Friday, January 20, 2012


By the time you are reading this, the 2012 edition of the African cup of nations would have kicked off, this year’s edition, co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, is set to be the ace in the park. From 1957 when the trio of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia competed, it has grown to be a top tourney rated highly by FIFA. Africa is ready to give a dose of their talents and the rest of the world is waiting and watching, runs through the groups, and gives an assessment on teams and their chances.

Host Equatorial Guinea kick off their campaign with a game against dark Horses Libya, the hosts will try to steal this one from the Libyans, who would not be an easy prey, giving all the problems Libya went through playing their qualifiers away from home and the attendant crisis last year, they have a mental strength that will be hard to break down. Their recent friendly game against tournament favorites CIV has given a cue to their potentials, Captain Rodolfo Bodipo will lead his charges out, hoping to garner three points that will put them in a good stead to qualify for the last eight. The Chipolopolo of Zambia would love to honor the memories of those that died in the 1993 disaster which took place of the coast of Gabon, it’s an emotion one for the copper belt nation, and they would love to gone one far than they did in the last edition when they were knocked out in the quarters by absentees Nigeria. Their charge will be lead by old war horse Collins Mbesuma, ably supported by James Chamanga and Isaac Chansa, I personally reason that youngster Evan Kangwa will be a revelation if given the chance by Coach Rene Harve. Senegal are definitely going to be top favorites to nick the top spot in this group, parading an awesome strike force of Moussa Sow, Newcastle duo of Papiss Demba Cisse and Demba Ba and the towering Souleymane Diawara of Olympic Marseille, captain Mamadou Niang of Turkish outfit Fenerbache, would want to use this tournament to end his international career on a high, coach Amara Traore says he is optimistic his wards can do the business this time out.

Predictions: Senegal, Zambia to qualify


Perennial tournament favorites Ivory Coast will want to prove their doubters wrong and go all the way this time out, the “golden generation” want to bury the ghosts and deliver, expectations are quite high this time out and many feel it’s now or never. The elephants last won the trophy some twenty years ago, when Senegal hosted in 1992. Led by Chelsea power house Didier Drogba, Gervinho, Seydou Doumbia of CSKA Moscow  and Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, they have enough in their arsenal to match the heroics of the set of 1992, but can they get past their egos and play as a team is left to be seen, Coach Francois Zahoui would certainly hope so. Sudan, which hosted the first ever AFCON cones into this tourney as underdogs, they have a team wholly based in Sudan and mainly from the El Merriek club, the positive side is that the Sudanese are a cohesive unit and have an understanding that most teams don’t, Coach Mohammad Abdallah will hope his charges go one better than they did at Ghana 2008 where they failed to score and conceded nine goals, he will rely on captain Haitham Mostapha to lead his team the charge, the ‘’Nile Crocodiles’’ will hope to prove their doubters wrong and do well at the tournament.
Burkina Faso come into the tournament against the backdrop of their case with Namibia at the Court for Arbitration for sports in Geneva, this affected their preparation, but whether it will affect them is left to be seen. Players like Jonathan Pitriopa of Rennes will lead the line, with the likes of Alan Traore will hold forth in the middle, Coach Paulo Duarte also named Chelsea youngster Bertrand Traore 16, in the final squad. Mohammed Kere will be the main man in defence as the Burkinabe’s try to do better than they did at Angola 2006.
Angola which hosted the last edition in 2010 will want to prove a point this time out, they have a team that has been together for a long time, in Flavio they have a seasoned AFCON campaigner and he will lead others like Manucho and Love, Coach Lito Vidigal has kept faith with the bulk of the squad from the 2010 edition and he hopes that blend with youngsters like Djalma can steer them to the promise land.

Predictions: CIV and Burkina Faso to qualify

Gabon, who are co-hosting will hope to give their fans a tournament to remember, by going all the way, the government has poured in millions to prepare the team, and it is hoped they live up to expectations, St Etienne forward Pierre Emerick Aubamegyang will lead the pack alongside veteran Daniel Cousin. The ‘Panthers’ are coached by Gernot Rohr and definitely do have their work cut out due to the presence of Northern African giants Morocco and Tunisia, they will be buoyed by the recent victory of the U23’s at the Olympic qualifiers in Morocco, four members of that squad are part of the Gabonese team for the AFCON tourney. Niger have a mountain to climb in this group, I spent some time with the squad last year and they are emerging force on the, I watched them beat South Africa in Niamey last year and they were quite impressive, Coach Harouna Doula told me “ I have a team that will shock Africa, we have been building this team for  three years now, with the support of FENAFOOT we shall get there”, the star man is big striker Moussa Maazou, who has played in Belgium, France and Russia, the support cast includes captain Idrissa Laouli ,Talatou Boubacar, goalkeeper Kasali Daouda from Cotonsport  of Cameroun and emerging youngster Oliver Aidel of Lille FC of France, though a team on the rise, 2012 comes to soon to realize their potentials. The Atlas Lions Morocco, losing finalists in 2004, wants to go one far and pick the coveted trophy this time out, coached by Belgian Eric Gerets, the come into the tournament as one of the favorites, their array of stars will ensure they do the job, Arsenal’s Maroune Chamakh will lead the front alongside Adel Taarabt, and the diminutive midfielder Mbark Bousaffa. The team is laced with a blend of youth and experience, the clash with Tunisia will be the key in this group and whoever nicks it will surely make the next round. Tunisia known as the Carthage Eagles will want to prove their dominance of continental club competitions is no fluke, Coach Sami Trabelsi will count on Ousama Darragi, Aymen Abdenour and Captain Karim Haggui, winners in 2004 when they hosted, they would want to have a taste of the coveted crown once again, they had their preparations in the UAE where they tested their strengths against Sudan and CIV, they will be hoping Issam Jomaa regains full fitness before the tournament begins

Predictions: Gabon and Morocco to qualify

Four time winners Ghana, come into this tournament as one the favorites, their world cup run where they nearly got into the semi finals is still fresh on the minds of many Africans, and they still have the nucleus of that squad with more experience to add for good measure. Coach Goran Stevanovic will count on the experience of John Mensah and Isaac Vorsah at the back while goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey will be his making his AFCON debut, the talented Kwadwo Asamoah and Sulley Muntari  will hold sway in the midfield, if they show the type of grit and mental strength of 2010, then the final will definitely in sight , the major issue is the fitness of striker Asamoah Gyan in whom the Ghanaian attack is built, If he gets fit then count Ghana in. Botswana, who were the first to qualify for the tournament , and want to show it wasn’t a fluke, like Niger are making their AFCON debut and not much is expected of them, though Coach Stanley Tshosane doesn’t agree.  The ‘Zebras’ want to put Botswana on the African map by performing well in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. They are in a bit of quandary because star striker Dipsy Selolwane will miss the first group game, so Jerome Ramathlhakwane will lead the line, having beaten Tunisia home and away, they shouldn’t be written off. Mali provided one the highlights of the last edition when they clawed back from four goals down to level with hosts.  French legend Alan Giresse will be at the head this time as Mali tries to win the trophy, they are weakened by the international retirement of Freddie Kanoute and the injury to defender Adama Coulibaly, Barcelona’s Seydou Keita makes a return after missing most of the qualifiers, the attack should feature upstart Garra Dembele and Sochaux’s want-away striker Modibo Maiga. Guinea knocked out Nigeria to get to the finals and this is no mean feat which suggests they should not be taken lighty, they missed the last tournament in Angola and hope to make up for their absence by lifting the trophy. The ‘Syli National’ as they are known play a fluid passing game anchored by old war horse Pascal Feinduno who has relinquished the captaincy to Kamil Zayatte who was once on the books of Hull City, Michel Dussuyer has named a old war horse Dianbobo Balde in the squad and he will hope he gets fit when the tourney kicks off, Spain based exciting youngster Allassane Bangura is a player I am looking forward to watching as his pacy runs and dribbles always creates openings for the attackers.

Predictions: Ghana and Guinea to qualify

I expect a fantastic tournament and also a few upsets to spice things up, youngsters to watch out for include, Evans Kangwa ( Zambia)  Garra Dembele ( Mali) Alan Traore ( Burkina Faso) Allasane Bangura (Guinea) Bakari Kone ( Burkina Faso )

By Andrew Randa


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