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AFCON

Abidjan — Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON)-winning coach Djamel Belmadi of Algeria says hosts Ivory Coast are the team to beat at the 2024 tournament, which kicks off on Saturday.

Host nations have often struggled to turn home advantage into success with only 11 of the previous 33 AFCONs won by the home side.

But 2019 winning coach Belmadi believes the Ivorian Elephants can go all the way and win the flagship African football tournament a third time after triumphs in 1992 and 2015.

“Hosts and two-time champions Ivory Coast are the team to beat at this tournament as they possess a very strong squad,” he told reporters.

Belmadi brushed aside suggestions that Algeria are also strong challengers, saying “we are not among the favourites”.

The 47-year-old France-born coach guided the Desert Foxes to victory over Senegal in the 2019 final, but they were shock first round casualties when defending the title two years ago.

Here, AFP Sport covers the views of 10 of the 24 coaches who will be seeking glory in a tournament that reaches its climax on February 11 with the final in Abidjan.

Collin Benjamin (Namibia)

“My team are fit, aggressive and set out in every match to make things as difficult as possible for opponents.

“Our first goal is obvious — to become the first team from Namibia to win a match at the Cup of Nations after nine failed attempts.”

Djamel Belmadi (Algeria)

“(Apart from the Ivory Coast) Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia are other strong contenders. As for Algeria, we are not among the favourites.

“We are reminded of our elimination after the first round of the last edition, followed by our failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.”

Sebastien Desabre (DR Congo)

“I am hoping we can at least reach the quarter-finals, which will be a major step forward after failing to qualify for the last tournament.

“Morocco, who we face in the first round, gave African football a huge boost by reaching the 2022 World Cup semi-finals and must be favourites to lift the trophy.”

Kaba Diawara (Guinea)

“Being drawn with Cameroon, the Gambia and defending champions Senegal means were are in the toughest first round group.

“However, this is not a cause for despondency. Facing such formidable opponents will motivate us to exceed expectations. No one will look forward to facing us.”

Jean-Louis Gasset (Ivory Coast)

“We will enjoy the support of the entire Ivory Coast nation, which is an incredible asset to have.

“Facing Nigeria, who possesses a vast array of attacking talent, is a huge challenge in the first round and really excites us.”

Chris Hughton (Ghana)

“I am aware of the disappointment of the last Cup of Nations tournament for Ghana, who were eliminated after the first round following a shock loss to the Comoros.

“However, we are looking forward, not back, and our first ambition in the Ivory Coast is to get past the first round.”

Jose Peseiro (Nigeria)

“If you want to win the  Cup of Nations the first thing to do is accept the group draw. All our opponents (Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau) are dangerous.

“I believe we are a stronger team than Guinea-Bissua, but that did not stop them beating us in a qualifier in Nigeria.”

Walid Regragui (Morocco)

“Since we created history by becoming the first African or Arab country to reach the World Cup semi-finals in Qatar two years ago, many African national teams have progressed.

“I am thinking of nations like Algeria, Egypt, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. I consider them to be among the Cup of Nations favourites.”

Tom Saintfiet (Gambia)

“Gambians have been wishing for a meeting with our neighbours and African champions Senegal for a long time and now the dream has come through.

“We must also face Cameroon, the second most successful country in the Cup of Nations, and Guinea will be desperate for revenge after losing to us two years ago.”

Rui Vitoria (Egypt)

“I am extremely conscious of the tremendous Cup of Nations record of Egypt, who have reached nine finals and won seven.

“Both final losses came in the past seven years so there are millions of Egyptians who want nothing less than outright victory this time. For us, each match is a final.”

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Source: AFP 

Picture: X/@CAF_Online

For more African news, visit Africaninsider.com

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