As a young mathematician in my high school days; I loved solving every kind of mathematics problem I came across. Years have since gone and I for the obvious reason came across football and the more I got engrossed into it- the love affair grew even stronger. The love for Mathematics never died; in-fact it got stronger. I looked at team’s qualification routes, some teams scored several goals but some footballing rules that borrow a lot from mathematics called ‘away goals’ did knock them out eventually. Others for the simple reason of (1+1=2) got to the other side pretty easy though.
Come on are you ready for a footballing journey? Are you ready for a footballing journey? This is going to be close I think. The AFCON GROUP C preview is here, enjoy!
FIFA RANKING; 34
Coach; Herve Renard
A famous figure in Zambian football circles, he’s a king in his own right having won the previous edition of the AFCON. He’s built his team around team work, discipline and a never say die attitude. The Frenchman sees DR Congo coach Claude Le-Roy as his mentor and is Africa’s reigning coach of the year.
Kennedy Mweene, Joshua Titima and Daniel Munyau.
Stopilla Sunzu, Hichani Himonde, Francis Kasonde, Davies Nkausu, Joseph Musonda and Emmanuel Mbola.
Rainford Kalaba, Nathan Sinkala, Mukuka Mulenga, Isaac Chansa, Chisamba Lungu, Felix Katongo, Noah Chivuta and William Njobvu.
Emmanuel Mayuka, Collins Mbesuma, Jacob Mulenga, James Chamanga, Jonas Sakuwaha and Christopher Katongo.
Player to watch; Emmanuel Mayuka (Not only does he illicit interest just in Zambia and Africa but the Southampton faithful in the UK will watch out for one they can now gladly call their own having earned a move to the Saints last year after an impressive AFCON. At only age 21; his age works for him and you probably see him in this squad for the next slightly over a decade. Lethal in his own right, he would seek to show Southampton why they badly miss his services going into the January period in the EPL.
As an East-African I’m possibly not in recent time going to forget that dramatic shootout in Kampala that ended 9-8 in favour of Zambia. Facing this side in penalties is fast becoming heartache and delight for the Copper Bullets but that’s football- you win some, you lose others.
Winners for the first time in 2012, Zambia will seek to make it two and not just two- but two in a row. A few friends of mine speaking to me on Twitter in recent time have not been happy about the Zambian game arguing they’ve not been in great form losing a few matches heading into this tourney. ‘’Could it be a case of what happened to the Italians headed into the 2006 WC?’’ one posed? Zambians wouldn’t want to imagine so for sure.
But for a team built around hard work- playing for each other and great inspiration, never lock them out. This group is already termed as the group of death by so many, but why hasn’t somebody talked about Zambia being giant killers too in their own right? A second final would be sweet, an early exit very disturbing while a title would permanently endear this group of Zambian players in the hearts of their supporters forever.
FIFA RANKING; 89
Coach; Paul Put
The 56 year old fired by Gambia for failing to qualify for the 2012 showpiece was appointed in March 2012 and guided Burkina Faso successively to a third consecutive tourney. He will be tasked with turning a group of young and talented players into stars and what a better stage than the 2013 AFCON against good opposition like Ethiopia, Zambia and Nigeria.
Abdoulaye Soulama (Asante Kotoko/Ghana), Germain Sanou (St Etienne/France), Daouda Diakité (Lierse/Belgium)
Mohammed Koffi (Petrojet/Egypt), Henry Traoré (Asante Kotoko/Ghana), Bakary Koné (Lyon/France), Mady Panandétiguiri (R. Antwerp/Belgium), Paul Koulibaly (Dynamo Buccarest/Romania)
Wilfried Balima (FC Sheriff Tiraspol/Moldavia), Florent Rouamba (FC Sheriff Tirasplo/Moldavia), Issouf Ouattara (Chernomorets Burgas/Bulgaria), Préjuce Nakoulma (Gornik Zabrze/Poland), Wilfried Sanou (Kyoto Sanga/Japan), Abdoul Razack Traoré (Lechia Gdansk/Poland), Ali Rabo (Al Shorta/Egypt), Charles Kaboré (Marseille/France), Djakaridja Koné (Evian Thonon-Gaillard/France), Jonathan Pitroïpa (Rennes/France),
Aristide Bancé (Augsburg/Germany), Moumouni Dagano (Lekwiya/Qatar), Pierre Koulibaly (Al Dhaid Sharja/Emirates), Wilfried Hughes Dah (Al Dhaid Sharja/Emirates), Alain Traoré (Lorient/France)
Player to watch; Alain Traore (At age 24, some people will feel Traore has never really reached the level of a footballer they dream of. The ex-Auxerre striker moved to FC Lorient last year after the former got relegated. Having scored 4 goals already in his 5 appearances at the club this season alone- he will seek to cement his position as the indispensable member of the squad with some breath-taking performances.)
Their narrow aggregate win over CAR a country most people thought would make it to this tournament perfectly demystifies the spirit of this Burkina Faso side. It’s never over for them until the final whistle but again they’ll have to be careful about conceding early and letting in goals against some of the best sides in the tournament.
A lot will also depend on their front line as that’s where their strength lies. On a good day; putting the goals at the back of the net shouldn’t be a hard thing for the front men to do.
Having made his debut in this side in 1999- Moumouni Dagano now at 31 will seek to lead from the front at the same time seeking to use his positional skill and passing ability to get goals for himself and as well set up Traore and the other players.
Though I can’t see them going so far; this tournament should help coach Put build a strong formidable Burkina Faso side for the future.
FIFA RANKING; 110
Coach; Sewnet Bishaw
Also in his second stint as coach of the ‘Walya Antelopes’ he did win the 2004 CECAFA senior challenge cup and will be delighted to be the first coach in 31 years to have brought back Ethiopia to the Nations Cup. He’s enjoyed comparative success at Ethiopian top sides and even in Yemen and Ethiopia will bank on his experience to lead this side to a repeat of the 1962 AFCON Cup where they won the title.
Jemal Tassew (Coffee), Sisay Bancha (Dedebit), Zerihun Tadele (St. George)
Degu Debebe, Biadgelegn Elias, Alula Girma , Abebaw Butako (All St. George), Aynalem Hailu, Siyoum Tesfaye, Berhanu Bogale (All Dedebit)
Asrat Megersa (EEPCO, Ethiopia), Addis Hintsa, Minyahil Teshome, Behailu Assefa (All Dedebit), Yusuf Saleh (Syrianska, Sweden), Shimeles Bekele, Yared Zinabu (Both St. George), Dawit Estifanos (Coffee)
Saladin Said (Wadi Degla, Egypt), Getaneh Kebede (Dedebit), Oumed Ukuri, Adane Girma (Both St. George), Fuad Ibrahim (Minnesota Stars, USA)
Player to watch; Adane Girma (27 year old who started his trade as a defensive midfielder but soon turned out to be a lethal striker. Should probably be in that famous number 19 jersey again and with his experience coming to play should alongside Tesfaye be able to unlock defences)
Going into the last round of the 2013 AFCON qualifiers it was evident one East African country was going to make it to the tournament. Ethiopia had to face Sudan for a spot in this year’s tourney one that was not easy as they had to rally a 5-3 loss in Khartoum and win 2-0 in Addis Ababa denying the Nile Crocodiles a chance.
Ethiopia is first rising as a talent hub not just in East Africa but in the continent too. Most members of this squad turn out for home clubs but the presence of one plying his trade in the USA and another in Egypt it won’t be long- these players will soon be headed for better grounds.
My attention is quickly drawn to the young talent in the name of Saladin Said- I hear they compare him to the best in the world in that striking position. This tournament though will thus be an important chance for him to introduce himself to the world but before then Ethiopia will for sure have to build the team around the dependable Degu Debebe , Bogale, Elyas and front man Girma.
It’s been long though since Ethiopia made it to the AFCON and with seemingly no experience of playing at this level of football for this squad; a lot of team work will have to go into it should they dream of making it past the group stages. Coach Sewnet earlier said they can pull a surprise but those thoughts have to be for now put on hold as they have to battle it out for 270 minutes to know their fate.
FIFA RANKING; 52
Coach; Stephen Keshi
Ex Togo and Mali coach; He has managed to merge the technical skills of the Europe-based players with the enthusiasm of the local players. Nigeria having missed out on the tourney last year will look up to Keshi for nothing less than the title. He has never won an AFCON game and will hope these brood of Nigerian players give him just that.
Vincent Enyeama (Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel); Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheba, Israel); Chigozie Agbim (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria)
Elderson Echiejile (SC Braga, Portugal); Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod FC, Israel); Joseph Yobo (Fenerbahce, Turkey); Efe Ambrose (Celtic FC, Scotland); Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves, Nigeria); Kenneth Omeruo (ADO Den Haag, Netherlands); Godfrey Oboabona (Sunshine Stars, Nigeria).
John Mikel Obi (Chelsea FC, England); Nosa Igiebor (Real Betis, Spain); Ogenyi Onazi (SS Lazio, Italy); Obiora Nwankwo (Calcio Padova, Italy); Fegor Ogude (Valerenga FC, Norway); Reuben Gabriel (Kano Pillars, Nigeria);
Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Emmanuel Emenike (Spartak Moscow, Russia); Victor Moses (Chelsea FC, England); Sunday Mba (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria); Ikechukwu Uche (Villarreal FC, Spain); Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kyiv, Ukraine); Ejike Uzoenyi (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria).
Players to watch; Victor Moses (A player who Nigeria almost lost to England having appeared for them in U21, He’s fast becoming a darling of many having scored for Nigerian in that 6-1 win over Liberia. He appeared for Wigan before making his big move to Chelsea where he scored in the FA cup before he left for the AFCON camp in Faro, Portugal)
Ahmed Musa (I’m going to be a little biased here but I believe this is going to be Nigeria’s biggest asset/export in the near future. From the first day he made his debut; you always know he’s going to come up with something special. Playing for CSKA Moscow, 9 goals in 2012- I bet he would add to his tally of 3 goals for Nigeria In this tourney)
Trying to compare what an ideal Nigerian squad of the yester years would be and this one thing stands out. This current Nigeria squad has more competition from within for positions than any other.
Joseph Yobo will of cause want to lead from the back even as the ever present Enyeama will want to put behind the past disappointments in that goal post. The middle of the pack is a competitive affair but Obi Mikel, Nwankwo and Musa should make the other teams sing to their tune.
Dropping Osaze Odemwingie and missing the likes of Ameobi is one big headache for some Nigerians. It would only be fair to say that the current Nigerian fan will only get excited when the title makes its way to Lagos- anything that’s not the trophy is just so normal.
In group C too i won’t end without mentioning a tweet about Group C from my great twitter friends. Here @ZaxOguda clearly makes his thoughts known.