Can you try and figure out an old African tale involving Elephants, Lions, Foxes and Sparrow Hawks. Surely there is one; not a late night tale of cause this time- a footballing one in this case.
Back to the old story; I never understand the scripts but it always goes like long long ago in the land of ..….
Hahaha! In the land of South Africa- well, this could be your tale to the future generations. It’s going to be a sweet group, breath-taking for that matter- want to know more? I hereby introduce the AFCON 2013 GROUP D Preview.
FIFA RANKING; 14
Coach; Sabri Lamouchi
40-year-old former Marseille, Parma and Inter midfielder; appointed by the Cote d’Ivoire football federation as the successor of Francois Zahoui, whose contract was not renewed despite his flawless run to the final of the 2012 AFCON, losing to Zambia on penalties. He has lead the team to two victories in the 2013 Afcon qualifying and has never lost with this side.
Boubacar Barry (Lokeren, Belgium), Badra Ali Sangare (IAFC), Daniel Yeboah (Dijon, France).
Soulemanye Bamba (Trabzonspor, Turkey), Arthur Boka (VfB Stuttgart, Germany), Emmanuel Eboue (Galatasaray, Turkey), Igor Lolo (Kuban Krasnodar, Russia), Siaka Tiene (Paris St Germain, France), Kolo Toure (Manchester City, England), Ismael Traore (Stade Brest, France)
Max Gradel (St Etienne, France), Abdul Razak (Manchester City, England), Romaric (Real Zaragoza, Spain), Didier Ya Konan (Hannover 96, Germany), Ismael Tiote (Newcastle United, England), Yaya Toure (Manchester City, England), Didier Zokora (Trabzonspor, Turkey).
Wilfried Bony (Vitesse Arnhem, Netherlands), Didier Drogba (Shanghai Shenhua, China), Gervinho (Arsenal, England), Salomon Kalou (OSC Lille, France), Arouna Kone (Wigan Athletic, England), Lacina Traore (Anzhi Makhachkala, Russia).
Player to watch; Yaya Toure (Reigning African Player of the Year, at 29 years old he will seek to transfer his Manchester City form to South Africa. He will seek to bring his passing, his finishing and his ever bully attitude to this squad and hope to bag some goals for himself and to cap it all- the AFCON title for Ivory Coast)
It’s been 21 years since Ivory Coast beat Ghana on post-match penalties to lift the AFCON crown. Images of crowds lining up Abidjan to receive that squad forever remains edged in the memories of the Elephant’s fans and with this current squad referred to as the ‘golden generation’ expectations are high back home.
It’s funny to note though that Ivory Coast never lost a single match in the run up to last year’s final but still lost the title on penalties to Zambia. They since then moved on and qualified again for this year’s showpiece beating Senegal 6-2 on aggregate score to deny the Teranga Lions a chance in South Africa this year.
A formidable side on their day, expect goals from anywhere in this team and with a strong backline goals scored against them might be so few and hard to come by.
With the likes of Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Eboue, Salmon Kalou probably playing their last AFCON tournament it’s realistically their last shot at winning the AFCON title and will be highly looked upon to inspire the coming generations of footballers Ivory Coast is producing.
FIFA RANKING; 71
Coach; Didier Six
Hired by Togo in November 2011; he led the Togolese National Football team to the AFCON for the first time since the Cabinda Incident. He holds Turkish citizenship and prior to managing the Togolese team was not well known having managed only one side- French outfit RC Strasbourg.
Tchagouni Baba, Atsu Mawugbe, Agassa Kossi.
Nibombe Dare, Akoriko Sadat, Gaffar Mamah, Serge Akakpo , Senah Mango , Bossou Vincent, Donou Kokou, Djènè Dakonam .
Amewou Komlan, Moustapha Salifou, Wome Dove, Segbefia Kossi Prince, Amétépé Kodjo , Mani Sapol, Ayité Floyd, Romao Alaixys.
Gakpe Serge, Damessi Kalen, Placca Fessou Same, Ayité Jonathan, Adebayor Sheyi.
Player to Watch; Emmanuel Adebayor (Call him controversial, loud, anything you want- he is a leader on and off the pitch. He’s the champion for the rights of the team; he gets calls from the president and guess what? He’ll be coming to SouthAfrica . Prior to this tourney it was never sure if he was going to make it but Togolese fans can breathe a sigh of relief as the imposing striker will once again be banging goals for the team. Well, apart from his controversy- you never count out anything mischievous from this guy- the next few weeks will both be key and exciting to watch.)
Togo has qualified for the AFCON on 5 occasions with the 2013 edition being the 6th time they are making it for the competition. They however withdrew from the 2010 tournament due to rebel attack what has come to be known as the ‘Cabinda’ incident. Sadly though in all the times they have qualified, a round one exit has always greeted them and will be seeking to do one better this time round.
As much as it seems most play in this Togo squad is centred on Adebayor’s play; it might be fast time Togo thought otherwise. Yes he scores but the back of cause leaks goals at times and this has not gone well with their quest for a first African title. Reims’ Floyd Ayite Is fast catching eyes of several coaches all around the globe and it seemingly won’t be long before he moves further to a more prestigious league. His combination with Adebayor, Gakpe will be key as well as the back force of Akakpo and Mamah who would want to keep several clean sheets as possible.
With all due respect I really can’t fancy them to win but their main test should be to get out of this group.
FIFA RANKING; 19
Coach; Vahid Halilhodzic
Ex Ivory Coast coach; apparently fired from his post in 2010 for losing to Algeria a team he currently manages. He claims his main objective is to reach the semi-finals as he sets his sights on the 2015 showpiece as his best chance of lifting the African crown. Has in the past managed French sides Rennes, Lille and PSG.
Azzeddine Doukha, Rais Mbolhi, Cedric Si Mohammed.
Essaid Belkalem, Liassine Cadamuro, Faouzi Ghoulam, Rafik Halliche, Carl Medjani, Djamel Mesbah, Mehdi Mostefa, Ali Rial.
Djamel Abdoun, Hameur Bouazza, Ryad Boudebouz, Sofiane Feghouli, Adlene Guedioura, Foued Kadir, Medhi Lacen, Khaled Lemmouchia, Saad Tedjar.
Yacine Bezzaz, Hilal Soudani, Islam Slimani, Mohamed Aoudia.
Player to watch; Medhi Lacen (Hey you all La-Liga fans, you probably know him from watching him play for his side Getafe. A regular himself at both club and country- his holding midfield role has been the anchor of his sides’ good performance going into this tournament. Adding the Captains armband to his left arm shouldn’t be any cause of alarm as he has proven over time to be a charismatic leader. He faces a load of some of the best attacking fray in the world and this tournament should probably bring out the best in him)
I must say I’m disappointed one of my best Algerian players over the years Bougherra will be missing this tournament even after saying earlier he planned that South Africa 2013 would be his last. I’m happy though the Algerian coach has gone for a mix of Youth and experience. Probably to avoid a repeat of what happens to some teams who all age at the same time and leave no proper team to take over from the big boys.
Their qualification to this tournament was sure not easy but all the same an aggregate 3-0 score-line against their North African counterparts Libya should have been enough to send a message to their rivals in this group. They really don’t score so many goals but their greatest strength just like a typical North African side is that they are not going to concede a whole load of goals.
With the likes of Captain Medhia, Chief Conductor Feghouli and the ever exciting Hilal Soudani a semi-final finish shouldn’t be hard to come by.
FIFA RANKING; 45
Coach; Sami Trabelsi
A former Tunisian International himself, he’s never managed any other side apart from his Country’s national team. He was appointed to the post of National team coach on 11 March 2011 and has since then overseen 24 matches just looing 6, drawing 7 and winning 11. A centre back himself in his hey days- he will look to build a defensively formidable side that can stop some of the continent’s best attacking forces as well as showcase some brilliantly offensive ambitions.
Aymen Mathlouthi (Etoile du Sahel), Moez Ben Cherifia (Espérance de Tunis) and Farouk Ben Mustapha (Club Athlétique Bizertin)
Aymen Abdennour (Toulouse, France), Anis Boussaidi (Tavria Simferopol, Ukraine), Khalil Chammam (Espérance de Tunis, Tunisia), Chamseddine Dhaouadi (Etoile du Sahel), Walid Hichri (Espérance de Tunis), Bilel Ifa (Club Africain) and Fateh Gharbi (Club Sportif Sfaxien)
Haten Baratli (Club Africain), Wissem Ben Yahia (Mersin, Turkey), Wahbi Khazri (Bastia, France), Majdi Traoui (Esperance Tunis), Khaled Mouelhi (Esperance Tunis), Oussama Darragi (FC Sion, Switzerland) and Zouheir Dhaouadi.
Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (Club Sportif Sfaxien), Saber Khelifa (Evian, France), Youssef Msakni (Lakhouya, Qatar), Hamdi Harbaoui (Lokeren, Belgium) and Chadi Hammami (Al Kowait).
Player to Watch; Aymen Mathlouthi (Probably the first goalkeeper to make this list since I started doing these previews- he’s probably the safest pair of hands this group has. Highly rated amongst his peers and has the Skippers armband. He’s a one club guy having represented Etoile du Sahel since 2003 and you guess he’s going to be here for a very long time. He will be seeking to lead his country to another AFCON title)
Lifted the AFCON title in 2004 on home soil and will be seeking to get it back after nearly 9 years of waiting and trying. Another typical North African side, don’t expect them to leak so many goals but are dangerous too going forward.
Vast Majority of this squad play at home and actually have only two members above the 30 year mark. They pride themselves in having amidst them some players with European experience in the names of Hamdi Harbaoui and Anis Boussaidi just to mention a few. Youssef Msakni will be seeking to keep on with his good display in the last edition of the AFCON as a support striker and a lethal finisher and with the likes of Jemaa and Khelifa playing right in front of him- watch out for some good dribbling, dummy runs and even crisp passes.
Pundits would want to argue it might not be Tunisia’s time yet for another shot at the AFCON title but it’s everybody’s chance when two North African sides’ meet- a scrappy win against any other side in this group might just put them into the quarters and from there who never knows.
I never want to end my previews without a few thoughts from my friends. They were scared though this time of making predictions so this time round I went it all alone. I never predicted!
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