Afcon 2017: Algeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Zimbabwe go head-to-head in Group B

Stade de Franceville
The Stade de Franceville will host Group B matches

ALGERIA:

Nickname: Desert Foxes

Africa Cup of Nations High Point: Champions (1990)

How they qualified: Five wins and one draw saw them finish top of Group J, five points ahead of Ethiopia. El Arabi Hillel Soudani ended the campaign with an impressive seven goals.

Team Guide: After securing their place in Gabon without losing a single game, the Desert Foxes will be looking to win only their second continental title.

A dip in form during the 2018 World Cup qualifiers has alarmed supporters and cast doubts over their ability to go all the way.

Their sole title came on home soil in 1990 and last time out in Equatorial Guinea they lost to eventual champions Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals.

The Algerians were heavy favourites to win the 2015 tournament after a similarly outstanding qualifying campaign but failed to deliver.

Their strength in depth is beyond dispute and if they hit form they could contest the final on 5 February.

The Coach: Georges Leekens, who was in charge of Tunisia at the 2015 Nations Cup, is back in the post he held for six months in 2003 before quitting for "family reasons". The 67-year-old Belgian took over from Serbia's Milovan Rajevac, who was sacked in October after only three months in charge.

Riyad Mahrez
The attacking threat of Riyad Mahrez goes without saying

Key Player: Riyad Mahrez, the 2016 BBC and Confederation of African Footlball African Footballer of the Year, is one player capable of setting the entire tournament on fire. He is deadly at set-pieces and much will depend on what comes out of the Leicester City forward's magic box of tricks.

How far can Algeria go? Can anyone discount a team boasting the talents of Mahrez, Islam Slimani, and Yacine Brahimi? The Desert Foxes should reach the quarter-finals without much difficulty and have realistic hopes of winning their second continental title.

SENEGAL:

Nickname: Teranga Lions

Africa Cup of Nations High Point: Runners-up (2002)

How they qualified: The Teranga Lions were the only team to qualify for Gabon with a 100% record, topping their group by a whopping 12 points.

Team Guide: Just one win from six matches in their past two tournament appearances is not a great record by any standard.

But Senegal arrive in Gabon as Africa's best team, according to Fifa's world rankings. Group rivals Algeria held that title for a spell recently.

The Teranga Lions have struggled in recent tournaments despite star-studded squads.

Are they a team on the rise? Recent results certainly point in the direction of progress.

Perhaps the Senegalese do not boast one of their strongest squads historically but they will arrive in Gabon high on confidence.

The Coach: Aliou Cisse was captain in 2002 when Senegal reached the Nations Cup final in Mali and later went to the World Cup in Korea and Japan. He coached the under-23 team at the 2012 Olympic Games in London before taking over the senior side at the last Nations Cup finals.

Sadio Mane
Sadio Mane provides a menacing presence for opponents upfront

Key Player: Who else but Sadio Mane, who became the most expensive African footballer in history with a $45m move from Southampton to Liverpool in June. The 24-year-old is one of the most deadly finishers in the English Premier League and, if he clicks, the Senegalese will be a huge threat in the tournament.

Verdict: If all their big players bring their A game, they should make the quarter-finals at the very least.

TUNISIA:

Nickname: Carthage Eagles

Africa Cup of Nations High Point: Champions (2004)

How they qualified: An impressive start (thrashed Djibouti 8-1) and an equally strong finish (beat Liberia 4-1) were key to the Carthage Eagles finishing two points ahead of Togo in Group A.

Team Guide: The Carthage Eagles will make a record 13th straight Nations Cup appearance in Gabon.

They were runners-up in 1965 and 1996 but finally landed their hands on the trophy in 2004 on home soil.

This is definitely not the strongest Tunisian squad ever but they certainly have the quality to give their opponents plenty to think about.

Two years ago, they were eliminated in controversial circumstances by hosts Equatorial Guinea, after which the referee was given a six-month ban by the Confederation of African Football.

Had they not lost, they would have reached their first semi-final since winning the trophy.

Henry Kasperczak
Henry Kasperczak is a man very familiar with Africa's football terrain

The Coach: Henry Kasperczak, 70, has coached at seven previous Nations Cup finals, taking Ivory Coast to third in 1994 and Mali to fourth in 2002. The silver-haired former Poland international first coached Tunisia for four years from 1994, leading them to the runners-up spot in 1996. He has also managed Morocco and Senegal.

Key Player: Left-footed Valencia centre-back Aymen Abdennour is a player with the ability to get under the skin of opposition forwards. Having made his debut in 2009, the 27-year-old is appearing at his fourth Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

How far will Tunisia go? With plenty of European club experience in the squad, they look set for a straight scrap with Senegal for second place in the group. If they perform to their best and get the rub of the green, the Tunisians could go deep into the tournament.

ZIMBABWE:

Nickname: Warriors

Africa Cup of Nations High Point: (First round, 2004 and 2006)

How they qualified: After three wins and two draws, Zimbabwe secured their place in Gabon with a game to spare - the first time the Warriors have finished top of a Nations Cup qualifying group.

Team Guide: A decade spent in the football wilderness will come to an end when Zimbabwe play Algeria on 15 January.

The Warriors were last seen feasting at the top table of African football in 2006 in Egypt, when they beat Ghana 2-1 in the group stage.

Two year earlier, they had also beaten Algeria 2-1 in their first ever appearance at the Nations Cup.

But they could not have been landed with more difficult opponents this time round and are widely predicted to take the group's unwanted wooden spoon.

Knowledge Musona
Warrior Knowledge Musona has been in good form for Belgian club KV Oostende

The Coach: Calisto Pasuwa first served as Zimbabwe's under-23 coach before being promoted to the senior team job. He played for Dynamos in the 1998 African Champions League final against ASEC of Ivory Coast. This will be the 46-year-old's first international tournament.

Key Player: Unlike the other teams in the group, Zimbabwe do not possess world-class stars. But they boast some handy players, most notably Belgium-based Knowledge Musona, a forward who will be a constant goal-scoring threat if they can get the ball to him.

How far will Zimbabwe go? Calling the Warriors massive underdogs is putting it lightly. But every team at the Nations Cup dares to dream big. To be perfectly blunt, though, it would be the 'mother of all shocks' if Zimbabwe finished anywhere other than bottom of Group B.

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