by Tom Stewart
As a wise woman once said: Tsamina mina eh eh, Waka Waka eh eh, Tsamina mina zangalewa, Anawa aa, THIS TIME FOR AFRICA.
Welcome to the maddest show on earth. This carnival of madness, this time co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, kicks off on January 21st. Here is the first part of our preview.
Coach: Amara Traore
Key Players: Moussa Sow (Lille), Demba Ba (Newcastle United),
Previous Best: Runners-up (2002)
GDP Per Capita: $1,026
After failing to qualify for the 2010 tournament, Senegal will be hoping to prove a point. The 2002 finalists are without many of that side who also gatecrashed the World Cup later that year. The likes of El-Hadji Diouf, Henri Camara and Salif Diao have been replaced by a younger set of players. With an embarrassment of riches up front with the likes of Moussa Sow and Demba Ba they should have no problem scoring goals. Like many sides in this tournament a question mark hangs over their goalkeeping options, where all 3 are inexperienced. First choice keeper, Khadim N’Diaye has only 8 caps to his name.
Prediction: The potential for goals should see them get to the semi-finals. If they can get the potentially prolific pairing of Sow and Ba firing then they could win the competition.
Coach: Herve Renard
Key Players: Christopher Katongo (Henan Jianye), Emmanuel Mayuka (Young Boys)
Previous Best: Runners-up (1974)
GDP Per Capita: $1,086
With few European-based players in the squad, little is expected of Zambia this year. However, they reached the quarter-finals in 2010 and the squad contains many players from the TP Mazembe side who reached the Final of the World Club Cup in 2010. Hopes are pinned on Christopher Katongo of Chinese side Henan Jianye who is the key figure of the side, offering creativity on either wing.
Prediction: This is an experienced side that shouldn’t be underestimated, could well qualify for the quarter finals but would do well to go further.
Coach: Henri Michel
Key Players: Randy (Las Palmas), Bodipo (Deportivo La Coruna)
Past Record: First Appearance
GDP Per Capita: $20,200
The co-hosts go into their first tournament coached by the highly respected 64-year old Henri Michel. Much of their squad plays in Spain’s lower leagues and most of their hopes of progressing rely on the brilliantly named 24-year old Randy (real name Iban Iyanga Travieso) of Las Palmas and their experienced captain, 34-year old Bodipo, of Deportivo La Coruna. Ranked 151st in the world.
Prediction: Will be a minor miracle if they make it past the first round. This is a woefully inexperienced team, with Goalkeeper Danilo the highest cap earner with 20, and much of the squad has been added recently after a trawl of Spain for players of Equatoguinean heritage. Home advantage and the ability of coach Michel could be their saviours but a first round exit is predicted.
Coach: Marcos Paqueta
Key Players: Samir Aboud (Al Ittihad), Djamal Mahamat (Braga)
Past Record: Runners-up (1982)
GDP Per Capita: $10,873
Considering what has happened in the country in the last year it was a minor miracle that Libya qualified for this tournament. The North African nation has qualified just twice before, in 1982 and 2006 and goes into this tournament with a squad containing mainly home based players. Libya qualified unbeaten despite playing all their home games in Egypt, and could well cause an upset here. Hopes will rely on captain and goalkeeper Samir Aboud who has 9 Libyan titles to his name, and midfielder Djamal Mahamat who is one of only two players in the squad playing in Europe.
Prediction: New-found national pride could provide extra motivation for this side. Were impressive in qualifying so aren’t the walkovers many might expect them to be. Could battle it out with Zambia for second place but I can’t see them going any further