Predictions – Africa Cup of Nations 2010

9 Jan

My how time flies. It feels like it was only last week when we witnessed Egypt lift their second consecutive African Cup, and here we are again, on the eve of the tournament and I for one cannot wait. With the English Premiership brought to its knees by the weather it will be great to scratch my football itch with 3 weeks of African football. I’m so excited. So to steady my nerves here are my predictions for the group stage.

GROUP A

Angola, Mali, Algeria, Malawi

For me, this group could produce quite a surprise. I know many people who would tip Angola and Algeria to progress but I have this sneaking suspicion the Malians will have something to say about that.

Angola gave a good account of themselves at the last outing in Ghana. Led by former Manchester United striker, Manucho, they progressed to the quarter finals as somewhat of a surprise package. This time round, they have the added pressure of being hosts and will want to equal or better that outcome. But I fear their lack of meaningful results in recent friendlies is a sign of things to come, having scored 7 and conceded 5 in their last 9 outings.

I’ve always felt that Mali are the underachievers of African football. I said the same about Spain before the 2008 European Cup and look how that turned out. I think this will be a good tournament for Mali; they can enjoy their football as they’ve been all but ruled out of the running. Last time round, they failed to escape the group but it was a tough group and perhaps the pressure told. So what will be the difference this time? Mahamadou Diara, Seydou Keita and most importantly Frederick Kanoute. I rest my case.

Algeria have the strongest history in the group, boasting 13 previous appearances, but their current form makes me doubt the squad. Sure they beat favorites Egypt to claim a World Cup spot, but I think this has tarnished the desire and focus to win the African Cup. It sounds bizarre when you look at their record going into the tournament (W7-D1-L1) but I’m still not convinced. Let’s hope they prove me wrong because if they do, this will be a great group to watch.

Malawi are the underdogs in the group and have actually only made it in to the competition once before. But at this level no game is a walk over. They have an excellent player in Essau Kanyenda and also the qualifier group’s top scorer Chiukepo Msowoya. I doubt they’ll make it out of the group, but they will make it hard for the other 3 teams and could decide more than you would expect with results against.

Mali to win the group, Angola will be a valiant second.

GROUP B

Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo

Wow, what a group, the West African select get dropped into one heap, a chance to shake it all up.

If Cote D’Ivoire thought they had it rough in the World Cup draw, this will certainly be a good test of their metal. I’m not Didier Drogba’s biggest fan, but let’s face it the man is one of the best at leading the line and he didn’t fluke yesterday’s African Player of the Year Award. The stage is set for him to perform this year and you can almost feel he has something to prove as 2008 saw Cote D’Ivoire lose to eventual winners Egypt in the semi-finals. Let’s not forget they also missed out on third place by losing to Ghana, so could the group stage be time to exact revenge? Cote D’Ivoire are perhaps the most eagerly anticipated team and favorites to lift the cup, so no pressure.

Ghana is one of my favorite teams to watch, they’re just a superb young strong team. Ghana won the FIFA U-21 World Cup last year, and as a sign of just how good they are, 6 members of the victorious squad now represent the senior side.

We all know about the midfield powerhouse that is Michael Essien, who will want to upset his Chelsea teammates Drogba and Kalou and I think he can. Look out for Asamoah Gyan, the boy knows where the goal is.

Burkina Faso have long stopped making up the numbers and showcase a number of players from around Europe. Like Moumouni Dagano, top scorer of the entire qualifying campaign with 12 goals. Also look out for Jonathan Pitroipa, their star in the midfield. Burkina Faso have a mountain to climb with Ghana and Cote I’voire ruining their chances, but they would love to steal the points and maybe second place from their neighbours.

Togo will have a tough ride. Emmanuel Adebayor is head and shoulders their best player, but this lost him his place at the last World Cup where Togo finished without any points. Adebayor has since been reinstated and captains the team. His task is simple, score and rally everyone else to do his job to the T.

Cote D’Ivoire to win the group, marginally, Ghana in second.

GROUP C

Egypt, Nigeria, Benin, Mozambique

Egypt has the best record in the African Cup of Nations winning the competition 6 times including the last 2 tournaments. The question is can the Egyptians claim a spot in history by being the first team to win the tournament 3 times in a row? Having been knocked out of the World Cup, they have the opportunity to fulfill their destiny. They have a great star player in Mohamed Zidan, but what is more impressive is that of their 23 man squad, only 4 play outside Egypt. This has created a high level of understanding within the squad, which has made them one of the most feared teams in Africa.

Nigeria, always one of the favorites and no change this time round. They have so much potential backed up by experience that it is unwise to underestimate the squad. Yakubu and Martins have the goal burden on their shoulders but there are few players in the tournament I would be more confident in; not to mention the timeless class of Kanu. Almost written off and undoubtedly underestimated, the Nigerians find themselves in a great position to take the tournament by storm.

Benin’s main problem is they will look to their PSG star Stéphane Sessegnon a little too often. They will hope that can spoil Nigeria or Egypt’s progress. Being only their second appearance in the tournament, Benin can afford to enjoy themselves and showcase their star.

Mozambique makes their fourth appearance, but I feel they will be lucky to win a point. The team is in a battle for third place and can equally go out there, take pride in their achievement in making it this far and hope to upset one of the overall favorites.

Nigeria to win the group while Egypt will finish second.

GROUP D

Cameroon, Tunisia, Gabon, Zambia

Here’s a tip, never count Cameroon out. This year has been a rollercoaster for the Cameroonians; you only have to look at their road to the World Cup, which started slowly and lead to the appointment of a new coach half way through the process. Under their new coach, Paul Le Guen, spirits have been reignited and the squad seems to only know one thing, how to win. Obvious star Samuel Eto’o has often shone in the Africa Cup of Nations and I believe he will again.

Tunisia has produced a formidable squad which unfortunately has no cornerstone. Narrowly missing out on the World Cup you can see that this is not necessarily a bad thing. The players trust each other and have a habit of causing upsets like their most triumphant moment when they lifted the Africa Cup of Nations in 2002, beating Senegal, Nigeria and Morocco on the way.

Gabon under coach, Alain Giresse, for 4 years has built another promising squad. Given the chance, they could deal a blow to group hopefuls. Hull’s Daniel Cousin is the star player and a benchmark for the type of quality you can expect from the squad. Expect Gabon to give a good account of themselves.

Zambia is another team capable of all sorts of rollercoaster rides. The under 21 squad won the COSAFA Cup over World Cup hosts South Africa last month and would love to replicate this form in the Africa Cup of Nations. However the senior team often comes up short, not making it out of the group stage last time round. Furthermore, 2 of their top players have found themselves excluded from the squad in a move in which you can’t help but feel coach, Herve Renard, must know something we don’t. If Zambia get their act together they can make it out of the group, and that is exactly what the coach expects of them.

Cameroon will win this group, I hope Zambia make it out of the group but I think Tunisia will pip them to second.

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One Response to “Predictions – Africa Cup of Nations 2010”

  1. lepetitnegre January 9, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    Wouah!! That’s what I call Predictions. I’ve put out a site where you can share all your predictions with others from all over africa spread the oword and come share your thoughts with other http://www.lepetitnegre.com/sports/can2010/

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