African Nations Cup 2012
No one knows if it’s called the Cup of African Nations, The African Nations Cup, or the African Cup of Nations. It’s more like a party than a football tournament. The kits are really good too, and there is even some writing about them at the bottom of this article.
Co-hosts Equatorial Guinea will hope to collect points from games against Libya and Zambia in order to continue a tradition of host success in the tournament. More often than not the hosts get at least as far as the semi-finals, and teams on home soil have won the tournament on 11 occasions. However, we are led to believe that these stats can get fairly boring and tedious, and will no doubt be repeated on many other awesome football blogs, so here’s some information about the players to watch in group A. You can read about the players, then watch them on TV on Eurosport! (or ITV)
The group A team not mentioned above, is Senegal, as the group games should be a formality for them. Newcastle striker Demba Ba will be familiar to English viewers, but Senegal have a wealth of attacking talent which might mean Ba isn’t an automatic starter, even on current form. Moussa Sow, Lille’s prolific striker, has scored more than a goal per game for his current club, as had Newcastle’s newest recruit Papiss Cisse at previous club Eintracht Frankfurt. Cisse also boasts a similar record for his country having 7 goals from his 12 caps.
The “backup” isn’t bad either – Dame N’Doye is another prolific forward with more than a goal per game for his club FC Copenhagen – and two players who might now be considered old stagers for Senegal, Mamadou Niang and Souleymane Camara, will bring some vital experience to the front line. Ba, Cisse, N’Doye and Sow all turn 27 this year, so should be at their prolific peak, and should ensure Senegal are one of the most potent attacking threats in the tournament.
Meanwhile, Zambia will be looking to winger Christopher Katongo, and penalty taking goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene to help them try to match their impressive outing at the last tournament in Sudan, where they reached the quarter finals and were unlucky to exit after a penalty shootout. Libya will hope that experienced players Ahmed Sa’ad, and goalkeeper/captain Samir Aboud, can help improve on a poor record in the competition, and carry the team to the knockout phase against the odds.
And it’s worth pointing out that Equatorial Guinea have a player named Randy.
Bertrand Traore of Chelsea and Burkina Faso
Surely Didier Drogba, Didier Zokora, Emmanuel Eboue, and the Toure brothers are due an African Nations Cup winners medal. This year Ivory Coast also posses a strong supporting cast with Cheick Tiote of Newcastle bolstering the midfield even further, and secret weapon Seydou Doumbia set to play a part as an impact player. The striker has 33 goals from 41 games in all competitions for CSKA Moscow so far this season, which includes 5 in 5 in the Champions League.
Angola have reached the quarter finals in the last two tournaments, and key players such as left winger Gilberto, and former Manchester United great Manucho will be hoping to take the team into the knockout rounds. They will have to overcome a competitive looking Burkina Faso team who can boast a squad which includes Bakary Kone of Lyon in defence, Marseille midfield general Charles Kabore, pacy midfielder Jonathan Pitropia, and striker Alain Traore. 16 year old Chelsea academy player Bertrand Traore was a surprise call up, and Burkina Faso hope the real surprise will be when his natural ability is sprung upon the opposition defence!
Sudan play in red.
Morocco are the favourites to win group C, but could face stiff competition from Gabon and Tunisia. Marouane Chamakh will be looking to increase his profile at this international showcase, after falling out of favour with Arsene Wenger. The Moroccan striker has only played a handful of games for Arsenal this season, but still has a league goal to his name. The Atlas Lions will be hoping a lack of playing time doesn’t affect his sharpness in front of goal. Luckily for them, they also have players such as Oussama Assaidi and Mbark Boussuoufa on the wings, and the gifted Adel Taarabt to create and score in numerous situations if he feels like it.
Pierre Emerick Aubameyang
The Gabon squad contains several players whose potential, if realised, could see them qualify for the knock out rounds, especially if you take into account the aforementioned record of host teams. Striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang began his career at Milan and also made an appearance for France U21s during this time, but a possible lack of opportunities in both these teams lead to a move to Saint Etienne of Ligue 1, and a switch of international allegiance to Gabon, for whom his father made 80 appearances. A player to watch out for at the other end of the pitch will be centre back Bruno Ecuele Manga, who has been compared to Christopher Samba in this excellent ones to watch article on the Roker Report. Blackburn would do well to take a gamble on a player whose value might increase significantly after this tournament, depending on Gabon’s progress, as it seems likely that their current African star will be departing this January.
The final two teams in Group C were late to qualify for the tournament proper, and both qualified under dramatic circumstances. Tunisia summoned the spirit of their country’s revolution to beat Togo in the final must win qualifying game, but they still had to rely on Chad getting at least a draw against Malawi to qualify. With Malawi 2-1 up after 90 minutes it looked like The Flames would go through, but a 94th minute equaliser from Chad saw the superiorly nicknamed Eagles of Carthage qualify in second place. Meanwhile, Niger were the beneficiaries on a right balls up by South Africa, who were hanging on for a draw in their final game not realising that the table was organised using the results of matches between the top 3, rather than the goal difference they were relying on. South Africa celebrated, but Niger went through.
The unfortunate South African team celebrate what they thought was qualification for this year's African Nations tournament.
Ghana are widely considered to be Ivory Coast’s main competition for this year’s prize… But maybe they should be the favourites after their impressive World Cup in 2010. They were only denied a semi-final place by an unfortunate series of events involving the hand of Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, an awful penalty miss by their star striker Asamoah Gyan, and a penalty shoot-out. It’ll be interesting to see how Gyan plays after spending this season on loan at Al Ain in the UAE, which is surely a level or six lower than his talents warrant.
A whole host of young Ghanaians will be hoping to step into the spotlight during this tournament, as the next wave of talent looks to continue Ghana’s history of success in the competition. Attacking full back Daniel Opare, midfielder Mohammed Abu (on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt from Manchester City), and Marseille striker Jordan Ayew, will be hoping to play a part, joining other emerging players such as Isaac Vorsah, Emmanuel Badu, Kwadwo Asamoah, and Samuel Inkoom by establishing themselves in the national side at an early age.
Mali will offer the biggest threat to Ghana’s hopes of winning group D. Boasting a few useful strikers in the shape of Modibo Maiga, Cheick Diabate, and Freiburg’s record signing Garra Dembele, the manager could decide to ditch the usual 4-5-1 formation and make use of these attacking options. However, the return to the national team of Barcelona’s Seydou Keita, could mean that they play him just off Maiga in front of a midfield of Traore, Traore, Traore, and Traore. A team selection which television commentators will be dreading.
Which brings us to Botswana. Their striker Jerome Ramatlhakwane will be hoping to trouble opposition defences as much as he troubles the commentators, as The Zebras seek to cause a few upsets after qualifying for the tournament for the first time ever. Guinea complete group D, and exciting young forward Alhassane Bangoura of Rayo Vallecano will be looking to form a potent strike partnership with his more experienced namesake Ismael.
The usually striking African national team kits have taken things one step further this year. Kit makers Puma asked an artist from each country to design their respective countries kit with some interesting results. Expect to see pictures of elephants, panthers, and lions, as well as some striking designs such as the rosettes of Namibia, Islamic patterns of Algeria, and the Boabab tree of Senegal.
African Nations 2012 Kits