The time for kick off is nearing. Let’s see who the contenders are: who’s going to win and who’s not, who’s going to upset a few teams… January 10-31, Angola is THE place to be for football fans!
Six time winners Egypt obviously hold the top spot. Especially as they have won the last two tournaments back to back. The squad is almost the same as the one that was crowned Kings of African football in 2006 and 2008. The team has experience and cohesion but never before has a team won the African Cup of Nations three times in a row. Nonetheless, Hassan Shehata’s men are up for the challenge. On the road to Luanda, the Pharaohs will undoubtly face the Elephants of Ivory Coast. Vahid Halilodzic has brought discipline to arguably the best squad in Africa. Didier Drogba leads a horde of top notch players such as Kalou (Chelsea), Kolo Touré (Man City) and his brother Yaya Touré (Barcelona), Eboué (Arsenal), Zokora (Sevilla) or Dindane (Portsmouth)… So much talent that serial striker Doumbia had to be dropped! The other title favourites are the 2008 finalists, Cameroon. French coach, Paul Le Guen, saved the Lions from a rocky qualification stage and can count on Samuel Eto’o to hold his team. Mali and Nigeria could cause a few surprises though but their respective squad seem less complete than those of the three giants.
After winning the AFC in 1990, Algeria dropped off the face of the football world. Thanks to Rabah Saadane and a skillful generation, the Desert Foxes are back with a bang! The North Africans beat their Egyptian rivals to qualify for the World Cup and the entire country has high hopes for a team that has talents in every line. They face host Angola in tough group A alongside Mali and Malawi. The Palancas Negras, who reached the quarter finals in 2008, will have the backing of an entire nation to push them through. Alain Giresse’s Gabon will also have a say in group D against a widely renewed Tunisia.
Some of the continent’s top players will be missing in Angola. Morocco, for one, despite having players of the calibre of Chamakh, Hadji or El Hamdaoui, didn’t make it due to a faulty cohesion. Also not there is World Cup host South Africa who is still struggling to set up a decent squad. Benny McCarthy, Steven Pienaar and the rest of the Bafanas will lack a training round before the big game arises. Senegal, who reached the final in 2002, also failed to reach Angola. France’s Ligue 1 sighed as it’ll retain Mamadou Niang, Issiar Dia, Edouard Cissé and the likes… Some other usual customers didn’t reach the group stage, such as Feindouno and Mansaré’s Guinea or the Democratic Republic of the Congo despiste Nonda, Lua Lua or most of TP Mazembe, African Champions at club level. While their countries made it, some players have not. We’re thinking of Ivory Coast midfielder Romaric who had a fallout with his coach or Egyptians Zaki, Mido and Aboutreika, who have been lacking fitness with their national side. Milovan Rajevac has opted to drop a few key players from the Ghana squad, either through injury or through lack of form. Inter’s Muntari and captain Muntari join injured Paintsil and Mensah on the sidelines.
Two years ago, the continent’s sixteen top teams met in Ghana. From the go ahead, Morocco, Mali and Senegal stopped their progress. In the quarter finals, logic prevailed: Ghana beat Nigeria (2-1), Cameroon struggled against Tunisia (3-2), Ivory Coast crushed Guinea (5-0) and Egypt advanced instead of Angola (2-1). After walking over the Elephants (4-1), Egypt were to beat Cameroon (1-0) in the final to retain their title, its 6th overall. With 5 goals, Eto’o was top scorer and reached a record 16 goals. Egypt’s Hosni Abd Rabo was logically named MVP of the tournament, alongside 4 other teammates who were named in the team of the competition.
Angola 2010 sounds exciting, doesn’t it?