Football: PREVIEW-Soccer-Cup of Nations kicks off under COVID cloud

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Africa’s showpiece Cup of Nations kicks off in Cameroon on Sunday towards a backdrop of controversy over participant call-ups, the event’s timing, the host nation’s readiness and the chance of widespread COVID-19 infections.

Yet what will not be clear is who’s prone to be topped continental champions after the ultimate on Feb. 6, as a large number of potential winners make it seemingly that the event will preserve its custom for hardly ever delivering on the shape e book.

Algeria are defending their title and go into the event with a prolonged unbeaten run, together with their triumph on the final version in Egypt in 2019.

Led by Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez, they’ve been hardly ever stretched over the past 24 months however the rigours of event competitors, plus the powerful situations in Cameroon, will present a extreme examination.

Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia are the opposite North African international locations who’re perennial contenders however have upset in latest editions. Morocco, particularly, have gone into latest tournaments closely fancied however have proved unable to reside as much as their billing.

West African giants Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria are all previous winners with excessive hopes, however haven’t been convincing of late.

Nigeria fired their coach Gernot Rohr final month, sad with their type regardless of the very fact they gained their World Cup qualifying group.

Hosts Cameroon have been even much less convincing, however their residence win over the Ivorians within the World Cup qualifiers in November was an enormous morale increase and has now positioned a burden of expectation on their shoulders.

That leaves Senegal because the group with one of the best credentials. They have been runners-up in 2019 and have strengthened their squad since, persuading a number of French-born gamers with Senegalese roots to affix their facet.

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane might play a key function in serving to the nation to their first Cup of Nations triumph.

All contenders shall be hoping to keep away from any outbreaks of COVID-19, which could impression on their possibilities.

Preparations for many international locations, over the past fortnight, have been hit by gamers returning optimistic assessments and having to enter quarantine.

Senegal’s departure to the event on Wednesday was delayed by three optimistic instances and the Cape Verde Islands have had an astonishing 21 particular person optimistic instances at their pre-tournament coaching camp.

RACE TO BE READY

Squad sizes for this event have been elevated from 23 to twenty-eight to permit for the potential impression of the novel coronavirus.

Teams may even should deal with inferior resort and coaching services, with Cameroon, stretched by poor infrastructure, racing to prepare earlier than Sunday’s kickoff.

The tardy preparations prompted an emergency assembly final month of the Confederation of African Football’s govt committee, which thought-about cancelling the event.

After an emergency journey to hunt assurances from the Cameroon authorities, CAF president Patrice Motsepe has gambled on going forward, hoping to keep away from any main calamities and that the soccer will declare the highlight when the motion begins.

(Editing by Toby Davis)



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