Afcon 2021: Group C preview - Morocco, Ghana, Comoros & Gabon

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Algeria forward Riyad Mahrez with the Africa Cup of Nations trophyAlgeria are set to defend their Nations Cup title, which they won in 2019 by beating Senegal 1-0 in the final

The 33rd Africa Cup of Nations starts in Cameroon on Sunday, 9 January having been delayed a year by the coronavirus pandemic.

Here, BBC Sport Africa runs the rule over Group C, which includes four-time winners Ghana, Morocco, Gabon and debutants Comoros.

Fixtures

Monday, 10 January: Morocco v Ghana, Comoros v Gabon

Friday, 14 January: Morocco v Comoros, Gabon v Ghana

Tuesday, 18 January: Gabon v Morocco, Ghana v Comoros

Morocco

Romain Saiss in action for MoroccoWolverhampton Wanderers defender Romain Saiss will be looking to improve on a last-16 exit in 2019
Appearance: 18thBest finish: Winners (1976)
Coach: Vahid HalilhodzicCaptain: Romain Saiss
Fifa ranking: 28Nickname: Atlas Lions

Mohamed Amine El Amri (Sports journalist for Le Matin, Morocco): Under Vahid Halilhodzic, appointed in 2019 right after another set back in the Afcon in Egypt (eliminated in the last 16 against Benin), Morocco has gone through a lot of changes.

The Bosnian manager has imposed his pragmatic views, adding many youngsters to the team and letting go of the "Ancient Guard".

The Atlas Lions can rely on a very talented new generation led by the Paris Saint-Germain superstar Achraf Hakimi.

Having played all of their World Cup qualifiers in Morocco - for reasons varying from invalidated stadia to a coup d'état - the big question is how capable the team really is in the face of difficulty.

The feud between Hakim Ziyech and Halilhodzic has led to the Chelsea winger's absence, and fans will hope his talent in unlocking defences is not missed in Cameroon.

Ghana

Andre Ayew in action for GhanaAndre Ayew, now playing in Qatar, was Ghana's top scorer in World Cup qualifying with three goals
Appearance: 23rdBest finish: Winners (1963, 1965, 1978, 1982)
Coach: Milovan RajevacCaptain: Andre Ayew
Fifa ranking: 52Nickname: Black Stars

Ibrahim Ridwan Asante (Ghana Soccernet): Ghana mount another search for an elusive African title, having come close three times since their 1982 win but crashed on the cusp of glory.

The Black Stars fluffed their lines at the last tournament in Egypt, suffering a last-16 elimination at the hands of Tunisia, and Milovan Rajevac, who was re-appointed in September, has been tasked to win in Cameroon.

In 2010 the Serbian assembled a young squad which reached the final but lost 1-0 to Egypt. His captain Andre Ayew and defender Jonathan Mensah are the survivors from 11 years ago.

Rajevac's belief in youth will see him utilize the services of talented Europe-based youngsters Kamaldeen Sulemana (Rennes), Kudus Mohammed (Ajax), Felix Afena-Gyan (Roma) and Edmund Addo (FC Sheriff).

Seventeen-year-old Abdul Fatawu Issahaku, touted as the next Abedi Pele, showed a lot of promise in his debut season in the Ghana Premier League and will be a secret weapon at the tournament.

Comoros

Moussa Djoumoi in action for ComorosMoussa Djoumoi scored for Comoros in qualifying for the Arab Cup - but the side were eliminated after a 5-1 defeat by Palestine
Appearance: DebutantsBest finish: n/a
Coach: Amir AbdouCaptain: Nadjim Abdou
Fifa ranking: 132Nickname: The Coelacanths

Kassim Oumouri (Commentator for ORTC): The Union of the Comoros will play the final phase of the most prestigious competition on the continent for the first time in its short history. Amir Abdou's men have a lot to gain and nothing to lose.

Hostilities will begin with a decisive match against Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's Gabon. On paper, everything is possible, especially since the Comoros no longer harbour any complexes against the big names of African football. From Ghana to Cameroon, via Egypt and Morocco, all were held in check by captain Nadjim Abdou and team-mates.

With El Fardou Ben Mohamed at the top of his game, Comoros can surprise the group of death made up of Ghana, Morocco and Gabon. The Coelacanths can play spoilers and finish third if they beat Gabon, and a victory would allow them to start the tournament with a precious capital of confidence.

The experience of expatriate players can be an asset that should not be overlooked. Seeing the Coelacanths in the round of 16 would be anything but a surprise.

Gabon

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in action for ArsenalPierre-Emerick Aubameyang will look to rediscover his form with Gabon after being dropped by Arsenal and stripped of the club captaincy in December
Appearance: EighthBest finish: Quarter-finalists (1996 and 2012)
Coach: Patrice NeveuCaptain: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Fifa ranking: 89Nickname: The Panthers

Gerauds Wilfried Obangome (Journalist at Plusinfos TV): Gabon are positioned as a credible outsider, at least to pass the group stage. They begin against Comoros, and then need to defeat two ogres of African football, Ghana and Morocco.

But after World Cup qualifiers filled with promise and uncertainty, Gabon seem just as capable of moving mountains as they are of rushing straight into walls.

The goal for coach Patrice Neveu and his relatively young side is to "give their all to honour the nation" after missing out on the 2019 edition.

A delicate mission may be difficult for the Frenchman, who has already alienated part of the public by choosing to leave out Didier Ndong. The non-selection of the Yeni Malatyaspor midfielder would be a choice to preserve the "serenity" of the group.

The Panthers are led by striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is set to play in his fifth Nations Cup. The 32-year-old has a point to prove after being stripped of the Arsenal captaincy and dropped by the Premier League club in December.

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