AFCON 2010: Pride and Glory

2009-12-29 11:36

THE 2010 African Cup of ­Nations is just a few days away.

Defending

champs Egypt will be looking to make history in Angola as they attempt to win

three titles in a row. However, there are several other teams who will be more

than a little keen to knock the Egyptians off of their perch as African

kings.

Here’s how they will line up from January 10 to 31:

Group A – Algeria, Angola, Mali, Malawi

The odds certainly favour Angola, as the last time a host failed to

make the quarterfinals was Tunisia in 1992, and the last time a host failed to

make at least the semifinals was in 2000, when co-host Ghana lost in the

quarters.

First-timers Malawi won’t figure in the picture as more than a

potential spoiler, if that much, which leaves it up to Angola, Algeria, and

Mali.

Angola made a surprise appearance in the quarterfinals last year

and they will be expected to go at least that far, if not one or two better, as

the hosts. Former Manchester United striker Manucho was one of the tournament’s

stars in Ghana with his four-goal haul.

Mali have quality in midfield in Mahamadou Diarra, Momo Sissoko and

Seydou Keita, and upfront in Fredi Kanoute, but what will be different this time

after they were eliminated in group stages the last time around?

After keeping Egypt out of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, Algeria are

expected to be eager to prove their worth even more so in Angola, and their two

Bundesliga (Germany)-based Karims (midfielders Matmour and Ziani) will be key to

their efforts.

Group B – Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo

Group B includes two of Africa’s Soccer World Cup qualifiers in

Ghana and Ivory Coast, and they are undoubtedly the favourites to progress to

the quarterfinals. There’s not much to say about the Ivorians’ and Ghana’s level

of talent. They both carry the memories of semifinal heartbreak last year.

But Burkina Faso came in a more than respectable second to the

Elephants in their qualification group, and Togo have a classy striker in

Manchester City’s Emmanuel Adebayor.

However, it must be mentioned that the Ivory Coast disposed of

Burkina Faso 3-2 away and 5-0 at home in qualifying, and Togo has never advanced

past the first round in any of its previous six Nations Cup appearances.

They swept through qualifying unbeaten, and would hope Didier

Drogba carries his scoring form to Angola.

Group C – Benin, Egypt, Nigeria, Mozambique

Without a trip to the World Cup to look forward to, the Egyptians

will be motivated as the defending champions.

Egypt don’t have a bevy of Europe-based stars, but 2006 and last

year show that they have more quality to get it done, and the likes of Mohamed

Aboutrika, Amr Zaki, Emad Moteab, Mohamed Zidan, and several more will play the

integral roles once again.

Nigeria had a disappointing quarterfinal exit last year, but even

the luck of the draw can’t be used as an excuse for such a talented team missing

out on at least the semis this time around. It will be all the better for their

hopes if Ayegbeni Yakubu can rediscover his scoring touch in time.

Benin lost all three group matches in their first appearance last

year, while Mozambique has an all-time worst record in previous appearances. It

will at least be worth it to see Benin’s Nigerian-born star Razak Omotoyossi

face off against country of his birth.

Group D – Cameroon, Gabon, ­Tunisia, Zambia

Cameroon fell short last time around, but the Indomitable Lions are

well equipped to make another run at their fifth Nations Cup title. Their Inter

­Milan striker Samuel Eto’o will spearhead their efforts as he did last year,

when his tournament-leading five goals helped fire them to the finals.

A loss to Mozambique on the final match day cost Tunisia a Soccer

World Cup place, but the Carthage Eagles have made at least the quarterfinals in

each of the past three tournaments.

Zambia and Gabon have been tagged as the group’s no-hopers.­

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