African Cup of Nations Preview: Groups C & D
The Sport Review continues to preview what promises to be an eventful three weeks of competition in Angola.
Group C: Egypt, Nigeria, Mozambique, Benin:
Ever present in the finals since 1984 and defending champions, the Pharaohs will be hoping for a good tournament to banish the heartbreak of missing out on a World Cup berth at the hands of deadly rivals Algeria. Veteran Coach Hassan Shehata must lift his side for the finals but can look to their impressive tournament pedigree having won the trophy on six occasions. They will look to progress into the knock-out phase from a relatively easy group.
Ones to watch – Hossam Ghaly is their inspiration in midfield with the fire-power being provided by Borussia Dortmund’s Mohamed Zidan.
The Super Eagles are by far Africa’s biggest footballing nation and with it comes immense pressure in the Cup of Nations. Surprisingly, they have only won the tournament on two other occasions with their last success being back in 1994. Legendary Coach Shuaibu Amodu has been given the task of bringing the trophy back to Nigeria for a third time and nothing less will be acceptable.
Ones to watch – Everton’s Joseph Yobo will anchor the defence with Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel orchestrating things from the midfield. Look out for Hoffenheim’s Chinedu Obasi in attack alongside veteran Kanu.
It is 12 years since the Mambas have qualified for the finals and Dutch coach Mart Nooij has been talking his side up ahead of the finals. Since he took over in 2007, Nooij has overseen a renaissance in the country’s footballing fortunes with the country climbing 50 places in the FIFA World Rankings to 72nd spot. Whether the Mambas can upset the form book here remains to be seen.
Ones to watch – Defender Simao is currently playing in Greece at Panathinaikos with striker Goncalves Fumo playing for Olimpiakos.
– The Squirrels will be at the tournament for the third time with the emphasis firmly on gaining invaluable experience. With many of the country’s players plying their trade in France, Coach Michel Dussuyer will tell his players to give it their best shot and enjoy the trappings that come with appearing in such a high profile event.
Ones to watch – Plymouth Argyle fans will be interested in the performance of their defender Reda Johnson. Nice striker Mickael Pote will lead the attack.
Group D: Cameroon, Gabon, Zambia, Tunisia:
With four Cup of Nations titles to their name, The Indomitable Lions will surely go close again this time around. Experienced coach Paul Le Guen will expect his side to make it to the knockout phase with a minimum of fuss and then look to move up the gears from the quarter-final stage.
Ones to watch – Goalkeeper Carlos Kameni is only 25 but is already a Cup of Nations veteran as his the old warhorse himself Rigobert Song. In attack will be one of Africa’s greatest ever players Samuel Eto’o who will look to lead his country to glory.
The Panthers return to the tournament after an absence of ten years. At the helm is France legend “little” Alain Giresse – an accomplished player and part of the wonderful French side of the early eighties. Now he looks to take one of the tournament’s under-dogs into the knockout phase – a tall ask indeed. Gabon will be eager to produce a good showing here as they will be co-hosting the 2012 tournament with Equatorial Guinea.
Ones to watch – QPR’s Daniel Cousin will lead the line alongside Lille striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
– Coach Herve Renard has set his team the target of at least a quarter-final spot – something that Zambia have not achieved for fourteen years since the tournament was held in South Africa in 1996. If the squad can answer the rallying cry of their manager, it will be seen as a vast improvement on the country’s performances at the last 5 tournaments where they have failed to get out of the group phase.
Ones to watch – Midfielder Rainford Kalaba plays in Portugal for Sporting Braga whilst striker Jacob Mulenga is currently playing in Holland for FC Utrecht.
– The Carthage Eagles won the tournament on home soil in 2004 but at present are a team trying to get over the disappointment of failure to qualify for this summer’s World Cup. Coach Faouzi Benzarti will try to lift his players for the country’s 14th appearance in the finals. A straight shoot-out between Zambia for the second qualification spot looks likely so the fixture on the 13th of January will be one of the early highlights of the tournament.
Ones to watch – Hannover 96 defender Karim Haggui is only 25 but has vast international experience whilst exciting Nice midfielder Chaouki Ben Saada, could be one of the tournaments most influential players.