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The final standings of the Group B have already been more or less decided. The Ivory Coast has already qualified for the next round thanks to two rather commanding wins over the Sudan (1-0) and Burkina Faso (2-0). Burkina Faso has been kicked out after two losts even though they started with many ambitions. Both, Angola and Sudan can still reach the next round but I honestly expect Angola to go through because they already have 4 points whilst Sudan has only one. A draw in the next match against the Ivory Coast on Monday 30th of January, would be enough for Angola. If they lose, Sudan could end up runner-up what depends on many different factors (goals, goals against and so on) though.
When people hear about Angola, they often first think about war, poverty and oil. In the last years though, their national team wanted to change this image. They want people all around the world to associate Angola with football as well. The former captain Fabrice Akwa, a tall striker and a national hero, said that the World Cup in Germany was the perfect stage for Angola to prove this. But they were already kicked out in the group stage and also failed in the group stage of the African Cup of Nations in the same year. Two years later, they struggled to reach the round of the last eight and two years ago, when the CAF took place in their own country, they lost in the quarter finals against Ghana, the eventual runner-up.
Angola’s strength is their experience. They participated in one world cup and three continental championships since 2006 and some of their players (Kali (central back), Macanga (defensive midfielder), Love, and Flavio(both forwards)) have participated in all those big competitions. Furthermore their defense keeps it pretty tight.
Their main weakness is that not many players are playing in Europe. Furthermore most of those playing in Europe, are playing in rather little champion ships such as Flavio is playing for Lierse SK in the Jupiter Pro League, the second Belgian league. Last but not least, the Angolan squad isn’t the youngest one.
Lito Vidigal is Angola’s fifth coach in three years. He took the team over 12 months ago and they are playing pretty well thanks to him. The 42-year-old is a former defender and participated in the CAF 1998 with Angola. He’s been the Angolan coach for 7 games by now and won on an average 2 points a game which is a great rate!
Gilberto is the Angolan key player and their best player in 2010. He’s impressively fast and is playing in Lierse with his fellow country man Flavio. He became a star in Egypt, at Al-Ahly where he won six Egyptian titles and one African Champions League. He missed the World Cup 2006 in Germany because of an Achilles tendon injury.
In the qualifying for the CAF 2012, Burkina Faso only had to play Gambia and Namibia since Mauritania had been withdrawn by its own football federation. Burkina Faso had no problems at all in that group, scored on an average 3 goals a game and won every match except the one away in Gambia. It’s their second qualification in a row and they are getting more and more experienced. Some experts say they were a nation on the up. I’d like to know what they say about them, after they have been kicked out in such a more or less easy group.
Burkina Faso actually has kind of a golden generation. Bakary Koné (defender in Lyon), Alain Traoré (winger in Auxerre), Charles Kaboré (midfielder in Marseille) and Jonathan Pitroipa (winger in Rennes) are all starters in their clubs and are already pretty experienced despite their young age. They are an offensively-minded team but they couldn’t show that in the current CAF. Furthermore they are depending too much on their key players and since their qualifying group was such an easy one, they were lacking match practice. This is surely one of the reasons why they didn’t reach the quarter finals.
Paulo Duarte, a 42-year-old Portuguese former defender is the head coach of the “Stallions”. As central back, his playing career wasn’t really successful, he did play a lot but never for a big club in a big league. He was coached by Jose Mourinho though, when he was for União Leiria. He finished is playing career in 2004 after 16 years in Leiria and took that team over as manager in 2006. In 2008 he was appointed manager of Burkina Faso and one year later he signed at Le Mans, in the Ligue 1. So he was coaching two teams but he was sacked in France after only 6 months. In 2010 he lead Burkina Faso to the CAF in Angola but his team was kicked out in the group stage back then as well.
Alain Traoré is Burkina Faso’s key player. He was their best man on the pitch against the Ivory Coast with 4 shots on target, 22 passes in the attacking third, 2 chances created and 5 suffered fouls. He has been playing for AJ Auxerre since 2005 but only made his break-through in 2010. Nobody had doubts about his talent, Traoré was just too lazy to work harder so that he could have made his breakthrough earlier. At the moment Traoré is his team’s top scorer and in the qualifying for the CAF 2012 he scored 4 times (altogether Burkina Faso had scored 13 goals).
The Ivory Coast probably has the greatest talent pool in Africa, and surely also in the world. Didier Drogba, Yaya Touré, Didier Zokora, Cheik Tioté, Gervinho, Seydou Doumbia – the list of stars coming from the Ivory Coast having started with nothing and ended up with everything seems to be endless. The current and last generation seem to be perfect but they have one flaw: they have never won anything. The Ivory Coast won their only African Cup of Nations in 1992. They were runner-ups a few times but never managed to win it again. This year though, most favorites aren’t even participating or have already been eliminated. I honestly think this year the cup is going to be the Ivory Coast’s! They are really strong, especially their midfield is amazing and their manager seems to be a good one as well!
As already said, the midfield and forward line are the Ivory Coast’s greatest strength. There’s no other nation in Africa who can compare to them. Furthermore all those players are really experienced since they are regularly playing in the Champions League and some of them were already part of the squad who participated in the World Cup 2006 in Germany. They all have a lot of self-assurance as well because of a year 2011 that was almost perfect. Their major problem will probably be the jealousy between the players. The Ivory Coast has always been pretty infamous for their inter-human problems such as jealousy. They might be tiny but can still be a threat for the team spirit. Some players don’t like the influence the big stars have, they want the same power and money. There’s also a lot of pressure on their shoulders because they are supposed to win something after all those unsuccessful years.
The CAF 2012 will be the baptism of fire for François Zahouri, the Ivorian manager of Drogba and Co. The 50-year-old former midfielder took the team over after the World Cup 2010 after they couldn’t reach the next round under Sven-Göran Eriksson. His goal is to win the CAF, everything else would probably mean his sacking. Zahouri could actually bring team spirit back into the group and his tactics seem to be perfect for the types of his players he has. The Ivory Coast is using the wingers a lot and pressing forward very early. They also know how to counter attack even though they lack precision and concentration to play them successfully. All in one François Zahouri is a great manager.
Didier Drogba is undoubtedly the most important player from the Ivory Coast. No other African player has such an influence in the world, no other African player has been that successful, no other African player is loved that much. Didier Drogba isn’t only one of the best strikers in the world, he is also more politically active and influencing than any other footballer in the world. When there was once a civil war in the Ivory Coast, Drogba told his fellow country men to stop fighting and that actually happened! Furthermore Drogba isn’t the youngest anymore and he doesn’t have much time left to win a trophy for his country. That’s why he is surely more motivated than ever before to win the CAF.
The Sudan is the only east African team to have gone through the qualifying. Even though they are only on the 112th position in the FIFA ranking, they do have a proud history. In 1957 they hosted the first CAF, finished runner-ups in 1959 and 1963 and won the cup in 1970 in their own country. Since 1976 though, Sudan has only qualified twice for the African Cup of Nations – in 2008 when they lost every single game and didn’t score any goal. In the qualifying for the current CAF only Ghana took points of them and Sudan finished as one of the best runner-ups.
Since two Sudanese clubs (Al-Hilal and Al-Merreikh) have been pretty successful in the African Champions League and since every player from the Sudanese national team is playing in the domestic league, the players know each other very well and they’re used to big competitions. Furthermore they are said to have a good defense what you could see very well in their match against the Ivory Coast!
Mohamed Abdalla Ahmed is the coach of the Sudanese side and has been their manager since 2008. He already lead them at the CAF 2008. That’s pretty much all I can find about him, I’m sorry.
Haitham Mustafa is the Sudanese key player and an attacking midfielder. He is 34 years old and a Sudanese football legend. He was already highly rated in his youth. He’s known for his great play making abilities and he’s playing for Al-Hilal. Furthermore he is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations.
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