This is another evenly poised group that has former winners Zambia, Tunisia and DR Congo plus the highly improving Cape Verde.
On paper and going by the form in qualifiers, 2004 champions Tunisia and Cape Verde look set to emerge from this group but what of DR Congo and Zambia; perennial giants.
Kawowo Sports’ Ismael Kiyonga breaks the group with an in-depth analysis of each team.
Nick Name: ‘Chipolopolo’
FIFA Ranking: 46
Appearances: 17 (1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015)
Best Performance: Champions (2012)
Coach: Honour Janza – He took over after resignation of French man Patrice Bauemelle and guided the team to the finals albeit finishing second in group F behind Cape Verde despite a poor start to the campaign.
He has tried to give the team a new look by dropping 2012 winning captain Christopher Katongo, Jacob Mulenga and James Chamanga among others.
The hunger by the youthful stars led by Ronald Kampamba maybe the driving force if they are to go beyond the group stages.
Key Player: Rainford Kalaba – The TP Mazembe playmaker will skipper the side at the finals and his creativity will be crucial for the Chipolopolo. Calm and composed, Kalaba is one player who uses the ball well.
Prediction 4th: Zambia’s major problem is the lack of goals and am afraid it will affect their performance in Equatorial Guinea. However, they have the experience of playing at the finals but it will be hard to get past this group.
Nick Name: ‘Eagles of Carthage’
FIFA Ranking: 22
Appearances: 17 (1962, 1963, 1965, 1978, 1982, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015)
Best Performance: Champions (2004)
Coach: Georges Leekens – He will be out to try win the champions for Tunisia after 11 years and his showings during qualifiers where he guided the Carthage Eagles to top finish in a tough group G that had Senegal and rivals Egypt among others is testimony of his abilities.
Key Player: Yassine Chikhaoui – The FC Zurich midfielder is the creative pillar of the North African side. A greater pass with pace, Chikhaoui also has an eye for goal.
He made his debut in 2006 and also featured at the 2006 World Cup in Germany aged just 20 and has so far scored 3 goals in 25 appearances for the team.
Prediction 1st: The North African side is not only strong favourites to get past the group stages but also top the group.
Nick Name: ‘Blue Sharks’
FIFA Rankings: 40
Appearances: 2 (2013, 2015)
Best Performance: ‘Quarterfinal’ (2013)
Coach: Rui Águas – Cape Verde is the first national side he has handled and so far impressed by leading them to this year’s finals. The legendary Portugal striker had a glorious career as player but will be under pressure to replicate the team’s performances in last edition’s campaign.
Key Player: Ryan Mendes – The Lille FC attacking midfielder has played for all under age sides in Cape Verde. At the age of 25, he has already made 19 appearances for a side not so much known into the circle till they surprised the continent by reaching the quarter finals in 2013.
Prediction 2nd: The most improved national side on the continent. They are making just their second appearance but surprised everyone by reaching quarters at the last edition. For many who thought it was a one off, they made a second consecutive appearance by topping a group that had giants Zambia in the qualifiers. They are good for the last eight in this tourney too.
Nick Name: ‘The Leopards’
FIFA Rankings: 56
Appearances: 2 (2012, 2015)
Best Performance: Champions 2 (1968 & 1974)
Coach: Florent Ikwange Ibeng – The reigning African based Player of The Year is the man to watch for the Leopards. He played four games enroute to helping DR Congo qualify and if he transforms his club form to nation, no doubt DR Congo will be a hard team to beat.
Prediction: 3rd: They qualified as the third Best team from a tough group that had giants Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire. In one of their best performances, they beat Cote d’Ivoire 4-3 away but will find it hard to reach the last eight.
Zambia vs. DR Congo – Ebebiyín
Cape Verde vs. Tunisia – Ebebiyín
DR Congo vs. Cape Verde – Ebebiyín
Tunisia vs. Zambia – Ebebiyín
Zambia vs. Cape Verde – Ebebiyín
Tunisia vs. DR Congo – Bata