As typical in most African countries; primary school is tough. Tiny buttocks pressed against some piece of hard wood and slightly lifted above the knee my history teacher always thought I knew nothing about Niger but that was not until I explained to the whole class the place where the remains of dinosaur ‘Nigersaurus’ were discovered. So now as I listen to a Dj mix of Salif Keita greatest songs one things crosses my mind; Fally Ipupa is doing it great not just in Africa but also in Europe.
I don’t know who between the two copied the other but what I know; apart from Gold and Cocoa beans; Ghana’s other great export is her footballers. And so now on your favourite blog away from all the music, history, economics and my old boring school tales the Africa Cup of Nations is here and what a better way to view these countries from a footballing view than have a look at the AFCON 2013 group B preview.
FIFA RANKING; 30
Manager; Kwesi Appiah
A player himself the last time this team lifted the title; he would look to lead a side he has served as an assistant coach since 2008 after coming close severally but failing to deliver for the Black Star’s fans. A former captain of the side too; the hardest job for him just as many other coaches is how to blend the ever improving youth stars and the already established names in the squad.
Adam Kwarasey, Fatau Dauda and Daniel Agyei
Harrison Afful, John Paintsil, Richard Kissi Boateng, Wakasu Mubarak, John Boye, Isaac Vorsah, Jonathan Mensah, Awal Mohammed, Jerry Akaminko.
Anthony Annan, Derek Boateng, Rabiu Mohammed, Agyemang Badu, Solomon Asante, Albert Adomah, Christian Atsu and Kwadwo Asamoah
Asamoah Gyan, Richmond Boakye Yiadom and Emmanuel Clottey
Player to watch; Boakye Yiadom (Not many of you saw this coming but having scored once for country despite only making three appearances; the 19 year old will seek to be the perfect partner for Asamoah Gyan upfront. In 52 appearances for Sassuolo in the Italian Serie B where he is on loan from Italian giants Juventus he’s been able to ammass over 20 goals and with the AFCON being a perfect place for him to make a mark- don’t doubt it, this lad will go for the kill)
I guess Africa has not been able to see an unpredictable side like this current Ghana generation. The talent is immense; the will to succeed burns inside those young talents and with every single day; spots in the team positions are switched.
Sadly though heartbreak has followed the boys year in year out; they might as well be later mentioned as the African Champions we never had. Once again this year; some notable names will be absent from the team sheet in South Africa. While others are out of the squad because they are injured, other big names have been dropped and what a better way to prove the whole world wrong that would be should Kwesi lead this side to their fifth ever AFCON title.
The team of cause is not totally overhauled; Asamoah Gyan should lead as skipper of the side and also lead target man at the front. John Pantsil, Derek Boateng has since then got a foothold in the team and should offer inspiration for the others. A semi-final place at least would be fair for this side, but a final place would just be good. A first place finish though should put to shame all the doubters.
FIFA RANKING; 25
Coach; Patrice Carteron
Named head coach in July 2012 he’s managed to help Mali qualify for their fourth consecutive appearance at the AFCON. A defender in his hey days; he would probably look at building the team’s fortress from the back and hope Mali better their 3rd place AFCON 2012 finish.
Soumbeyla Diakite, Mamadou Samassa, Ali Yirango
Adama Coulibaly, Idrissa Coulibaly, Ousmane Coulibaly, Salif Coulibaly, Fousseni Diawara, Mahamadou Ndiaye, Adama Tamboura, Molla Wague
Sambou Diakite, Seydou Keita, Mohamed Sissoko, Samba Sow, Kalilou Traore, Mahamane Traore, Sambou Yatabare,
Cheick Diabate, Cheick F.M. Diarra, Sigamary Diarra, Modibo Maiga, Mamadou Samassa
Player to watch; Seydou Keita (Probably the perfect fit for Captain; clever player, ex Barcelona player, outstandingly proved beyond reasonable doubt why this Malian side is built around him. Scores and sets up goals but also good when the team is defending)
While most players are based in the French League; a few English elements and the return of Sissoko should make this an exciting team to watch. Diabate did score in both legs as Mali thumped Botswana 7-1 aggregately on their way to this year’s AFCON edition.
Not many expected to see Sissoko back in this midfield again after being out for so long. The PSG man has struggled in recent time with injury that has side-lined him from National team action for almost three years.
Seydou Keita should be fast approaching the end of his footballing career that has seen him play amongst the best and with players like him you always expect the best- a second or first place finish would be perfect for them but until then- they got the likes of Ghana, Niger and Congo to deal with.
FIFA RANKING; 105
Coach; Gernot Rohr
Ex Gabon coach and was hired in September 2012. The 58 year old German seeks to be the first coach to ever win with this side at the AFCON and with his experience having coached some big clubs in Europe including Nantes Niger must just do the unthinkable; surprise us
Daouda Kassaly (Chippa United/South Africa), Saminou Rabo (Sahel SC), Moussa Alzouma (AS Garde Nationale)
Mohammed Chicoto (AS Marsa/Tunisia), Koffi Dankowa (Esperance Zarzis/Tunisia), Mohamed Soumaila (Olympic Niamey), Mohamed Bachar (AS Douane), Kourouma Fatogoma (Chabab/ Morocco), Lucky James (AS Douane), Ismael Alassane, Kader Amadou (Olympic Niamey)
Karim Konaté (without club), Idrissa Laouali (Mangasport/Gabon), Issiakou Koudizé (AS Garde Nationale), Babacar Talatou (AmaZulu/South Africa), Williams N’Gonou (LB 07/Sweden), Souleymane Sakou (Olympic Niamey), Amadou Mountari (Le Mans/France), Issoufou Boubacar (Club Africain)
Moussa Maazou (Etoile du Sahel/Tunisia), Kamilou Daouda (JS Saoura/Algeria), Modibo Sidibé (free agent), Issoufou Danté (Wydad Fès/Morocco)
Player to watch; Issoufou Boubacar (If his goal against Togo in the recent friendly didn’t convince anyone this is the next big thing from Niger then here’s another chance to watch him do his stuff at the AFCON. Plying his trade in Club Africain in Tunisia, his country will greatly lie in his playmaking ability as they seek inroads in the opposition defence)
I was never going to forget this; South Africa 2012. Celebrations cut short when they suddenly realise they are not going to Gabon/Equitorial Guinea as Niger had a better head to head record despite them finishing on same points- how cruel can life be?
Things have far changed though as South Africa will this time round feature in this year’s edition as hosts. Niger though have problems of their own- their away record hasn’t been decent having lost all their three away matches in 2012.
Contrary to other teams that would rely oon individual brilliance- this team is woven around collective responsibility and cohesion that they hope will see them through to the next round. Others say it looks gloomy but just being here in itself is an achievement.
FIFA RANKING; 109
Coach; Claude Le-Roy
64 year old former French International as referred to by current Zambian Coach is ‘the best’ coach in Africa. What truth lies in the statement might be hard to gauge but one thing that stands out is that this man is full of experience in matters pertaining to African Football. He has coached Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana and is on his second spell as Congo coach amongst other teams he has coached.
Landu Bakala, Robert Kidiaba, Parfait Mandanda
Jean Kasusula, Larrys Mabiala, Chancel Mbemba, Issama Mpeko. Cedric Mongongu, Landry Mulemo, Gabriel Zakuani
Alain Kaluyituka, Deo Kanda, Youssouf Mulumbu, Cedric Makiadi, Kisombe Makuntima, Matumona Zola, Tresor Mputu.
Manzia Budje, Yves Diba, Patou Kabangu, Tresor Lomana, Dieumerci Mbokani, Luvumbu Nzinga
Player to watch; Dieumerci Mbokani (Not many words to describe him; watched him play once and he’s got some intelligent runs off the ball, of cause can score goals and does pretty well at Anderlecht. He was one of the top scorers in the qualifiers with 9 goals)
Last winners of this tournament in 1974 and previously in 1968; it’s been a long wait for this trophy and South Africa presents one of the best stage’s for the club to return to Kinshasa.
For Congo and Le-Roy it was like fate had to have him back for the country to make it to the African stage again having been the last coach to lead them to the tourney in 2006. They recalled him back in 2011 and gladly they are back.
Behind those spectacles are the eyes of a man who’s decided to stick with almost the entire squad that participated in the qualifiers. The FIFA ranking position might not really be what they want but Congo would for now do with it knowing they are back to the grand stage of African football. Expecting them to win this tourney or even make the semi-finals would be being so hard on the boys but they are a reliable and formidable side who might as well set their sights on the quarter finals in South Africa.
Yousuff Mulumbu has sown a little bit of what he can do at West Brom but now is a great stage presented to him. With the likes of Odemwingie not making it for the Nigerian squad this time; this is a perfect opportunity for him to show his West Brom bosses how much they’ll miss him.
I never end without some thoughts from some of my Twitter friends. Here @JonWeezyO gives his thoughts on the Group B and how he thinks it’s going to turn out.
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