AFCON match day preview: Aubameyang could return as Ghana desperately seek victory

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The Africa Cup of Nations group stage continues in pace on Friday, with four matches scheduled to take place.

Senegal, second in 2019, against Guinea in Group B, where both teams have won their opening matches. Malawi and Zimbabwe take on each other in the second match of that group.

Meanwhile, Gabon are hoping to get Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back for their clash with Ghana in Group C, while Morocco, who win against the Black Stars on matchday 1, host the Comoros.

Senegal vs. Guinea (13:00 GMT)

Senegal and Guinea meet for the third time at the Africa Cup of Nations, where the former won their first two meetings: 2-1 in the group stage in 1994 and 3-2 in the quarter-finals in 2006.

In both matches, Guinea opened the scoring before finally finishing as the losing team, and it is Senegal – led, of course, by Sadio Mane – who will be favorites on Friday, with the Liverpool striker’s penalty kick in the 97th minute sealing an opening victory against Zimbabwe .

Mane’s colleague Red Naby Keita is Guinea’s star man. He attempted more passes in the opponent’s half (26) than any of his teammates in the 1-0 defeat to Malawi last time, and it was his precise ball that led to the match’s only goal.

Keita could have his work cut short for a Senegalese midfielder who is likely to include Paris Saint-Germain’s all-action Idrissa Gueye, the towering presence of Crystal Palace’s Cheikhou Kouyate and Bayern Munich’s versatile full-back Bouna Sarr, who had five tries and played two key passes in the victory over Zimbabwe.

One to watch: Sadio Mane

After his last gasp win on Monday, Mane has been directly involved in five of Senegal’s last six AFCON goals, scoring four and delivering an assist. Since his debut in the competition in January 2015, the former Southampton star has been directly involved in more goals than any other Senegal player.

Malawi against Zimbabwe (16:00)

After narrow defeats in their opening matches, Group B’s other teams will try to come back, knowing that they can play straight with one of the pool’s big teams with three points.

That said, neither team has exactly a strong history in the competition. This will be the first meeting between the nations at an AFCON final, where Malawi will only win one of their seven matches in the tournament (D1 L5).

Zimbabwe, meanwhile, are without a win in their last seven AFCON matches (D2 L5), which last claimed a victory in the 2006 competition, against Ghana (2-1).

However, it could be a case of an easily stagnant force facing a very moving object where Malawi have not scored in four of their last seven AFCON matches, while Zimbabwe have never held zero in 13 such matches and conceded 28 goals. No team has ever played several matches in the competition without even keeping the ball out of their own net.

And to see: Tino Kadewere (Zimbabwe)

Lyon striker Kadewere had to settle for a place on the bench in the first match, even though he came into the second half and had two attempts, which were only surpassed by Knowledge Musona for Zimbabwe. In a shy team with top-level European experience, Kadewere is without a doubt the prominent talent.

Morocco vs. Comoros (16:00)

After Senegal, Morocco is the second best placed team at AFCON, which is currently ranked 28th in FIFA’s world rankings.

Atlas Lions defeated Ghana in their preliminary group C match and enter Friday’s meeting with the minnows Comoros as giant favorites, with Morocco looking to win their two preliminary matches at an AFCON in successive editions of the tournament, having won only both such battles in one. of their previous 16 appearances in the competition.

The Comoros, who fell 1-0 to Gabon on Monday, will hope to avoid becoming the sixth AFCON debutants of this century to lose their first two matches, after Benin (2004), Botswana (2012), Burundi (2019) , Niger (2012). ) and Zimbabwe (2004).

One to watch: Sofiane Boufal

Former Southampton midfielder Boufal scored a winner in the 83rd minute against Ghana. No Moroccan player has netted in consecutive AFCON matches since Houssine Kharja in 2012.

Gabon against Ghana (19:00)

Friday’s headline clash sees Gabon take on Ghana, and Aubameyang may well be back after training with his team following a negative coronavirus result.

Aubameyang, who has not played for Arsenal since early December and was recently stripped of the club’s captaincy due to a disciplinary breach, tested positive for COVID-19 on his arrival at AFCON alongside Mario Lemina.

Gabon, however, is without coach Patrice Neveu, who isolates himself. They seek to win consecutive AFCON matches for the first time since three victories in 2012.

The four-time champions, Ghana, have meanwhile won only one of their last five group matches (D2 L2), losing more this time around than in their previous 12 such matches combined (W9 D2 L1).

One to see: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

There is no doubt about Aubameyang’s quality, although the 32-year-old has been ousted from Arsenal recently. After being out of the game for so long, he can take the former Borussia Dortmund star time to get up to speed, even though he has the ability to make a difference.

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