The African Cup of Nations kicks off shortly and The Daily Shift’s Shane Hurley is excited to see the tournament kick off again…
The African cup of Nations will kick off this weekend in the 2010 World Cup nation South Africa. It is only the second time the Rainbow Nation have hosted the tournament which was only played last year, but it’s adjusting its pattern to avoid conflicting with World Cup years.
The main talking points heading into the tournament are: Can what was (maybe still is) the Ivory Coasts golden generation, finally claim the title after so many near misses? Will Zambia retain their unexpected crown from last year? Will there manager Herve Renard still be looking dapper in his lucky white shirt?
The competition will be without three of the big names in Cameroon, seven time champion Egypt and Senegal. Senegal’s absence will bring a smile to Newcastle and Chelsea fans.
The 16 teams will be separated into four groups. With winners and runners up progressing to the quarter finals. Hosts South Africa will be depending on the team spirit and public support that lead them to glory on home soil in 1996, very similar to the rugby World Cup, Nelson Mandela presented the trophy to the Bafana Bafana (the South African nickname meaning go boys go boys)
Togo make their return to the Cup of Nations. Three years ago in Angola the teams bus was attacked by individuals with machine guns. Players and staff were injured, three men lost their lives. Togo pulled out of the tournament and were then disqualified and faced criticism from organisers, organisers who should hae shown more compassion. After initially saying he would not partake in a Cup of Nations again and temporarily retiring from international football after the distress of that day, Spurs striker Emmanuel Adebayor will be the focal point and key player for Togo on his return.
Favourites Ivory Coast have on paper the strongest squad and fans will hang their dreams on Didier Drogba using some of the magic and drive that finally won Chelsea a Champions League title after so many years of trying and near misses. The parallels at club and country level for Drogba might just have it that it is written in the stars. The bizarre decision to appoint Sabri Lamouchi as manager as his first role as a head coach could be the Achilles heel. An untested manager with the weight of a Nation and senior players whose egos are matched by there undoubted talent.
This tournament does have track record for the unexpected, plucky under dog to step up, as the giant fails. Cape Verde islands are seen as rank outsiders, but it was they who put four time winners Cameroon out over two legs. If Cameroon had qualified they would be talked of in similar breath to the Ivory Coat, to win the competition and give Samuel Eto’o one last golden moment.
If teams live up to their billing on paper Ghana will be the team to challenge Drogba for the title. Ghana who controversially lost to Uruguay in the World Cup quarter finals will use the experience that squad got to drive them on. Celtic fans should take the chance to get to know Kwadwo Asamoah, the Juventus midfielder is strong and powerful, and is likely to be seen burst down the right hand side of the pitch to drive in a cross or to be cutting in to meet one. Goal threat will lie with Asamoah Gyan. Ghana two years ago were very one dimensional and heavily reliant of Gyan. Kwadwo Asamoah and Derek Boetang will have to contribute to the attack if they are to succeed.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles return with a point to prove. They did not qualify last time round. With a chip on their wings and five players who played first team football in this seasons Champions League, they have returned to battle ready. Emmanuel Emenike will play through the centre and the midfield will try to feed him through balls to utilize his pace to get in on goal.
One of the finest moments ever witnessed on a football pitch then came in last years final when after the final whistle, Herve Renard, as his players raced to celebrate an unlikely penalty shoot out win. Picked up one of his injured players and carried him to the celebrations.
For anyone who would like to follow the tournament. ITV and Eurosport will be showing games live as well as highlight programmes.
So enjoy the football and lets all hope the vuvuzelas have been left at home.