Prepare for an explosive Nations Cup

2010-01-05 00:00

MY New Year’s resolution was to try to show more humility, but that all went out the window on Saturday night.

Besides, resolutions are overrated anyway.

You see, I was going alright until the mighty Leeds United disposed of little Manchester United in the FA Cup. Cue pandemonium in the stands, but I had always known the day would come.

To those that scoffed at my prediction of Leeds’s trek back to the big league, I hope your first cup of coffee tasted good with that extra large slice of humble pie.

I will not tell you again, so know now that Simon Grayson’s young starlets are on their way back to the big time.

Right, now that the gloating is out of the way, let us get back to the important business of forecasting the year’s feast of soccer.

For those who care, there is the small matter of the African Nations Cup starting this week in Angola. I know Bafana are not there, but that does not mean we should act like stuck-up Premiership managers and pour scorn on this continental showpiece.

So what if the timing is lousy for European leagues? They should get over it as quickly as they told all our nations to get over colonisation.

And the ironic thing is that 90% of the talent scouts in Angola will be from the same clubs from England, France, Spain and Italy.

The cheek of it!

Anyway, the soccer itself should be explosive — and a tasty group game between Ghana and Ivory Coast should go a long way to deciding the eventual winners.

That’s as much as I am giving away, because history has shown that those who do well at the event then tend to fade away in the World Cup in June.

So perhaps we should hope that a rank outsider wins the lot in Angola, and the likes of Didier Drogba and Michael Essien save their best for the real showpiece in June, right here Emzansi!

The English League Cup semi-finals start this week, and the Manchester derby will be a grudge match to top them all. Since his departure from Old Trafford, Carlos Tevez has found some form and has promised to make United pay for their “arrogance”.

Well, we can only wait and see, but I doubt Alex Ferguson will follow through on his promise of playing the kids in a tie that will secure bragging rights for the rest of the season.

Besides, ol’ Red Nose is running out of trophies to win after he was turned over by you know who in the FA Cup.

The league race shows no sign of slowing down, and I do believe that at least one of Aston Villa, City or Spurs will break into top four territory at season’s end.

My pick for the title is still Chelsea, despite a mild case of the wobbles to end 2009.

They have the strongest squad, and Manchester United may be good going forward, but their defence is in disarray.

Rio Ferdinand has spent most of the season in the stands, and his replacements have looked very uncomfortable when the opposition takes the game to them.

Arsenal will remain interested, but they also have a soft centre and I can see them running out of steam at the end.

Liverpool’s season has become a battle to stay in the top four, and I don’t see that changing. They seem to think that they will walk off with the Europa League, but there are enough good sides in that competition to make Rafa Benitez’s bold prediction seem slightly optimistic.

If the scraps at the bottom of the table interest you, then you will know that Portsmouth are going down. Expect a firesale throughout January, and then they will just wait for the inevitable.

The Champions League is so tight that I actually can’t predict anything until the second-round ties are decided. There are simply too many good sides that could bow out before the quarter-finals.

And then the big one.

The 2010 World Cup will give us some surprises, and I think that if Ivory Coast can get off to a fast start and make it through a group that also houses Brazil and Portugal, then they will take that belief and go all the way.

Failing that, then Spain simply have to deliver on years of promise and take the crown that their glittering team actually deserves.

And Bafana?

Eish …

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