Football

Amuneke insists 2019 AFCON will be tough

Former Nigerian winger and now head coach for the Tanzania national team, Emmanuel Amuneke has indicated that it will be very difficult for any of the 24 qualified teams to win the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

The former Barcelona winger defied all odds to qualify Tanzania to this year’s AFCON after the side has failed to do so since 1980 when they made their debut.

Speaking in an interview with Morakinyo Abodunrin ahead of the prestigious tournament, Emmanuel Amuneke shared that the 32ndedition of the AFCON will be very difficult for any country to win especially now that the number of teams have been improved to 24.

“This AFCON in Egypt would be the most difficult to win,” Amuneke, the 1994 Africa Footballer of the Year began in a special interview with The Nation from his base in Dar es Salam. “It’s going to be a difficult AFCON to win even for the traditional big teams because most of their players would be coming down for this competition after a grueling season in their respective European leagues.

“I also feel that the so-called underdogs would be a big threat to the aspirations of the big teams like Egypt, Senegal, Nigeria, Cameroon Tunisia and Morocco”.

“I’m very happy that Tanzania is part of the teams that would be playing for the first time in the enlarged 24-team format in Egypt and we have to go out there and show that our qualification for the AFCON for the first time since 1980 is not a fluke”, he explained.

The AFCON now in its 62nd year has evolved over the years since only three countries competed for the inaugural edition held in Sudan in 1957 but at Egypt 2019 a new chapter would be opened as 24 teams would for the first time in history contest for the continental most sought-after trophy.

In the mix are the hosts’ Pharaohs of Egypt who incidentally have a record seven title as well as defending and five-time champions, Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. Other past winners on  the card are  four-star Black Stars of Ghana; three-time winners the Super Eagles of  Nigeria; Algeria; Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa; Tunisia; DR Congo; Algeria and  Morocco.

There are also tested campaigners complete with Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Uganda, Benin and Angola. The trio of Madagascar, Burundi and Mauritania would be making their AFCON debut while Amuneke-led Taifa Stars of Tanzania returns since their debut 39 years ago when Nigeria hosted the AFCON in 1980.

The AFCON will commence on June 21, and end on July 19, 2019.

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