GEREMI CAN PREDICTIONS: Salah, Mane, Mendy and Mahrez are important, but CAN is not just about individuals. Algeria and Senegal are among the favorites but watch out for my country Cameroon … I will be in the stands and I can’t wait
In just a few days, CAN will begin as some of the biggest names in world football compete for the continent’s top prize.
Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane lead a group of star-studded talents vying for the African crown, with Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez looking to defend their title.
Sportsmail has recruited Geremi, the legend of Cameroon, Chelsea and Newcastle as CAN expert, and here he shares his pride in the return of the tournament to his country, and why the big names do not necessarily equal success …
The Africa Cup of Nations returns to my country for the first time since 1972 and I couldn’t be happier. I may have won this tournament twice, but my biggest career regret is never having led my team during a CAN in Cameroon.
That’s life I’m afraid, but now I can watch the team as a fan. Antonio Conceicao’s expectations are huge this year, and his young side will have to deal with the pressure of trying to win at home.
It will be a very competitive competition and we are fortunate to have some of the biggest names in world football on stage. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Edouard Mendy and Riyad Mahrez all have great seasons and I expect them to shine.
The biggest stars of world football are coming to CAN and I can’t wait for the tournament to start
However, CAN has plenty of surprises in store over the years and this is tournament football, where teams with the most prominent players don’t necessarily win it all.
Just because these guys perform at their clubs doesn’t mean it will automatically translate to their national team. After all, they play with a different group of players and have less time to work on things in training.
In my experience, to win the CAN, you need a group of players who like to play together, who have a very good dressing room and who fight together.
Personalities like Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Riyad Mahrez will try to light up the tournament
Mahrez’s Algeria is among the favorites, with the Man City star last winning it
You don’t have to be playing very well to win the tournament, but you have to take it game by game. There are six games in total and it can go by in a flash, so it’s important to move forward.
There are some top contenders to win the competition. Algeria, reigning champion, should still go a long way. Senegal are the tournament favorites and have a solid squad, as do Morocco.
Yet I am convinced that my beloved Cameroon can rise to the challenge. The best player of the Cameroonian team at the moment is our goalkeeper Andre Onana.
He struggled with his suspension from Ajax but is back and will show everyone how good he is and prove people wrong. I know it will be really important for us if we want to go far in the tournament
However, CAN is more than individuals and my beloved Cameroon can go all the way.
The whole country is behind them and I will be present in Olembe for the opening match
The supporters will play the role of the 12th man but sometimes this can have its advantages and disadvantages.
Of course, when they are behind you, there is nothing worse than playing Cameroon with great fanfare. But if they are facing adversity, it is possible that there is a change in mood. Fans have been known to whine and boo the team as they watch from the stands.
As for me, I will be in Olembe to support the Conceicao team in the opening match of the tournament against Burkina Faso. I have visited the team before and as a young player it can be good to get some advice from former players who have been successful in this tournament.
I wish all the teams good luck and I hope Cameroon can go all the way!
Sportsmail’s AFCON expert Geremi explains what to expect at the tournament
THE STARS OF GEREMI TO WATCH THE CAN
In the Senegalese national team, you have to watch Ismaila Sarr, he’s gonna do a lot of good things. He’s been very good for Watford the last few years and he’s an exciting young talent. He is still young and it is clear that he has a lot of potential when teams like Liverpool take an interest in him. He is currently injured but is absent in Cameroon, so he will be one to watch if he manages to play.
From Ivory Coast, Sebastien haller is one to watch. He’s scoring a lot of goals for Ajax this season and for me he has a very good chance of winning the Golden Boot at CAN if he continues with his current form.
And Mohammed elneny is also an asset for Egypt, he is an experienced player at the highest level and always consistent for Arsenal when given the chance to play – and just as important as Mo Salah is for Egypt.
Another one to watch out for is Islam slimani from Algeria, he can do good things. Yes, he didn’t do well at Leicester, but he’s playing in France now and still a dangerous attacking player for Algeria with Mahrez’s serve to send the balls into the box.
For my country Cameroon, I like Karl Toko Ekambi up front – he’s Lyon’s top scorer who has recently returned to rich form and will be missed in Ligue 1. He can be a great talisman if my nation is to try to win the tournament.
As for some young players, Kamaldeen Sulemana caught my attention for Rennes in France. He’s so quick as a winger and has the chance to be a big star for Ghana. And he’s only 19 with a huge career ahead of him.
Finally, it could be the tournament of Franck Kessie to show big Premier League clubs that he’s perfect to sign from Milan. He will be the heart of the Ivorian midfielder and if they want to have a good tournament he will have to shoot for them.
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