African Nations Championship: Complete CHAN 2021 Preview
Ed Dove
January 15, 2021
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midfielder Gnama Akate.

The captain was one of the underrated stars of their WAFU campaign, and his ability to control midfield will be critical to their hopes of escaping from the opening round.

"We're representing an entire nation so there's no margin for error," he told Fifa.com ahead of the tournament.

Akate, 29, may still harbour faint hopes of reaching Europe -- it's a considerable surprise that he hasn't crossed the Mediterranean yet in his career -- but Cameroon's Jacques Zoua has returned to Africa following 11 years in Europe.

An AFCON winner with Cameroon in 2017, Zoua has been without a contract since leaving Romanian side Viitorul Constanta last year after leaving the club in the midst of the COVID crisis.

He returned to his homeland, having not played in Cameroon since 2009, and ended up sticking around -- despite overtures from Europe -- to represent the Lions at the CHAN.

"The supervisor of the local national team called me and said: 'Jacques, your country needs you for the CHAN, we need your qualities and your experience'," Zoua said. "Without reflection, I agreed, because you don't say no to your country."

Zoua's relationship up front with ex-FC Sion forward Yannick Ndjeng could make the difference between a strong showing for the hosts -- who have been underwhelming in their warm-up games -- and a repeat of 2018's group-stage exit.

Uganda veteran and cult favourite Tony Mawejje is another experienced campaigner who's returned to domestic football after 11 years abroad in Iceland, Norway and Albania among other nations.

He was part of the Cranes side that returned to the AFCON after a 39-year wait in 2017, and his calm, composure and flashes of ingenuity will underpin this new-look Uganda team.

Ricky Tulenge is one to watch from DRC, as he is a veteran of the 2016 CHAN triumph rebuilding his career in his homeland and with the Leopards after a move to Moroccan side Difaa El Jadida didn't work out.
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