In January, 15 nations will head to Gabon to compete in the 31st edition of the Africa Cup of Nations. In previous years, there have always been one or two leading candidates but this time, qualification is proving exceptionally hard to predict and almost anybody can win next year’s tournament if they step up to the plate. We take a look at just two of the potential winners and discuss why these sides can go all the way in the competition.
Firstly, Nigeria are currently struggling to inspire confidence but they have the individual talent to build around and may fancy their chances of a shock victory. In 2013, Nigeria were crowned Africa Cup of Nations as they earned a 1-0 victory over Burkina-Faso and interim head coach Samson Siasia will be hoping his side can take inspiration from their previous success.
Nigeria’s troubles started around the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and they haven’t really responded since. However, they are on the cusp of qualification and at least one victory from a double-header with Egypt should see them pick up enough points to make the tournament. From there, it’s anyone’s guess. If the Super Eagles find their best form, why can’t they go on to win the competition?
In addition, Ivory Coast are another one of Africa’s major players and they should be treated with caution throughout both qualifying and the actual competition providing they reach next January’s tournament. Although they’ve lost a number of key personalities, including Kolo Toure, Didier Drogba and goalkeeper Boubacar Barry, in recent years, they remain a solid, well-oiled team and could well reach the latter stages of the competition.
The Ivory Coast gave a decent account of themselves at the World Cup in Brazil but fell short at the crucial moment. They will be looking to reassert themselves as one of Africa’s top nations next year and who knows, Didier Drogba may even return in some capacity in the future. For now, Yaya Toure will have to lead the way to Gabon.
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Can either Nigeria or the Ivory Coast win the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations? Of course they can. Whilst both sides may be past their heydays, they are still competent footballing nations and it would be foolish to write either team off. For now, they should focus on qualification but we fully expect both nations to qualify and from there, Nigeria and Ivory Coast fans can start to get excited at their chances.