Mali players look on as Farouk Miya scored a penalty against the Eagles at CHAN 2016 Credit: CAF
[/media-credit] Uganda and Ghana in action in the 2015 AFCON qualifiers at Namboole

For the first time since 1978, Uganda Cranes will play at the Africa Cup of Nations finals.

The CECAFA kings are drawn in Group D alongside Egypt, Ghana and Mali and will be based in Port Gentil and later Oyem in Gabon 2017 finals which get underway on Saturday January 14.

But Micho’s side wont kick start their campaign until January 17 when they renew acquaintances with Ghana.

Let’s see what the three teams bring on the table for the CAF National Team of the Year.

[/media-credit] Mali have finished runners up in 1972 Credit: CAF Media

MALI

Coach: Alain Giresse (France)

Nickname: The Eagles

Best Finish at AFCON: Finalists (1972)

AFCON Appearances: 10

Captain: Yaccoub Sylla

FIFA Ranking: 64

The Eagles of Mali will be Cranes’ last fixture in the group stages on January 25 at Oyem.

Coached by French man, Alain Giresse, The 1972 finalists are among the underachievers at the competition but have always been competitive.

Having finished third in succession (2012 and 2013), they will be eager to make it a step better in Gabon.

[/media-credit] Mali star Adama Traore plays for Monaco in France Credit: Courtesy

Key Player: Adama Traore

At 21, Traore is regarded as the future of Mali football and will be a vital component of the squad.

This will be his first major tournament at the national team and having gone through all the ranks, he knows exactly what is expected of him.

[/media-credit] The Ghana line up against Uganda Cranes at Namboole last year Credit: © Kawowo Sports / AMINAH BABIRYE

GHANA

Coach: Avram Grant (Israel)

Nickname: The Black Stars

Best Finish at AFCON: Champions 1963, 1965, 1978 and 1982.  

AFCON Appearances: 20

Captain: Asamoah Gyan

FIFA Ranking: 54

Since 1982, The Black Stars are stuck on four titles despite ever getting closer to the now elusive fifth.

Ghana have lost three finals in 1992, 2010 and 2015 and have been in the top four in the past five editions.

Like any other tournament, they are amongst the favourites but they don’t look dangerous in comparison to their past great teams.

[/media-credit] Andre Ayew and Asamoah Gyan will be key for Ghana

Key Player: Andre Ayew

The son of the great Abedi Pele will be playing in his fifth AFCON tournament and the onus to steer the team to another level largely falls on him.

A creative force who pops with goals, the Westham United man’s return from injury is very timely and if Ghana are to do well, Ayew must be the fulcrum.

[/media-credit] The Pharaohs of Egypt return after missing three editions Credit: Ahram Sports

EGYPT

Coach: Hector Cuper (Argentina)

Nickname: The Pharaohs

Best Finish at AFCON: Champions 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010

AFCON Appearances: 22

Captain: Essam El Hadary

FIFA Ranking: 35

The Pharaohs are finally back at the finals after missing three editions. Before then, they had won three titles in succession to become record holders of the African championship.

Under the experienced Argentine, Hector Cuper, Egypt are still favourites on return to big occasion with a quality squad and the target has been set, win the 8th title.

Egypt’s Mohamed Salah is among the key players on the team Credit: Courtesy

Key Player: Mohammed Salah

No doubt on who their star man is… That player is a 24 year old attacker, Mohammed Salah.

The AS Roma man was named in the squad despite an injury lay off and that tells the whole story.

An intelligent footballer with pace and dribbling skills and he can hurt any defence.

Senior Staff writer at Kawowo Sports mainly covering football

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