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In the following days I want to present you the four groups of this year’s African Nations Cup. Since I want to present them – of course – in alphabetical order, I’ll start with Group A today. I can’t tell when I’m going to write about the other groups but those articles will be online for sure before the third match day of each group has started. I still have many more ideas what to write about so be ready for more articles in the upcoming days and weeks.
Anyway, the teams in the group A are Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Senegal and Zambia. At a first glance this group seems to be an easy one for the favorite Senegal but they have lost their first game 1-2 against Zambia. Equatorial Guinea won their first match with 1-0 against Libya. Today (Wednesday, 26.01.12) the second match day of the Group A will be played, Libya is playing Zambia and Equatorial Guinea accordingly Senegal. The “Lions” are already under pressure, they have to win today’s game at all costs. If they lose and Zambia wins as well, what is quite likely to happen, then the first favorite has to say goodbye to the CAF 2012.
The CAF 2012 is the first participation ever in this competition for Equatorial Guinea. Altogether they have only tried twice to qualify for the continental African championships, their first try was in 2002 but they failed. They are only participating in the current CAF because they are co-hosts. Equatorial Guinea is the 151st in the FIFA ranking which isn’t that good to be honest… They have integrated some Spanish players with Equatoguinean heritage into the squad and they have made some pretty good results in 2011: they won 3-2 over Madagascar, draw against Cameroon and won 3-0 over the Central African Republic. Those games could be a boost for the team’s morale. Another advantage is that they are playing all of their games at home.
The “Nzalang Nacional” will have to face many problems as well though. Almost no player has experienced football on a higher level yet, Equatorial Guinea doesn’t even have a domestic soccer league! Even though the players consequently don’t have much match practice, the media and inhabitants do expect a lot from their national team. Thus there is a lot of pressure on the co-hosters. I isn’t really helpful either that Henri Michel, one of the highest regarded managers in Africa (had coached the Ivory Coast among others) had been sacked one month before the first match of the CAF last Saturday.
Gilson Paulo has been announced as new manager. The 62-year-old Brazilian is a former youth coach at Brazil’s Vasco da Gama and he immediately bettered the atmosphere in the Equatoguinean camp. The players seem to really like him because he isn’t playing with lots of naturalized players but rather prefers players with true Equatoguinean heritage. Henri Michel fell into disgrace because he exactly did the opposite…
The Equatoguinean stars are two naturalized men though. Iban Iyanga aka Randy is a 24-year-old left winger who is currently playing in the “Segunda Division” for UD Las Palmas. He can also play as center forward. He has played most of his career for UD Las Palmas B though what tells its own story. He has the Spanish nationality as well as the Equatoguinean one. The other ,,star” is Narcisse Ekanga who is a 24-year-old central midfielder playing for Africa’s best team; Mazembe de Lubumbashi (Congo). He also has the Cameroonian citizenship.
This year, Libya is only participating for the third time in the most prestigious African competition. They finished runner-ups in 1982 when they were hosting the CAF and were eliminated without any win in Egypt in 2006. Their qualification for the current CAF has been a sensation, even without knowing what the country has been through recently. They were in a group with Egypt and Zambia. They qualified thanks to a 0-0 against Zambia and finished unbeaten as one of the best-placed runner-ups.
Their greatest strength is their team spirit and they even have some pretty experienced players: Samir Aboud (goal keeper), Ahmed Saad (striker) and Younes Hussein Al Shibani (defender). Their defense is really strong but most of their players do lack match practice and also have never participated in a CAF what are the weaknesses of the Libyan team.
Marcos Paqueta is the coach of the “Greens”. The 53-year-old Brazilian has won the Under-17 and Under-20 world championships with Brazil in 2003 and was the Saudi Arabia’s coach during their bad 2006 World Cup campaign. He has been really successful in Arabian leagues with more or less big teams such as Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia.
The Libyan super star is Samir Aboud, the 39-year-old goal keeper who is the most successful player in the history of the Libyan federation. He has won 9 Libyan Premier League titles with Al-Ittihad for which he has been playing since 1991. He played with them in the African Champions League semi-final in 2007 and even converted two penalties in his football career!
After Senegal hadn’t qualified neither for the World Cup 2010 nor for the CAF in the same year, the Senegalese confederation thought it was time for change and Amara Traoré had been appointed as new manager. He has made Senegal much stronger: their defense is pretty decent, his midfield and forward line are among the best in Africa with players such as Demba Ba, Mamadou Niang, Dame N’Doye, Papiss Demba Cissé, Souleymane Camara and Moussa Sow. They qualified without any problems and only conceded two goals in the the qualification games! The goal keepers are a real threat for the team’s ambitions though and so his the pressure put on them by the population and the media.
As already mentioned, Amara Traoré, a 46-year-old former striker is the “Lion’s” coach. He’d been playing for almost 15 years in France for rather average clubs and he was the Senegalese assistant coach from 2005 to 2006. He reached the semi-finals of the CAF 2006 in Egypt with Senegal but then he became manager of ASC la Linguère de Saint-Louis, his native town, with which he won the Senegalese championship in 2009 before signing as national coach of his country.
Moussa Sow, the 26-year-old striker from LOSC Lille is the Senegalese super star. He’s undoubtedly been one of the most important players for the French club in the last and current season: so far, he had scored 31 goals in 54 matches for the Northern French club. In Senegal’s 4-4-2, he’s often playing as winger in the midfield so that they can easily switch to a more offensively-minded 4-3-3. He was born in France and also played for the French Under-19 but he’s playing for Senegal since 2009.
Zambia is considered as a really strong team. They’re always able to surprise big teams, as seen on the first matchday against Senegal. They have come through the qualifications with a reocrd of only one defeat and two girls conceded. They are a very strong and balanced team because their team spirit is their key for success. Most of their players are pretty experienced and have already participated in more than one CAF. Zambia’s only problems are that only few players are playing in Europe and that the government is trying to influence the football federation what, in my opinion, is a disgrace.
Herve Renard, a 43-year-old Frenchman has already been manager of the Zambian national team twice. He was their manager from 2008 to 2010 but then he was lured away by Angola. He left this national team after only sic months though and signed at an Algerian club called USM Alger where he didn’t win anything. He returned to Zambia in 2011. He had only been playing in France for 15 years (1983-1998) as a defender before he became managers of 7 different teams in only 12 years.
Christopher Katongo, who had been playing in Germany for Arminia Bielefeld, is the Zambian key player. The 29-year-old striker is currently playing in China for Henan Jianye and can offer creativity from either flank. He has scored 13 goals in 61 appearances for his country so far.
Thank you a lot for reading my article! 😀 Ratings and comments are desired – as always! 😉
+++UPDATE+++ Equatorial Guinea has just kicked Senegal out! Senegal has lost for the second time whilst the Equatoguinean won for the second time! In the early evening, Zambia and Libya draw, so there’s no hope anymore for Senegal! The first favorite has been kicked out tonight! (25.01.2012, 11:30 pm)