African Nations Cup set to get underway
Published: 27.01.13 / Written by: David Gold
The African Nations Cup kicked off some time ago in South Africa, with the hosts taking on Cape Verde.
The African Nations Cup kicks off this weekend in South Africa, with the hosts taking on Cape Verde. There are major absentees again, with Cameroon, Egypt and Senegal all absent from the 2013 event. It will be an opportunity for South Africa to finally achieve something on the pitch after a difficult few years. They have been hit by the blow of Steven Pienaar retiring from international football last year, but they still have the talent to progress from a group which also includes Morocco and Angola. The Moroccans look a strong side coming into this tournament. They may not have Adel Taraabt but Younes Belhanda is arguably the best playmaker on the continent and should link well with Abdelazziz Barrada and Liverpool’s Oussama Assaidi. They have the skill and goals to go far in this tournament.
Cape Verde are actually the top ranked African side of those in their group, ahead of the Moroccans. The Cape Verdeans will hope to spring another shock after stunning Cameroon in the qualifiers to reach this stage. They have few names of note but organisation and skill could take them far. They will face fellow Portuguese speakers Angola, who will hope to do better than last year, but who will have a tough ask to get out of the group stage.
Group B pits Ghana against Mali, Niger and DR Congo. Ghana should qualify, they have the strongest team in the group and boast the talents of Kwadwo Asamoah. However they are not as strong as they have been in the past and Mali could shock them. With Seydou Keita paired with Momo Sissoko, the Malians have talent and quality, and can go far after reaching the semi finals in last year’s tournament, like Ghana. DR Congo look the best equipped to challenge those two for a quarter final place, and have some talented stars in their ranks, but it would still be a surprise if they reach the last eight. Niger crashed out at the group stage last year and there are few signs they will do any better this.
Group C includes last year’s surprise winners Zambia. They will not be expected to win again but they have the quality and tactical sophistication. Coach Herve Renard showed why he is rated so highly with the victory in Gabon last year, and his squad can go far again. Nigeria are looking like they are a rising power once again, and have plenty of firepower with Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike. Ethiopia are an unknown quality with few stars but they are back in the African Nations Cup for the first time in 30 years and have been impressive in recent months, and drew with Tunisia during the build up to this tournament. Burkina Faso do not lack quality either, and can boast the talent of attacker Alain Traore, who has been brilliant of late for Lorient in Ligue 1.
The winner will be expected to come from Group D though, which includes Ivory Coast. As seems to be standard practise for the Indomitable Lions, they are in the group of death in this tournament, along with Tunisia, Algeria and Togo. They will have bad memories of Algeria, who beat them in a dramatic quarter final in 2010, whilst Tunisia are another former winner with quality. But after years of upheaval they may struggle to get to the last eight like last year. Togo are back after withdrawing from the 2010 event in Angola after their team coach was fired upon.
It should be a fascinating contest in 2010, with a number of leading nations looking to restore their reputations on the continent. Ivory Coast, Morocco, Ghana and Nigeria have all failed to win the tournament for many years, and will be looking to end that barren spell. Will the winner be one of these giants? Or will it be another surprise name, like reigning champions Zambia? Mali, South Africa, Algeria and Tunisia will all be threats. And underdogs Cape Verde and Ethiopia could spring a surprise.