To the business at hand.
Who will win it and why?
James Bennett: Algeria – it’s an open tournament but they have the best squad now
Lotfi Wada: One of these I’d say: Ivory Coast, Algeria, Egypt or Ghana as they look ahead of the rest tactically and in terms of talent.
Salim Masoud Said: Ivory Coast – It’s the most open tournament in years so I’m not going for them with emphatic confidence. They are the current champions and they are hard to beat.
Theo Sakyi: Ivory Coast don’t have the stars of previous year’s but they’re organised, more creative in midfield and can still kill on the counter.
Sam Crocker: Gabon – I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that they might go all the way. The hosts always do well at AFCON, but they’ve got a settled squad, excellent players and a mental manager – the perfect storm for tournament success.
Who will flatter to deceive?
JB: Ivory Coast – I don’t think they have the personalities in the squad to repeat 2015
LW: Senegal, Cameroon…
SMS: All signs point towards Ghana not doing well. They will have to work harder than ever to reach their usual semi-final minimum.
TS: Cameroon – they’re awful going forward and will face much better defences than they have in qualifying.
SC: Senegal – Tough group, easy qualification won’t have tested them much. Bottled it in 2015, can see them doing it again.
The surprise package?
JB: DR Congo – not sure it’s that much of a surprise any more but they’re up there with the best teams
LW: Tunisia (I’m writing this in hope) and Gabon.
SMS: Gabon. They’re better than they were 5 years ago. They could go all the way this time.
SC: Togo – someone terrible always does well at AFCON. With Claude Le Roy in charge, they could cause a few upsets I reckon.
Who will be the leading scorer?
JB: Keita Balde – thriving off the space created by Mane
LW: 3/4 goals should be enough..Aubameyang is a good bet me thinks.
SMS: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
TS: Sounds ridiculous, but I’ll go with Ahmed Akaïchi. I think Tunisia will overachieve and he’ll score some jammy goals.
SC: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, firing his country to victory.
Who will be the breakout star?
JB: Jonathan Bolingi – currently playing for TP Mazembe but I reckon he’ll be due a move to Europe after this tournament’s over
LW: The dazzling Ugandan sensation Farouk Miya!
SMS: Franck Kessie. Jonathan Bolingi, too, if he starts.
TS: Thomas Partey, if Avram Grant is brave enough to start him.
SC: Franck Kessie. Can see him wrangling an Eric Bailly-esque mid-tournament club move.
What are you most looking forward to?
JB: Seeing Guinea-Bissau and Uganda, two squads we haven’t seen before at this level in a tournament
LW: I’m just hoping to see good atmosphere and good football.
SMS: Football! I don’t care if it’s dull, I don’t care if it’s entertaining. Any football is good football. Also, the promising young players and the goal celebrations!
TS: The newer generation of African talent: Partey, Bolingi, Kessie etc.
SC: The beautiful, beautiful chaos. One of the most open tournaments we’ve seen in a long time. AFCON is normally pretty unpredictable at the best of times, so I have no idea what will happen this time. But then again, if we expect it to be unpredictable, will it then become predictable? I honestly have no idea, and I’m very excited.