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South Africa

Algeria, Senegal look cut above Africa Cup Group C rivals

Algeria were crowned champions in 1990 when they hosted a then eight-team affair while Senegal came closest to glory in 2002, losing the final against Cameroon on penalties.

Both boast English Premier League stars with Sadio Mane of Liverpool the talisman of the Senegal squad and Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City a key figure for Algeria.

Kenya for the first time since 2004 and Tanzania for the first time since 1980 are back at the Cup of Nations but cannot realistically expect to go further than the second round.

Here, AFP Sport looks at the four teams in a group which should see Senegal and Algeria contest first place and Kenya and Tanzania strive to finish third.

Algeria
Algeria have underperformed at the Cup of Nations, reaching only two finals in 17 attempts and winning just one, when they had home advantage.

After the squad was named, coach Djamel Belmadi axed midfielder Haris Belkebla for exposing his backside during the live stream of an online game.

He has been replaced by Andy Delort, one of many France-born footballers with Algerian roots who opt to play for the Desert Foxes.

It is almost a decade since Algeria last made an impact, reaching the 2010 semi-finals, and the north African conditions will suit a squad capable of going far.

Verdict: anything less than a quarter-finals place will be disappointing

Kenya
Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Victor Wanyama has taken the pressure off his Harambee Stars team-mates by saying they “have no target” in Egypt.

Whether he is being brutally frank or trying to catch rivals off guard is debatable, but Kenya have a woeful record with five previous appearances ending in first round exits.

“We must just work hard game by game and ensure we collect points,” declared Wanyama, but that is likely to be easier said than done.

Given likely losses to Algeria and Senegal, the key match will be against east African neighbours Tanzania as both seek qualification as one of the four best third-place teams.

Verdict: they cannot look beyond a last-16 place

Senegal
Many pundits tipped Senegal to go all the way in 2017, but they lost a last-eight penalty shootout to eventual champions Cameroon with Mane shedding tears after missing his kick.

The Terenga Lions squad, built around Mane and Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly, seems stronger now after playing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

When the contract of coach and former star Aliou Cisse got renewed, he was told to win the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations or face the consequences.

Cisse has a team capable of conquering Africa, but there is no guarantee they will lift the trophy with Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria among others holding similar ambitions.

Verdict: a semi-finals place must be the minimal target for Mane and company

Tanzania
Snatched a place at the finals thanks to a three-goal thumping of already-qualified Uganda and the failure of Lesotho to win in Cape Verde.

Coach Emmanuel Amunike is familiar with the Cup of Nations having been part of the Nigeria team that defeated Zambia in the 1994 final in Tunisia.

Publicly at least, he does not fear Senegal or Algeria, saying: “The so-called small teams are going to Egypt to try and prove a point.”

But without a Mane or a Mahrez, the Taifa Stars are set to struggle and securing a round-of-16 place would be an achievement.

Verdict: will hope to beat Kenya and progress as one of best four third-place teams

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