by Tom Stewart
Group D sees the 2nd highest ranked side Ghana hoping to improve on their silver medal in 2010.
Coach: Goran Stevanovic
Key Players: Andre Ayew (Marseille), Asamoah Gyan (Al-Ain)
Previous Best: Winners (1963, 1965, 1978, 1982)
GDP Per Capita: $1,810
Despite losing key players such as Michael Essien and Kevin Prince Boateng, the West African side still have a very strong squad with a good mix of youth and experience. Ghana were by far the most impressive team in the last World Cup and maintain a large amount of that squad. They are most impressive in defence with their captain- Lyon’s John Mensah adding rock-like solidity. In midfield they have wonderkid Andre Ayew (son of the legendary Adebi Pele) who will add a creative spark to what is a workmanlike team.
Prediction: Are second favourites and rightly so. Will be aiming to win and I’d be shocked if they don’t at least make the semi-finals. They are very organised and have pace and creativity galore.
Coach: Alain Giresse
Key Players: Seydou Keita (Barcelona), Cedric Kante (Panathinaikos)
Previous Best: Runners-up (1972)
GDP Per Capita: $691
Mali are captained by one of Africa’s best players- Seydou Keita, and he will be important if they are to get anywhere in this competition. Mali were knocked out of the first round last time around and are now without Fredi Kanoute and Momo Sissoko who have both retired, and Mahamadou Diarra who is injured. Only qualified on the last day on head-to-head.
Prediction: Will probably be battling it out with Guinea for 2nd place, but I can see them missing out, purely because they are so reliant on Keita.
Coach: Michel Dussuyer
Key Players: Pascal Feindouno (Free Agent), Ismael Bangoura (Al-Nasr)
Previous Best: Runners-Up (1976)
GDP Per Capita: $448
Qualified for this tournament unbeaten in a group that contained Nigeria, they could cause a minor upset here. They recorded three consecutive quarter final finishes but failed to qualify last time around. However, they are now managed by the manager that was in charge for the 2008 tournament. They are a very experienced side, with the likes of Feindouno, Bangoura and former Celtic defender Bobo Balde.
Prediction: I fancy them to finish 2nd in this group ahead of Mali. Can’t see them getting any further, though. Will be very reliant on the wily pair of Feindouno and Bangoura.
Coach: Stanley Tshosane
Key Players: Dipsy Selolwane (Supersport United), Magogi Gabonamong (Supersport United)
Previous Best: First Appearance
GDP Per Capita: $7,627
Botswana surprised many people by being the first team to qualify for this tournament. In fact they were unbeaten until qualification was secured, beating Tunisia home and away and conceded just 7 goals. Botswana only started trying to qualify for tournaments in the 90’s and this is their first appearance. All but 5 of their squad are based domestically with the others playing in South Africa. The star man is Dipsy Selolwane who played in MLS for four years.
Prediction: Could well cause and upset but it would be a major shock if they made it past the first round in their debut tournament. Are clearly well organised and their main contribution could be in their games with Mali and Guinea where their result may decide 2nd place.