Ghana v Senegal | Monday 19 January | Mongomo | 18:00
Monday sees the Group of Death get underway with African heavyweights Ghana and Senegal clashing in the first match. Ghana and Senegal lie fifth and fourth respectively in the CAF rankings but Ghana come into this match as favourites due to their big tournament pedigree.
To Win (90mins)
Ghana have won the AFCON trophy four times (1963, 1965, 1978, and 1982), making them the second most successful team in the history of the contest, behind Egypt. The Black Stars have also finished as runners-up four times, most recently in 2010, and have been a constant in qualifying for the tournament as well as the World Cup in recent times. The Black Stars are one of a few teams who will have a new manager at the helm in Equatorial Guinea. Ex-Chelsea coach Avram Grant was given the job after a disappointing 2014 World Cup showing and a nail biting qualification journey. The Black Stars will be led at the tournament by captain Asamoah Gyan who joins Andre Ayew, Jonathan Mensah, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu and Mubarak Wakaso as the experienced bunch of players who will need to guide the many new faces.
Senegal will once again relish coming out of a tough group after proving themselves in one of the toughest qualification groups to book their place in the finals. The Teranga Lions managed to qualify from a group which included North African heavyweights Tunisia and Egypt along with Botswana, with relative ease. They beat both Egypt and Botswana home and away, failing to only beat Tunisia who held them to a draw at home and beat them in Monastir. While Senegal have always been blessed with good attackers their defence shone through in the qualifiers, letting in just one goal. West Ham striker Diafra Sakho has been ruled out with injury but Senegal won’t be too concerned as they have plenty of attacking power with the likes of Mame Diouf (Stoke City), Moussa Sow (Fenerbahce), Papiss Cisse (Newcastle) and Sadio Mane (Southampton) in the team.
VERDICT: Senegal 5/2
Ghana only won three of their six qualifiers, drawing at home to Uganda and away to Guinea and then losing in Uganda. Senegal look a force to be reckoned with in attack and are tipped to oust the favourites here.