The Africa Cup of Nations group stage draw was released on Friday at the Talatona Convention Centre in Luanda with the hosts Angola being drawn in a somewhat easy Group A alongside Algeria, Mali and Malawi. This tournament will be a must win for the ‘Palancas Negras’ after they failed to reach the Finals of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
The tournament which is slated to run from January 10 to January 31, is the continents main football showpiece and it is often used as a gauge to measure a national sides preparedness for the World Cup. Angola who made their debut World cup appearance in the 2006 event, are looking to reverse their downward slide in football by wining the tournament.
Looking at the group, i think Angola has a pretty good chance of making it through to the quarters. Mali with the likes of Seydo Keita and Freddy Kanoute are strong challengers and i expect them along with Angola to Qualify. Watching Algeria play Egypt recently, i was impressed at just how much the ‘Desert Foxes’ were determined to see off the Egyptians.
Algeria really did deserve the win but i don’t think they will make it in this tournament because both Angola and Mali will be looking to lick their fresh wounds and perhaps even win the tournament to make up for qualifying for the World Cup finals.
Group B is considered the group of death with Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Togo all being seeded together. It will be hard to pick out an outright team that will advance but if you know your African football well then you would realise that Ivory Coast – the highest ranked African team according FIFA, and Ghana are the teams that are considered to progress although you should not rule out the Adebayor led Togo.
In Group C, Egypt, Nigeria, Mozambique and Benin will square off with each other in a round of fixtures that will be played in Benguela and Lobango. My take on this group is an Egyptian and Nigerian progression. Mozambique who were pooled with the Super Eagles in the last round of the World Cup/African Cup qualifiers do not pose a real threat to these two powerhouses of African football.
Cameroon, Gabon, Zambia and Tunisia make up the last group – Group D. Again Cameroon and Tunisia are the favorites to make it through this stage. Both these teams are no strangers to competitive football. Cameroon who last won this tournament in 2002 will be looking to stamp their authority as the dominant African football nation by wining the tournament when the kick-off whistle blows on January the 10th.
With less than 50 days left until D-day, footballs fans around the world will yet again be treated to a mouth-watering affair of the beautiful game.