Group A involves one of the host nations (Equitorial Guinea), two similar hard working sides (Libya and Zambia) and an obvious stand out (Senegal). Will it be that easy to predict how this one will pan out? Let’s take a look at each of the teams and find out…

 

Equatorial Guinea qualified for this tournament as one of the host nations and with this being their first time taking part, they failed to qualify on any of their previous attempts, I wouldn’t hold my breath that they’re going to make it through this tough group. Their inconsistency coupled with former Head Coach Henri Michel’s resignation in October, means new man Gilson Paulo (Former Director of Sports at Brazil-based Vasco da Gama Academy) has his work cut out ahead of his teams assault on Group A.
It’s not all negative though, two players vital to the teams success are;

Lawrence Boe: A massive favourite with the Equatoguinean fans, and played for the highly successful league team Renacimiento when they won four domestic league titles. Plays in defence and will be hoping his current club sides recent poor clean sheet record does not transfer to international level.

Iban Iyanga Travieso or “Randy”: Skilful and full of pace this young left winger has all the attributes going forward to cause most teams at this tournament problems. Playing in the Spanish Segunda Division with UD Las Palmas where he started his career, playing 3 seasons in the reserves before making a few appearances for the first team, loaned out last season he will be hoping to impress on the world stage.

My Prediction: Would take some good consistent performances to push for progression and I just don’t see it, a hard fought early exit is on the cards, while hopefully earning some respect along the way.

Libya would undoubtedly be called the unknowns of this group, yet they may just provide a shock to most, having only qualified for two previous AFCON tournaments and not much else their qualification here is surprising. Playing games behind closed doors in the lead up to this tournament due to security risks after the civil war outbreak, results improved and the team were unbeaten throughout their qualifying campaign.
National pride is at steak for this team and the players they’ll be relying on are;

Samir Aboud: The most successful football player in Libyan history, the 39 year old goalkeeper has been capped 39 times at international level and has won 18 trophies in his career, won of the main reasons the team remained unbeaten in qualifying he’ll be hoping to keep some clean sheets.

Djamal Mahamat: Plying his trade at Portuguese side SC Braga, this dynamic midfielder is the only European based player in the Libyan team. Good on the ball and fairly solid defensively he will be the main link between the attack and defence spraying passes and cutting out opposition attacks.

My Prediction: Confidence will be high within the Libyan camp, if they perform as well as they did in qualifying then they will be a major force to be reckoned with. I’m going to be bold here and say if results go their way early they are looking at a possible last four place.

Zambia strolled through an easy qualifying group only being troubled by Libya who held them to a draw in Zambia and beating them 1-0 at home. Other than that Zambia won their other four games only conceding one goal and topping their group. Reaching the quarter finals last time out and enjoying some solid performances in previous tournaments they may prove to be a team to watch.
Two players who make them worth watching are:

Joseph Musonda: Experienced to the tune of 70 caps for his country, this defender was instrumental in his country’s recent successful qualifying campaign. Though his teams main focus is on their impressive strikers Musonda is key in organising the back line.

Christopher Katongo: Small in height but large in talent, this 29 year old striker has played for teams in Denmark, Germany and Greece amongst others. Earning 64 caps to date his most recognised attributes are his lightning quick pace and excellent close control, could be a shout for top scorer if they progress.

My Prediction: If they can overcome Libya in this group then they could well go on to the latter stages of this competition, but having failed to do so in qualifying I believe they will again come up short and finish 3rd.

Senegal once upon a time defeated France 1-0 at the 2002 World Cup and would go on to reach the quarter final, before losing to Turkey in extra time, then the same team were controversially defeated by hosts Egypt at the 2006 AFCON semi finals. They were to prove distant high points for what was to follow, with the team needing a win in their last game of the 2008 qualifying campaign they drew 1-1 with minnows Gambia and missed out on qualification for the 2010 AFCON finals and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Now highly motivated with a desire to prove the doubters wrong Senegal will need help from these two players:

Moussa Sow: Top scorer in France last season with a whopping 25 goals from midfield as part of Lille’s title winning side, he is probably the best player within the squad and they will require all his attacking instincts to succeed in the tournament.

Demba Ba: If this name is not familiar to you by now then I don’t know what to say… Powering into the public consciousness with his solid performances for West Ham last season, and almost single handedly (or headedly) dragging Newcastle to a competitive top half position, this boy has talent. With his current form in mind, be ready for Demba to break out the moves that will set this competition alight.

My Prediction: Should qualify easily from this group, and with the talent they have in attack I’m expecting at least a semi final slot from this team and would not be surprised to see them in the final on 12th February.

By Mark McInnes
Follow him on twitter @itspartymarky

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