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As in almost every group, there has also been a huge surprise in the Group C. Morocco, one of the biggest favorites has been eliminated by two defeats, one against Tunisia (1-2) and the other one against Gabon in an amazing 2-3 game. Tunisia and Gabon are the only teams who have won a game so far in the group C and both are on top of the table with 6 points. Tunisia are only runner-ups though, because their goal difference is worse than Gabon’s one. Gabon has scored 5 times and conceded twice whilst Tunisia only scored 4 times and also only conceded twice. On the last match day that will be played tomorrow, Tuesday, the match between Gabon and Tunisia will decide whether the co-host will stay on the first place or only go through as runner-ups. In the other game between Morocco and Niger, both teams just don’t want to leave be leave the tournament as only team with 0 points.
Gabon is seen as an emerging football nation. Their best performance at an African Cup of Nations was reaching the quarters in 1996 but this year, the Gabonese expect at least the semis from their team. Gabon isn’t really known as a team who scores much goal even though they have already scored 5 times in the current tournament. Their defense is pretty strong and they rarely concede goals. Their strengths are the home-advantage, the individually strong squad (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Eric Mouloungui) and the experience of the squad. Many players are playing for European clubs. Furthermore Daniel Cousin and Stéphane N’Guema, two really experienced players have come back and have already helped the team as seen in the match against Morocco. The pressure of the population and arguments between Cousin and Mouloungui could affect negatively the performance of the whole team what hasn’t happened so far though.
Gernot Rohr, a 58-year-old German, has been the manager of the Gabonese national team since 2010. Before he came to Gabon, he had been manager of many clubs, especially in France. After the former defender had been playing for 12 years for Girondins de Bordeaux (1977-1989), he reached the final of the UEFA Cup on 1996 as manager of the French club where he lost against Bayern Munich though. So, the German seems to be a pretty good manager, what’s also an explanation for the great performances of his team in the current CAF.
Daniel Cousin is the Gabonese super star. The 34-year-old striker had been playing for 13 years before his contract in Larissa (Greece) extended and he couldn’t sign any new contract. So he went back to Gabon to play for FC Sapins to get at least a few match practice. He had been playing for Glasgow Rangers (11 goals in 28 matches), Hull City (4 goals in 30 matches) and many French clubs. Actually he had moved to France when he was three what explains why he’d been playing in France for so long. He has only been playing 28 times for the Gabonese national team since 2000 but he scored 9 goals in those matches. He recently scored against Morocco and hopes to promote himself in this tournament so that he can sign a last contract in Europe.
The Moroccan side started as one of the big favorites into the tournament but they disappointed their fans. Two defeats, both pretty unlucky in the end kicked them out after only two match days. Their qualifying had been pretty difficult as well though. They could only qualify on the final day thanks to a 3-1 over Tanzania. The most important result though, was their 4-0 win over their nemesis Algeria in June last year. Their performances have been quite mixed though, there were amazing but also awful matches. Before they had been kicked out, the Moroccan strengths were said to be the offensively-minded game preached by Eric Gerets, their Belgian manager, the very well harmonizing play between rather old, experienced players and young ones. They were also said to be very organized in the defense and to be really professionally-minded. In the end, not much of those strengths could be proved and the weaknesses of the North-African team were shown up: the players still don’t really know each others paths and so on and the pressure of the media and population seem to have been too high so that the squad couldn’t bear it anymore and lost twice.
Eric Gerets, the 57-year-old Belgian coach of the Moroccan squad has already trained more or less famous clubs such as VFL Wolfsburg, FC Kaiserslautern and Olympique Marseille. In 2010, he took the Moroccan national team over and he had to face many problems such as the impatience of the media and the population. Those didn’t want to forgive him their 0-1 defeat against Algeria in March 2010 until they won 4-0 at home against the enemy number one. Furthermore many rumors were spread that Gerets was about to leave Morocco and sign in France (Lyon, Marseille) or in Turkey. Gerets prefers an offensively-minded game and his team could qualify thanks to them and he has brought professionalism back to the national team, according to his players. The former right full-back has signed a contract until 2014, the World Cup 2014 in Brazil is one of his goals. It can be doubted though, if he can try to reach that goal after this horrible CAF…
Houssine Kharja, a defensive midfielder is the Moroccan key player. He has scored all of the three Moroccan goals at this year’s CAF. The 29-year-old is said to be a player who always gives everything for his teams what he has impressively shown, especially in the game against Gabon (2-3). He started his career in the youth team of Paris Saint-Germain before joining Sporting Lisbon in 2000. After one year he moved to Italy where he has stayed until today. He has even been playing for big clubs such as Roma, Inter and currently Fiorentina. He has been called up 68 times for his country so far and he has already scored 9 goals for them.
Niger was quite lucky to qualify for the final tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. They lost their last match 0-3 against an Egypt under-23 side but as South-Africa only drawn against Sierra Leone and finished lower on head-to-heads, Niger could qualify. Even though Niger lost three (all of them away) of their six qualification games, they are participating for the first time in the African Cup of Nations. In 2010 they had already qualified for the CAF in Angola but the confederation couldn’t afford to send them over there. They would have been grouped with South Africa and Egypt back then…
Niger was an underdog from the very beginning but they still have some strengths. Their qualification despite heavyweights such as South Africa and Egypt was good for their motivation and self-esteem. Furthermore they are said to have a well organized defense what they couldn’t prove though (4 goals against). But it was also known that they have a really unexperienced squad and not much good players.
Harouna Doula Gabde is a very religious man who says God was the reason for their success. Actually, his intense and hard-pressing 4-4-2 is the key for success since he has been appointed as manager in 2009. The 46-year-old Nigerian was awarded “Best African Manager 2011” but the former right full-back has been removed as head coach after the first defeat of his team against Gabon. He was replaced by Rolland Courbis who had been “Technical counselor” so far. Doula Gabde is only the second coach anymore. It’s still unclear whether he’ll return has head coach after the tournament or not.
Moussa Maazou, a 23-year-young striker who is under contract at CSKA Moscow but has been loaned since 2009 to 7 different clubs, currently to Le Mans FC, is the Nigerien football star. In all those years he has only scored 12 goals but he thinks he’s worth to be compared to players from Real Madrid and Barca. His behavior is his biggest problem, the Belgian club Zulte Waregem for which he played from 2011 to 2012 sent him back to Moscow because of it. He has only made 12 appearances for his country so far but scored in every second match.
Out of the sides who have won the last 9 African Cups of Nations, only Tunisia was able to qualify. They finished runner-ups behind Botswana in their group but won the important game against Togo on the final day. Tunisia has had seven different coaches in the last 4 years. They won against Chad and Mali last year but lost against Algeria and Oman what shows that they don’t have much consistency at all. The lucky qualification could be an advantage for the moral of the players in the tournament and their great individualists such as Karim Haggui (28-year-old defender, Hannover 96, Germany), Adel Chedli (35-year-old midfielder, Etoile Sportive du Sahel, Tunisia) and Mohamed Amine Chermiti (24-year-old striker, FC Zurich, Switzerland) can be crucial as well. Tunisia is playing pretty offensively-minded but they have many players who lack match practice and experience.
Sami Trabelsi is a former Tunisian national player and the head coach of the current Tunisian side. He played for his country at the World Cup 1998 and coached the Olympic side of his country. The former central back was officially appointed as Tunisian manager in 2011.
Adel Chedli is the Tunisian key player. The 35-year-old midfielder was born and raised in France and joined the youth academy of Manchester United in 1995 at the age of 19. After only one year he made his first appearance for the “Red Devils”. After that he went to St-Etienne where he played for some years until he joined FC Sochaux, another French club. He spent most of his career in France but also played in Nuremberg for one season. Two years ago he went to play in Tunisia for the first time in his career because he wanted to be near his father after the death of his mother. He has played 56 times (3 goals) for his country and was part of the squad at the World Cup 2006 in Germany.
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