp early. Abu Dhabi is a good place as the weather condition is almost similar with that in Egypt so I think we have enough time to rectify our mistakes and come Afcon we will be ready,” said the Kazakhstan outfit Shakter Karagandy player.
In Nigeria, Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr has therefore done a good job securing qualification with relative ease but now comes a most delicate task: cobbling together a team with just the right mix of experience, flair and ruthless efficiency capable of going as far as possible in the tournament which, for many Nigerians, would be a final place at least.
To this end, the Franco-German has announced a provisional list of 25 familiar players made up of three goalkeepers, eight defenders, four midfielders and 10 forwards with an additional five placed on standby, from which he will select his final 23 after the friendly against Zimbabwe on 8 June in Asaba.
Qualifying was relatively straightforward for the three-time Afcon champions this time around although they had to recover from a shock home loss to South Africa in their opening qualifying match to secure their place in Egypt with a game to spare from a group that also had Libya and Seychelles.