AFCON Final Preview: Nigeria vs Burkina Faso

The Super Eagles of Nigeria have against all expectations qualified for the FINAL of the 2013 African Cup of Nations. It has been an astronomical rise for the Giants of Africa as they were once known.

The young team put together by former Eagles captain, Stephen Keshi has proved all the doubters wrong by sending the Ivory Coast out of South Africa and dismantling Mali in the semis to earn a shot at a title which has eluded them for the past 19 years.

Coach Stephen Keshi who is affectionately called the ‘BOSS’ is aiming to become only the 2nd man to win the Nations Cup as a player and manager after Egypt’s Mahmoud Al Gohari. The former Eagles captain won the trophy in 1994 when Tunisia hosted it.

The Nigerian coaching crew have been sweating on the fitness of key players-Emma Emenike and Victor Moses who picked up injuries in the 4-1 humbling of the Aigles of Mali in the previous match. Other players are available and hungry to come back home with the trophy.

The Burkinabe were almost robbed by the Calamitous Slim Jdidi in the semi final showdown with Ghana. A series of astoundingly bizarre decisions went the way of the Ghanaians in the match including a soft penalty which should never have been and worse still, the RED CARD awarded to Star Stallion, Jonathan ‘Beninwende’ Pitroipa- a decision which has since been reversed.

Belgian tactician, Paul Put will be hoping to ‘put’ the name of Burkina Faso among Nations that have won the AFCON later today when proceedings end.

Both teams know a bit of each other. They were in the same group (C) and the game contested between them ended in a 1-all draw made possible by a last minute Alain Traore equaliser. The Lorient front man whose 3 goals ensured that the great Stallions qualified for the knockout stages.

The unlikely finalists will slug it out this evening at the beautiful soccer city stadium in Johannesburg with all eyes on the men on the sidelines who have somewhat contrasting fortunes. Paul Put the Belgian manager has been ostracised in his home country over allegations of match-fixing and bribery (The YE ZHEYUN SCANDAL) and cannot manage in his country unless a fresh license is given to him by the FA of Belgium.

He has found a new home in Ouagadougou and has surprisingly reshaped the football philosophy in Burkina. The former Gambia coach (2007-2011) affirmed that he gave his boys clips of Greece’s 2004 Triumph, Chelsea’s UCL win last season and Zambia’s road to success last time out, to show them that underdogs can come from nowhere and upstage the so-called cup favourites.

The videos have made the desired impact to his delight and he will be hoping to add his name to the Di Matteos, Renards, and Rehhagels of this World in a few hours. Stephen Okechukwu Keshi the 50 year former Super Eagles skipper is a man well respected and revered in Africa.

After guiding Togo to the 2006 World Cup against all odds and managing the Malian National team with considerable success, he has etched his name in the jistory books and expects to add a Nations Cup trophy to his burgeoning resume after today’s battle. It will even be more remarkable because of the number of so-called big boys he left out of his final squad list.

The likes of Osaze Odemwingie, Taiye Taiwo, Obafemi Martins, Yak Aiyegbeni, Obinna Nsofor, etc were overlooked for Kenneth Omeruo, Obaobana, Brown Ideye, Sunday Mba and co. Even Captain Joseph Yobo has been warming the bench for the past 4 games. It has reaped the desired results as the EAGLES have swept aside all before them in their quest for Continental glory. One more hurdle to scale.

 

PROBABLE LINEUPS:

NIGERIA:

Enyeama, Ambrose, Obaobana, Omeruo, Echejile, Mba, Mikel, Onazi, Ideye, Moses, Emenike

 

BURKINA FASO:

Diakite, Koffi, B.Kone, Koulibaly, Panandetiguiri, D. Kone, Rouamba, Pitroipa, Nacoulma, BANCE.
Aristide Bance is deputising for the injured Alain Traore who sadly, can play no further part in this tournament. Burkina Faso have been boosted by the decision of CAF to rescind the RED CARD awarded to Pitroipa and the suspension of Slim Jdidi who should not be handed a whistle again for another 2 years. Bance scored the leveller v the Black Stars and took his penalty well in the shoot-out.

Captain Joseph Yobo will watch from the bench once again as his guys try to win the AFCON for the 3rd time ever. The team leader is in his 1st ever final, alongside all his other teammates. Vincent Enyeama will lead the Eagles out, but it remains to be seen who will lift the trophy should the Nigerians emerge victorious. This is Nigeria’s 7th final-only Ghana and Egypt have appeared in more.

Old Stallion, Moumouni Dagano has appeared in 6 ANC (African Nations Cup) Tournaments, but has registered just 1 goal. An appalling stat.

 

Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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AFCON 2013 Team Focus: Ivory Coast

Arguably, Ivory Coast are the best team in Africa, and they’ve been the best team in Africa for a long time. Didier Drogba’s age and impending retirement won’t change that with a variety of capable target men waiting in the wings.

They’re deep in midfield and on the wings, and while they’re not deep in defense, their starting back line is still one of the best on the continent. There’s no footballing reason to not pick them to win the Africa Cup of Nations.

It was a similar case last year, when Drogba missed a key penalty in the final against Zambia, who went on to lift the Cup. It was the case three years ago, when they were shockingly bounced out of the quarterfinals by Algeria.

Their 2008 loss to a Cameroon side led by Samuel Eto’o in his prime and their 2006 loss to Egypt in Egypt were more understandable, but they were probably the most talented side in those tournaments as well. It’s been nearly a decade since Ivory Coast weren’t one of the top sides on the continent.

And yet, the best generation of players their country has produced — and perhaps the best generation of players one African nation has ever produced — has failed to win a continental crown or advance to the knockout stage of the World Cup.

Not because of any obvious deficiency or lack of balance in their squad, or because of rumored locker room rifts, or because they’ve come up against bad matchups, but simply because they haven’t performed at their best for an entire tournament.

All of the key cogs from last season’s team have returned for another shot at the Africa Cup of Nations. Jean-Jacque Gosso and Kafoumba Coulibaly, a couple of defensive-minded role players from last year’s team, are the only contributors who haven’t returned.

Gervinho is possibly in the poorest form of his life, but Didier Ya Konan and Solomon Kalou are playing regularly for their clubs, while Arouna Kone, Wilfried Bony and Lacina Traore are in excellent form and give young manager Sabri Lamouchi options up top to compliment Didier Drogba.

Their midfield unmatched in athleticism and more balanced than any other team in the tournament. With Yaya Toure playing the most advanced role, in front of a double pivot of Didier Zokora and Cheik Tiote, the Ivory Coast should be able to dominate all of their opponents through the center.

While Les Elephants’ back line doesn’t quite boast the quality of their forward and attacking ranks, it’s still one of the best in Africa. While Sol Bomba has never performed at the highest level of the game, he’s been a solid defender for his country since 2008.

Kolo Toure is still one of the best defenders on the continent, but his lack of recent playing time at center back for Manchester City could be an issue for his team.

The fullback positions aren’t set, but the team has plenty of depth, and will probably start the tournament with Sahka Tiene and Emmanuel Eboue outside. The consistent, but not spectacular Boubacar Barry should remain in goal, though he’s been pushed recently by Daniel Yeboah.

 

Projected Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1)

GK Boubacar Barry, LB Siaka Tiene, CB Sol Bamba, CB Kolo Toure, RB Emmanuel Eboue, CM Cheick Tiote, CM Didier Zokora, LW Salomon Kalou, CAM Yaya Toure, RW Gervinho, ST Didier Drogba

 

Key Player: Yaya Toure

Drogba is still a star and will still be a key player for the Ivory Coast, but the striking talent behind him on the depth chart has risen to the level where his country is no longer entirely dependent on his goals.

They are, however, very dependent on the all-around game of Yaya Toure. He is by far the most versatile midfielder on the continent and will shoulder a lot of creative and defensive load through the center for his team.

 

Prediction: Champions

Once again, this is the best squad in Africa. It’s not particularly close. But it didn’t matter in last year’s final when an organized, well-meshed and motivated Zambia team played a spectacular match to capture the title in an upset. That team is still together, with the stars of last year’s campaign no longer inexperienced.

Hosts South Africa will have similar motivation, and like Zambia have plenty of solid under-the-radar talent. Ghana and Nigeria are always dangerous.

There are plenty of different ways that the Ivory Coast could potentially slip up, but they really shouldn’t. They’re the best team on the continent, by far, and if they do not win the tournament, it will be because they didn’t bring their best. Again.

 

Written by Aniefiok Okon

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AFCON 2013 Team Profile: Algeria

Welcome to the first of 16, 1 a day, team profiles for every team participating in AFCON 2013. Then a blog every night, which will be a match reviews(s), depending on how many games there are a night.

 

Algeria

One of Africa’s 6 teams that participated in World Cup 2010, although they finished bottom of their group with Slovenia, England, USA. The highlight of their tournament was holding England to a 0-0 draw in South Africa, where – coincidentally- the African Cup of Nations 2013 will be held.

 

Group

A tough group for Algeria with Ivory Coast, who have the likes of Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba and more. Tunisia have been one of Africa’s better nations though that reputation has been tarnished by their recent African Cup of Nations performances.

Togo, one of the nations with more unknown players but do a pose a threat with country legend, Emmanuel Adebayor.

 

Star Player: Sofiane Feghouli

One of the jewels ready to take centre stage in South Africa. At 22 year old, the young Valencia star will want to make people leaving this tournament remembering this fantastic player.

Earning respect from Emery and Pellegrino and interest from European Giants PSG. He said in an interview with Le Buteur, “Personally, I dream of reaching the final. I set objectives for myself, I am an ambitions person. People tell me: ‘on the pitch, you don’t leave any stone unturned and we like that! Keep up the good work!’ I have the sense of being appreciated.”

The PSG link is strong, with Nene the wrong side of 30, it would be of no surprise of this tournament depends on a move in the summer. Though already at one of Spain’s top sides, the mouthwatering prospect of moving to PSG will be too much for a young Sofiane Feghouli.

Whether or not Feghouli does live up to high expectations he has been given remains to be seen, but it’s certainly worth keeping a look out.

 

Written by Cain O’Bennett

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Confederation African Football in Fixture Jam 2012 – 2014

AFCON 2013 in South Africa

2012 through to 2014 has and is going to be a very busy period for a number of countries within Confederation of African Football (CAF). First is the qualification rounds to the 2013 African Cup of Nations(ACN).

There will then be the 29th ACN final itself in South Africa. The winner from the South Africa finals will automatically be invited to play in the 2014 FIFA Confederation Cup Final in Brazil as CAFs sole representative.

Following this there is the small matter of World Cup qualification to Brazil 2014 with 5 CAF representatives going to be at Brazil 2014.

Topping all this off there is then the requirement for all CAF countries to ready themselves for the start of the qualification process to the ACN 2015 finals.

This mixed arrangement of events coming about because CAF did not want to be in a position where the final of their major show piece international tournament was clashing in the same year (2014) with the aforementioned finals in South America.

So from now on the ANC finals are going to run every 2 years on an odd number as opposed to the previous even based years.

This article tries to summarize the scale of activity CAF is dealing with over the next 2 years. It also provides an up to date position on where the various countries are at in the two main competitions running just now.

Finally it attempts to gauge just what the impact this might have on the African players employed in Europe and their respective clubs.

 

ACN 2013

Qualification to the ACN started with a preliminary round in January 2012 with the 4 lowest ranked countries in CAF participating in 2 leg knock out ties.

The winners of these ties then joined the 26 teams from CAF who did not qualify for the previous ACN finals. These teams again played a 2 legged knock-out 1st round set of ties home and away in February and then June 2012.

The 14 winners of this first round then entered a second round of ties with the 16 qualifiers from the previous finals now joining the competition. A complicated seeding process kicked in at this stage to help assist in the separation of the 30 teams into two pots.

The first rule of this seeding being how well each team had done in the previous 3 ACN finals. Within this each team allocated seeding points on their eventual placement in each of the finals and points they achieved. Finally for total points achieved in each of the finals a coefficient was factored in favour of the most recent to furthest away of the three finals.

So now in September 12 we are geared up for 15 first leg mouth-watering ties between some of the top teams in CAF (Egypt being the big miss at the expense of CAR). Return legs to be played in October 12.

List of ties are: Ethiopa vs Sudan, Nigeria vs Liberia, Uganda vs Zambia, Zimbabwe vs Angola, Algeria vs Libya, Togo vs Gabon, Malawi vs Ghana, Mozambique vs Morroco, CAR vs Burkina Faso, Cape Verde vs Cameroon, Sierra Leone vs Tunisia, Ivory Coast vs Senegal, DR Congo vs Equatorial Guinea, Guinea vs Niger and Mali vs Botswana.

Regarding the seeding of the nations it might be for the next ACN there is a need for the current system to be reviewed given the current model has drawn up Ivory Coast vs Senegal two of CAF’s big wigs.

The 15 finalists will then join the Bafana Bafana (themselves qualifying on the back of being final hosts) in South Africa where there will be 4 groups of 4 in round 1.

Following this the standard quarter final, semi final and final knock out rounds will ensue with an event which is scheduled to start in Soccer City on 19th January 2013 also finishing there on the 10th of February 2013

 

World Cup

For Brazil 2014 52 of the 53 CAF nations entered. Qualification started in November 2011 with a first round of 12 teams competing in a two legged knock out stage.

Teams selected for this initial round were recruited from the lowest 24 FIFA ranked countries in CAF. A standard 2 pot seeding system used in formatting the ties.

From this the 12 winners from round 1 joined the other 28 CAF countries with a four pot standard seeding system again based on FIFA ranking used to draw 10 groups of 4 countries. This stage of the qualification is ongoing and will conclude in September 2013.

Currently Ethiopia, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Congo, Nigeria, Egypt, Benin, Libya and Senegal lead their respective groups. All counties having completed 2 matches with 4 matches remaining at time of writing this article. At this stage it is worth noting that both Congo and Ethiopia came out of pot 4.

The winners of each of these 10 groups will then go into a standard FIFA ranked 2 pot system with 5 ties drawn and to be played October and November 2013; each team playing on a home and away basis with the usual regulations for such matches including away goals counting double in event of a draw employed.

Teams who need to get a move on in the remaining group stages who you would expect to be qualifying for the next stage in the CAF process being Cameroon, Burkina Faso, South Africa and Algeria.

Morocco drawing the short straw in what is a winner takes all group stage by being paired with Ivory Coast. So to get into the chosen 5 for Brazil it is clear countries are going to have to be able to last the pace, play to their maximum potential and carry a huge degree of luck.

 

Top African Players plying their trade in Europe

There are indeed a number of top players from CAF countries playing football in the main European leagues just now.

A very rough and draft (some players have possibly in the recent transfer window moved club since scribing this article) list of these include players such as:

Alex Song (Barca/ Cameroon), Steven Pienaar (Everton/ South Africa), CHEICK TIOTE (Newcastle/ Ivory Coast), MAHAMADOU DIARRA (Fulham/ Mali), SIAKA TIENE (Paris Saint-Germain/ Ivory Coast), AYMEN ABDENNOUR (Toulouse/ Tunisia), JONATHAN PITROIPA (Rennes/ Burkino Faso), MOHAMED ZIDAN (Baniyas (UAE)/ Egypt), MAME BIRAM DIOUF (Hanover 96/ Senegal), SULLEY MUNTARI (AC Milan) and BOUKARY DRAME (Chievo/ Senegal), SOFIANE FEGHOULI (Valencia/ Algeria), FORMOSE MENDY (Sporting Gijon/ Senegal), Yaya Toure (Man City/ Ivory Coast), KWADWO ASAMOAH (Juventus/ Ghana), Joel Obi (Inter and Nigeria), Peter Odemwingie (WBA/ Nigeria), Gervinho (Arsenal/Ivory Coast), Kevin-Prince Boateng (AC Milan/ Ghana), John Obi Mikel (Chelsea/ Nigeria), Adel Taarabt (QPR/ Morocco), Demba Ba (Newcastle United/Senegal), Papiss Cisse (Newcastle United/ Senegal), Samuel Eto’o (Anzhi/Cameroon), Andre Ayew (Marseille/ Ghana), Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Udinese/Ghana), Didier Ya Konan (Hannover 96/Ivory Coast), Moussa Sow (Fenerbache/ Senegal), Souleymane Diawara (Marseille/ Senegal), Efe Ambrose (Celtic/ Nigeria), and Alain Traore (Auxerre/ Burkino Faso).

The impact of the tough schedule faced over next couple of years for some if not most of these players will no doubt be felt in terms of their availability for clubs in their domestic fixtures.

Whether this unavailability is linked to playing internationals which clash with domestic fixtures and/ or more likely the impact of short and interim burn out from playing too many games and travelling large distances over short periods of time I am sure will have not been lost on the clubs. Contingencies will most certainly need to be planned for from now well into 2014.

Further articles will follow up on the qualification games and finals of CAF countries in the African nations, confederation and world cups as they take place over the next couple of years. It really is an exciting if probably best-avoided set of circumstances for CAF, players and affected countries/ clubs.

Good though for us neutrals who enjoy watching African football/ footballers.

 

Written by James Redfern

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