GEREMI EXCLUSIVE: Salah, Mane, Mendy and Mahrez are important but AFCON is more than individuals


GEREMI’S AFCON PREDICTIONS: Salah, Mane, Mendy and Mahrez are important but AFCON is about more than individuals. Algeria and Senegal are among the favourites but watch out for my country Cameroon… I’ll be in the stands and can’t wait


In just a few short days, AFCON will be getting underway as some of world football’s biggest names fight it out for the continent’s top prize.

Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane lead a group of star-studded talent vying to win the African crown, with Riyad Mahrez’s Algeria looking to defend their title. 

Sportsmail has recruited Cameroon, Chelsea and Newcastle legend Geremi as our AFCON expert, and here he shares his pride in the tournament returning to his country, and why big names don’t necessarily equal success…

The Africa Cup of Nations is returning to my country for the first time since 1972 and I could not be any happier. I may have won this tournament twice, but my biggest career regret is never having led my team during an AFCON in Cameroon.  

That is life, I am afraid, but now I will be able to watch the team as a fan. There are huge expectations on Antonio Conceicao’s side this year, and his young team will have to handle the pressure of trying to win on home turf. 

It is going to be a highly competitive competition and we are blessed with some of the biggest names in world football taking to the stage. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Edouard Mendy and Riyad Mahrez are all having excellent seasons and I expect them to shine.

World football’s biggest stars are coming to AFCON and I can’t wait for the tournament to start

However, AFCON has thrown up many surprises over the years and this is tournament football, where teams with the most high-profile players don’t necessarily win the whole thing. 

Just because these guys are performing at their clubs, it doesn’t mean it will automatically translate to their national side. After all, they are playing with a different group of players and are given less time to work on things in training.  

In my experience, to win AFCON you need a group of players who enjoy playing together, who have a very good dressing room and fight together. 

The likes of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Riyad Mahrez will try to light up the tournament

The likes of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Riyad Mahrez will try to light up the tournament

Mahrez's Algeria are among the favourites, with the Man City star winning it last time out

Mahrez’s Algeria are among the favourites, with the Man City star winning it last time out

You don’t have to play very well to win the tournament, but you must take it game by game. There are six matches in total and it can go by in a flash, so it is important to hit the ground running. 

There are a few leading candidates to win the competition. Algeria, as defending champions, are expected to go far again. Senegal are the tournament favourites and have a strong squad at their disposal, as do Morocco.

Yet I am confident that my beloved Cameroon can challenge. The best player in the Cameroon squad at the moment is our goalkeeper Andre Onana. 

He had a hard time with his suspension at Ajax but is back and will show everyone how good he is and prove people wrong. I know that he will be really important for us if we are to go far in the tournament

However, AFCON is about more than individuals and my beloved Cameroon can go all the way

However, AFCON is about more than individuals and my beloved Cameroon can go all the way

The whole country is behind them and I will be in attendance in Olembe for the opening game

The whole country is behind them and I will be in attendance in Olembe for the opening game

The supporters will act as the 12th man but sometimes that can have its advantages and disadvantages.

Of course, when they are behind you, there is nothing worse than playing against Cameroon in full pomp. But if they face any adversity, it is possible that there will be a change of mood. Fans have been known to complain and boo the team while watching from the stands. 

As for myself, I will be in Olembe cheering Conceicao’s side in the tournament opener against Burkino Faso. I have already been to visit the team and, as a young player, it can be good to get some advice from former players that have achieved success in this tournament. 

I wish every team good luck and hopefully Cameroon can go all the way! 

Sportsmail's AFCON expert Geremi gives us the lowdown on what to expect at the tournament

Sportsmail’s AFCON expert Geremi gives us the lowdown on what to expect at the tournament

GEREMI’S STARS TO WATCH OUT FOR AT AFCON  

In the Senegal national team, you have to look at Ismaila Sarr, he’s going to do a lot of good things. He has been very good for Watford in the past few years and he is an exciting young talent. He is still young and it’s clear he has a lot of potential when teams like Liverpool have been interested. He’s injured at the moment but is out in Cameroon so will be one to watch if he manages to play.

From the Ivory Coast, Sebastian Haller is one to watch. He is scoring a lot of goals for Ajax this season and for me has a very good chance to win the Golden Boot at AFCON if he continues with his current form.

And Mohammed Elneny is also a standout for Egypt, he is an experienced player at the top level and always consistent for Arsenal when he gets the chance to play – and just as important as Mo Salah is for Egypt.

Another one to watch is Islam Slimani from Algeria, he can do good things. Yes, he didn’t do well at Leicester, but he is playing in France now and always a dangerous player in attack for Algeria with the service of Mahrez to feed balls into the box.

For my country Cameroon, I love Karl Toko Ekambi up front – he is Lyon’s leading scorer coming into a rich vein of form recently and they will miss him in Ligue 1. He can be a big talisman if my nation is going to try and win the tournament.

As for some younger players, Kamaldeen Sulemana has caught my eye for Rennes in France. He is so quick as a winger and has the chance to be a huge star for Ghana. And he’s only 19 with a huge career ahead of him.

Finally, this could be the tournament for Franck Kessie to show the Premier League’s big clubs that he’s perfect to sign from Milan. He will be the heart of the Ivory Coast midfield and if they are to have a good tournament, he will have to fire for them.

Genting Casino is a premium online casino – 18+ BeGambleAware 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk