Angola 2010 Preview

The 27th edition of African Cup of Nations will kick off on Sunday in Angola with the hosts taking on Mali. Ivory Coast are under enormous pressure to finally deliver the trophy to the nation, while Egypt will be aiming for a historic third consecutive title. Here’s a closer look at all the teams involved and their chances in the continent’s most prestigious tournament.

Group A


Previous participation: 4 times (best result quarter-final 2008)
Result in Ghana 2008: quarter-final
Manager: Manuel Jose (Portugal)
Star player: Manucho (Real Valladolid)

As hosts, there no doubt has to be some kind of pressure to perform well. Especially with reaching the quarter-finals last time out, which was seen as a bit of a surprise, even though the team were part of the World Cup 2006. A lot will depend on Manucho. The former Manchester United player is a great force at this level and always seems to reserve his best for international stage. He was a star in 2008 and he’ll have be starring again for the nation to repeat their 2008 success. I believe home support will take Angola through from the group stage.


Previous participation: 5 times (best result runner-up 1972)
Result in Ghana 2008: group stage
Manager: Stephen Keshi (Nigeria)
Star player: Frederic Kanoute (Sevilla)

Surprisingly Mali hasn’t been mentioned when there’s been talk about potential favorites for the tournament. Possibly due to memories of the 2008 campaign, were Mali were touted as the ones most likely to prevent Ivory Coast from winning it. But as we know, both failed. For a team boasting quality through out their squad not getting past the group stage would be a failure, but I think Mali have learned from past mistakes and can make it further this time.


Previous participation: 13 times (best result winner 1990)
Result in Ghana 2008: didn’t qualify
Manager: Rabah Saadane (Algeria)
Star player: Karim Ziani (Wolfsburg)

Don’t really know what to expect from Algeria. The nation of course made it to South Africa 2010, but it’s their first appearance at the Cup of Nations since 2004. Their team ethic is top notch and Ziani a wonderful player, but I fear the focus might not quite be there and Algeria won’t get past the group stage.


Previous participation: 1 (group stage 1984)
Result in Ghana 2008: didn’t qualify
Manager: Eli Cohen (Israel)
Star player: Essau Kanyenda (KAMAZ, Russia)

This being their only second ever appearance at this stage, Malawi really are an unknown quantity, but in Cohen they’ve got an experienced manager. The Israeli has bags of experience from working at his home nations biggest clubs. Kanyenda is one of the few players from the Malawi squad, who plays in Europe, so you’d expect him to deliver the goods alongside Chiukepo Msowoya (APR FC, Rwanda), who was the top scorer in qualifying with 6 goals. It’s more of a learning curve for the nations though. You’d think they aren’t no pushovers and could snatch a point, but it’s nearly mission impossible to get out of the group.

Group B

Ivory Coast

Previous participation: 17 times (best result winner 1992)
Result in Ghana 2008: 4.
Manager: Vahid Halihodžic (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Star player: Didier Drogba (Chelsea)

Of course the team, who everybody will be looking forward to seeing and expect them to win, but will they win? It was the same situation two years ago, but Ivory Coast got knocked out in the semis by eventual winners Egypt and also lost the 3rd place match to Ghana. Drogba is again the man, who everybody pin points and rightly so as the man is an icon for not only the team, but for the nation as a whole, but I suggest you to also look out for Gervinho. The Lille player has been in superb form this season and could out to be the dark horse in the Elephants well known squad. Getting through from the group shouldn’t be a problem, after that anything can happen. I tip Ivory Coast to take a step further and finally reach the final. It will be seen if they can then add to their 1992 glory.


Previous participation: 16 times (best result winner 4 times)
Result in Ghana 2008: 3.
Manager: Milovan Rajevac (Serbia)
Star player: Michael Essien (Chelsea)

At first glance you could confidently say Ghana are amongst the possible favorites, but injuries and bad climate in the dressing room, make them a unstable team. Due to injuries there are now 8 U-20 World Champions 2009 involved, so you could also say that the team lacks experience. But it ain’t all doom and gloom, latest news say Essien has returned to full training and the Chelsea man will now have perform twice as good, with his fellow midfield general Sulley Muntari left out of the squad. Think they’ll get through from the group, but not any further.

Burkina Faso

Previous participation: 6 times (best result 4. 1998)
Result in Ghana 2008: didn’t qualify
Manager: Paolo Duarte (Portugal)
Star player: Jonathan Pitroipa (Hamburg)

Burkina Faso are a team with great potential. Pitroipa is only one of many young players playing in European top league’s. The team also boasts a clinical finisher in Moumouni Dagano (Al-Khor, Qatar), who was the top scorer of the entire qualifying campaign with 12 goals. Ivory Coast and Ghana are tough nuts to crack, but I think Burkina Faso will give at least one a scare and will fight for the 2nd qualifying place.


Previous participation: 6 times (best result group stage)
Result in Ghana 2008: didn’t qualify
Manager: Hubert Velud (France)
Star player: Emmanuel Adebayor (Man City)

Just like Angola, Togo didn’t take part of Ghana 2008, but they made it to the last World Cup and they also rely very much on one player. Emmanuel Adebayor has to bang the goals in if Togo wants to have any chance of fighting with their neighbours Burkina Faso and Ghana for a place in the quarter-final stage. I feel in the end, they won’t manage it though, the side just lacks quality to be competitive.

Group C


Previous participation: 21 times (best result winner 6 times)
Result in Ghana 2008: winners
Manager: Hassan Shehata (Egypt)
Star player: Mohamed Zidan (Borussia Dortmund)

A lot of egos have been cut from the Egyptian team, so Mohamed Zidan finally gets a chance to shine. The 28-year old also played a major part securing the 2008 success and as mentioned before, the team will be now aiming for a historic 3rd consecutive title. Everything looks perfectly set, the team doesn’t have the World Cup 2010 to worry about. And like their record shows, they just always seem to win this! It’s incredibly tough in this years competitions, but I back the Pharaohs to reach at least the semis.


Previous participation: 15 times (best result winners twice)
Result in Ghana 2008: quarter-final
Manager: Shaibu Amodu (Nigeria)
Star player: Yakubu (Everton)

Nigeria have always been there or there abouts in the Cup of Nations with three 3rd place finishes and one runner-up position from the last five tournaments. Now they boast a very evenly balanced team with youth and experience. Nwankwo Kanu will be taking part of his 6th Cup of Nations, while John Obi Mikel will be the key in midfield. Qualification was rough with the team only getting through by a late-late goal, but will the players now shine in the final tournament? Getting past the group stage shouldn’t be a problem, luck will play a big part after that and if the Flying Eagles are lucky, a place in the final would be well deserved. Amodu has been the mind behind all the past success, he knows the way to success.


Previous participation: 2 (Best result group stage)
Result in Ghana 2008: group stage
Manager: Michel Dussuyer (France)
Star player: Stephane Sessegnon (PSG)

Benin’s reliance on Sessegnon is ever greater than Angola’s for Manucho or Togo’s for Adebayor. The PSG man has to be on top form if Benin want to have any dreams of surpassing their previous 2 campaign’s, which ended with the group stage. They’ve so far lost all their matches at the Cup of Nations finals, this year they’ll break this series, but it probably isn’t enough to reach the quarter-finals.


Previous participation: 3 times (best result group stage)
Result in Ghana 2008: didn’t qualify
Manager: Martin Nooij (Netherlands)
Star player: Simao (Panathinaikos)

Mozambique are a very interesting team in a sense that a few players, who played in the nations last appearance in the Cup of Nations finals in 1998, are still part of the squad. But it also tells you another side of the story, there just aren’t enough quality players in the country to be successful. A respectable, but not very successful campaign ahead of them.

Group D


Previous participation: 15 times
Result in Ghana 2008: runner-up
Manager: Paul Le Guen (France)
Star player: Samuel Eto´o (Inter Milan)

Cameroon are also a team, who’ve been weakened by injuries, but they have a luxury of being the only team in Africa, who actually has a top goalkeeper. That man is Espanyol’s Carlos Kameni. He and the defence have to perform to get the full potential out from a solid midfield and Eto´o. Le Guen is a good manager and he could mastermind a good finish here. Semi-finals as a minimum in my opinion for the Indomitable Lions.


Previous participation: 13 times (best result winner 2004)
Result in Ghana 2008: quarter-final
Manager: Faouzi Benzarti (Tunisia)
Star player: Issam Jemâa (Lens)

Tunisia look a certainty to follow Cameroon through from the group here. The team suffered heart ache of missing out on the World Cup 2010, this tournament is a great opportunity to ease the pain. It will be seen if they can also get further from the quarter-finals. I have my doubts, because while the team is made up of good players it lacks a leader.


Previous participation: 13 times (best result third 1996)
Result in Ghana 2008: group stage
Manager: Herve Renard (France)
Star player: Collins Mbesuma (Moroka Swallows, South Africa)

Former Portmouth player Mbesuma is a controversial character, who has problems with discipline, but he’s performed at this stage before and will now also be looked as a key. Zambia are a regular at the finals, but they rarely make it past the group stage, same is expected this time.


Previous participation: 3 (best result quarter-final 1996)
Result in Ghana 2008: didn’t qualify
Manager: Alain Giresse (France)
Star player: Daniel Cousin

Giresse has been Gabon manager since 2006 and built a good team capaple of surprises. The squad is almost entirely made up of players playing in Europe with Hull City’s Daniel Cousin being the biggest name. This tells you Giresse, and Gabon football as a whole, is heading to the right direction, but they won’t just make it this year.

So a lot to look forward to. African Cup of Nations always provides great emotions for the viewers with the local atmosphere and attacking football being played. This years competition seems to be to most competitive one of recent times. There are at least 6 teams capable of winning it and there’s always surprises in stalled. Whatever happens though, it’s a great appetiser for this years World Cup in South Africa and we might even see the future winners in action here. No doubt the team who triumphs on 31 January will also be the continent’s biggest hope of delivering the World Cup in the summer.

Also See:

Angola 2010 Predictions

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