Emmanuel Amunike: No predictions, but Algeria are favorites


Emmanuel Amunike won the 1994 AFCON title with Nigeria Super Eagles and was Tanzania’s coach in the 2019 edition in Egypt. He is a member of the Technical Study Group (TSG) of the coming TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon 2021, and spoke to CAFOnline.com about his view of the 9 January – 6 February 2022 tournament.

CAFOnline.com: What are your expectations for this edition of TotalEnergies AFCON?

Amunike: I expect it to be better than the previous edition. The 2019 edition in Egypt was the first Africa Cup of Nations with 24 teams, and this will be the second time. We have newcomers like Gambia and Comoros, this shows that African football is progressing. AFCON is a tournament watched and followed around the world. Therefore, despite the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, this tournament must rise to international standards. Africa must show that its flagship competition is making giant strides. We are going to discover new stars. I am very positive.

Who are the favorites in your opinion?

Algeria is the reigning champions, and they are the favorites. Senegal is a very strong team, so are the hosts Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco and Tunisia. It will be very difficult to predict who will win the title because we have so many great teams here. There are big changes in African football, players with a global dimension, it is promising. In Europe today, African footballers play the leading roles in their clubs and evolve in the top clubs in the world. That must be reflected in this competition.

Despite the African football progress, all African representatives came out in the first round in Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup. What was the problem?

We have to wait to get an idea of ​​our next representatives in Qatar 2022. Either way, we must learn from our mistakes in Russia 2018. We weren't very far, but our representatives were missing things. It was not the quality of our players that was the problem, but we struggled to find tactical solutions to the equations posed by our opponents. The main thing is to have learned the lessons and try to move forward next time.

Do you think this AFCON edition will be a good preparation for African teams in Qatar 2022?

It’s clear that the teams here will have a certain advantage and a great opportunity, despite that the play-offs have nothing to do with the Africa Cup of Nations. The teams present in Cameroon are of great quality, and personally I cannot predict the future AFCON winner because all the teams are of such quality. With this competition, the teams will know at what level they can be and have an idea of ​​what remains for them to do. In terms of preparation, we couldn't get better.

What about Nigeria in this AFCON 2021?

We would have liked to see players like Victor Oshimen who is doing very well in a very tough league in Italy. But the most important in life is health and we pray he will regain his health very quickly. He will play other tournaments for his country and certainly the World Cup qualifying play-offs. Oshimen is a young footballer, but he is part of the present and future of Nigerian, African and world football. It’s sad not to see him at TotalEnergies AFCON, but he will be there soon. Despite everything, the selected players have a lot of quality. Nigeria will bravely defend their chances in this competition.