The assumption is that former champions the Ivory Coast, Morocco and South Africa will wage a private war in Group D at the Africa Cup of Nations with Namibia helpless onlookers.
But Namibia coach Ricardo Mannetti questions that belief ahead of the June 21-July 19 tournament in Egypt.
"I would like to remind the big boys that even small dogs have teeth," warned the former national team midfielder.
Namibia have met all their Group D rivals before at the Cup of Nations without success -- conceding five goals against Morocco and four each against the Ivory Coast and South Africa.
Here, AFP Sport looks at a group considered the strongest of the six in the first round with only the winners and runners-up guaranteed round-of-16 places
The Ivorians experienced ecstasy and agony in the last two editions, winning the 2015 final in Equatorial Guinea and crashing out after the first round two years ago in Gabon.
It is difficult to fathom how the class of 2019 will fare except to note that they have an attack that many rivals must envy.
Only French superstar Kylian Mbappe scored more Ligue 1 goals last season than Nicolas Pepe and Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has tormented many Premier League defenders.
Coach Ibrahim Kamara will also be encouraged by the form of clubless Wilfried Bony, a 2015 Cup of Nations winner who bagged a brace in a recent warm-up match.
Verdict: Probable quarter-finalists; possible semi-finalists
The pressure is on the Cup of Nations coach with the winning touch, Frenchman Herve Renard, to bring the trophy back to Morocco after a 43-year absence.
Morocco finished first ahead of Guinea in 1976 in the only Cup of Nations decided exclusively by groups, but have reached only one final since, losing to 2004 hosts Tunisia.
Renard is the only coach to win the Cup of Nations with different countries, leading outsiders Zambia to glory in 2012 and repeating the feat with underachieving Ivory Coast three years later.
He has retained most of the squad that impressed at the World Cup last year without managing a win and Ajax Amsterdam winger Hakim Ziyech is among those on whom he will rely.
Verdict: Likely finals include Morocco against Egypt
Unlike Kamara, Renard and South Africa coach Stuart Baxter, there is no pressure on Mannetti, who admits his team are lucky just to be in Egypt.
Trounced 4-1 by Zambia in the final qualifying round, the Brave Warriors made it because leaders Guinea-Bissau snatched a stoppage-time draw to deprive Mozambique of second place.
At least Mannetti knows what to expect as Namibia have conceded 13 goals in Cup of Nations matches against the Ivorians, Moroccans and South Africans.
"We do not expect to win the competition, but we need to qualify more often," says the coach. "Once every 10 years or so is not going to get us anywhere."
Verdict: it would be a sensation if they survived first round
South Africa go to Egypt as one of the most unpredictable teams.
Bafana Bafana scaled the heights at the outset of 2019 qualifying by winning 2-0 in Nigeria, then sank into mediocrity by drawing 0-0 away to lowly ranked Seychelles.
England-born Baxter blamed the pitch in the Seychelles for the failure to score -- the same surface where Libya netted eight times.
Much will depend on the form of wide attacker Percy Tau, who was loaned to a Belgian second division club last season after signing for Premier League outfit Brighton.
Verdict: Anything is possible with Bafana
In just a few days the CAN will begin, nine members of Morocco’s national squad will participate in the continental cup for the first time.
By Morocco World News -
Rabat – Nine of the 23 players selected by Atlas Lions coach, Herve Renard, for the CAN 2019 will be competing in the African Cup for the first time.
The squad, including the nine novices, will take part in the 32nd CAN tournament, scheduled from June 21 to July 19 In Egypt.
The players new to CAN are : Hakim Ziyech, Oussama Idrissi, Abdelkarim Baadi, Mehdi Bourbiaa, Yunis Abdelhamid, Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti, Soufiane Boufal, Achraf Hakimi.
The national team, marked by controversy since the exit of Abderazzak Hamdallah from the team’s training camp on Thursday, lost 1-0 to Gambia. The friendly match on June 12 was part of the team’s training for CAN.
Speaking from Marrakech Stadium on Wednesday, June 13, the coach made a statement. “I have faith in my players and I am sure they will be playing a nice African Nations Cup in Egypt.”
“Friendly matches can be a very important deadline for this group, as the objective is to do better than the 2017 CAN, that is, to reach at least the semifinals,” he added.
He finished by saying “Friendly matches are not the main thing for me, letting me know that the group, which was surprised by Gambia today, must know how to get through some difficult challenges.”
Very ambitious during the last World Cup, the Atlas Lions are keen to go far in this African Cup of Nations.
In order to move towards winning the title, the team must first defeat Namibia, Ivory Coast and South Africa in Group D.
Over the past few months numerous football figures have commented on the strength of Morocco’s team going into the competition. Claude Le Roy, an experienced football manager and former player has predicted that Morocco and Senegal will be among the top teams in CAN 2019.
“The most prominent group is Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa and Namibia. This group is complicated but Morocco seems to me to be above the competition. Atlas Lions will have everything to gain and I think it’s a pretty comfortable situation,” he said.
By Morocco World News
Before the statement was released, rumors ran wild that the footballer walked out the camp due to issues he encountered with his teammates.
Rabat – Morocco’s Royal Football Federation (FRMF) has issued a statement commenting on the decision of Abderrazak Hamdallah to leave the training camp where the Moroccan team was training in preparation for the 2019 African Cup of Nations (CAN).
The statement announced that the head coach of the Moroccan national football team, Herve Renard, has replaced Hamdallah with Abdelkarim Baadi.
FRMF claimed that Renard made this decision as Hamdallah cannot participate in the CAN due to “back and hip injuries confirmed by medical tests.”
The federation added that the player will undergo a medical examination tomorrow, June 14.
The statement comes as a surprise to Moroccan football fans and observers as the footballer appeared in good shape during the friendly game against Gambia yesterday, on June 12.
In the wake of the team’s loss to Gambia, speculation spread on social media suggesting that Hamdallah left the camp after issues he faced with some members of the Moroccan squad.
Several Moroccan football fans argue that the move was due to a friction between the footballer and his teammates.
Facebook page Hassad Al Kora quoted close sources close to the Moroccan national team, saying that the footballer was not treated well by the rest of the team.
Several sports news outlets also said that the major cause of his exit was a rift with his teammate Faycal Fajr during Wednesday’s friendly match between Morocco and Gambia on Wednesday.
During the game, Hamdallah was supposed to kick a penalty for the Atlas Lions in the second half. To the surprise of football fans, Fajr took the ball from Hamdallah’s hand and played the penalty instead.
The Atlas Lions will take part in the 2019 CAN, which will kick off on June 21 in Egypt. Renard has already announced his lineup for the competition.
By BBC Sports
Morocco coach Herve Renard has replaced Abderrazak Hamdallah in his 23-man squad for next week's Africa Cup of Nations after the striker picked up an injury.
He is replaced by defender Abdelkarim Baadi, who plays for Moroccan side Hassania Agadir, for the tournament in Egypt.
A statement from the Morocco Football Federation explained that Hamdallah has a "back and hip injury and the medical staff have decided he cannot complete the training camp nor play at the Nations Cup."
The federation added he would undergo further 'rigorous tests' on Friday.
He played in Wednesday evening's surprise 1-0 loss to The Gambia in Marrakech and had left the pitch angry that he had not been allowed to take a last minute penalty that was missed by Faycal Fajr.
Hamdallah was included in Renard's squad after a record-breaking season in Saudi Arabia, that saw him score 34 goals in 30 league games as Al Nassr won the league.
His tally broke the all-time record for goals in a Saudi Arabian season.
It was the first time since Renard took over as coach that he had included Hamdallah in a squad.
Johannesburg (AFP) - Morocco, one of the favourites to win the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, suffered a surprise 1-0 warm-up match loss in Marrakech Wednesday to non-qualifiers the Gambia.
The unexpected outcome can partly be explained by Morocco coach Herve Renard making numerous substitutions in the first of two friendly fixtures before heading to Egypt for the finals.
Musa Barrow, who plays for Serie A club and 2019/2020 UEFA Champions League qualifiers Atalanta, scored the match-winner on 27 minutes at Stade de Marrakech.
It was the second victory for the lowly ranked Gambians over a Cup of Nations qualifier within six days after they defeated Guinea 1-0 last Friday in the same city.
Morocco are in Group D with fellow former champions the Ivory Coast and South Africa and rank outsiders Namibia.
The group is considered the toughest of the six to qualify from and only the winners and runners-up are guaranteed places in the round-of-16 knockout stage.
Goalkeeper: Ratanda Mbazuvara, Loydt Kazapua, Max Mbaeva.
Defenders: Ryan Nyambe, Larry Horaeb, Denzil Haoseb, Ivan Kamberipa, Charles Hambira, Riaan Hanamub, Ananias Gebhardt.
Midfielders: Absalom Iimbondi, Willy Stephanus, Petrus Shitembi, Ronald Ketjijere, Dynamo Fredericks, Marcel Papama, Manfred Starke, Deon Hotto.
Forwards: Itamunua Keimuine, Benson Shilongo, Peter Shalulile, Joslyn Kamatuka and Isaskar Gurirab.
Here's the squad list:
Yassine Bounou (Girona), Mounir El Kajoui (Malaga), Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti (Wydad Casablanca)
Yunis Abdelhamid (Stade Reims), Medhi Benatia (Al Duhail, captain), Manuel da Costa (Al Ittihad), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahce), Achraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund), Noussair Mazraoui (Ajax Amsterdam), Romain Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Youssef Ait Bennasser (St Etienne), Younes Belhanda (Galatasaray), Mehdi Bourabia (Sassuolo), Mbark Boussoufa (Al Shabab), Karim El Ahmadi (Al Ittihad), Faycal Fajr (Caen), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax Amsterdam)
Nordin Amrabat (Al Nasr), Sofiane Boufal (Celta Vigo), Khalid Boutaib (Zamalek, Egypt), Youssef En-Nesyri (Leganes), Abderrazak Hamdallah (Al Nasr), Oussama Idrissi (AZ Alkmaar).
Herve Renard will be out on mission to cement his legacy in African Football with a third AFCON trophy to his resume and this time he wants to do it with Morocco.
The French born coach boasts of a bag full of experience having led Zambia and the Côte d’Ivoiré to glory in 2012 and 2015 respectively.
Morocco have made 17 appearances at the AFCON. Their first and only title came at the tenth edition hosted by Ethiopia in 1976. At this time the tournament was held in group format with only 8 teams participating. The first stage was split in two groups with the top two teams qualifying to the final group of four. In the second phase, Morocco came out top after a 1-1 draw with runners up Guinea. Nigeria and Egypt occupied the third and fourth spot respectively.
The Atlas Lions will be hoping to replicate the victory in 1976 by navigating through a tournament that has seen a shift from 16 teams to 24, the highest in the competition’s history.
It’s been a while since Morocco tasted African glory. Only thing that is as near as good was a brace of Chan trophies in 2014 and 2018.
Coach Renard will heavily count on Dutch-based duo, Hakim Ziyech and Noussair Mezraoui both with Ajax, Borussia Dortmund left back Achraf Hakim and the experience Al-Duhail defender Medhi Benatia.
Morocco is drawn alongside Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa and Namibia in Group D.
Goalkeepers: Mounir El Kajoui (Malaga, Spain), Yassine Bounou (Girona, Spain), Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti (Wydad Athletic Club), Abdelali Mhamdi (RS Berkane, Morocco)
Defenders: Marouane Da Costa (Ittihad Jeddah, Saudi Arabia), Ghanem Saiss (Wolverhampton, England), Mehdi Benatia (Al-Duhail Sports, Qatar), Achraf Hakimi (Dortmund, Germany), Abdelhamid Yunis (Stade de Reims, France), Noussair Mazroaui (Ajax, Netherlands), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbache, Turkey.
Midfielders: Karim El Ahmadi Arroussi (Al Ittihad, Saudi Arabia), Youssef Aït Bennasser (St Etienne, France), M’barek Boussoufa (Al-Shabab, Saudi Arabia), Younès Belhanda (Galatasaray, Turkey), Fayçal Fajr (Caen, France), Abdelkrim Baadi (Hassania of Agadir, Morocco, Mehdi Bourabia (Sassuolo, Italy), Amine Harit (Schalke 04, Germany)
Forwards: Nordin Amrabat (Al-Nasr, Saudi Arabia), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax Amsterdam, Netherlands), Ayoub El Kaâbi (Hebei China Fortune FC, China), Khalid Boutaïb (Zamalek, Egypt), Youssef En-Nesyri (Leganes , Spain), Soufiane Boufal (Celta Vigo, Spain), Osama Idrissi (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Abderazzak Hamddalh (Al Nassr, Saudi Arabia).