Realistically, yet again, there is quite clearly one far superior team in Group B, the Ivory Coast. How the rest of the results will could go will make for quite the interesting story, everything is all to play for with Angola being marginally better than Sudan and Burkina Faso. Let’s take a look at what to expect from these teams…

The Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) qualified in the only way they know how, complete dominance. For almost the last decade this team have been destined for greatness and surely time is running out for their current gifted generation to cement their place in history by claiming a trophy. Within that decade lady luck has not looked favourably towards them with regards to group draws, twice in recent world cups they have been paired with a South American powerhouse (Argentina in 2006 and Brazil in 2010) and a European master (Holland in 2006 and Portugal in 2010) and they’ve found it no better in AFCON’s losing in a shootout in the 2006 final and in extra time of the quarter finals 2 years ago. With probably the most talented squad in the competition here are the men hoping to leave their mark:

Yaya Toure: The midfield monster knows all too well what success feels like, La Liga and Champions League winner with Barcelona and and FA Cup winner with Man City, he will be the heartbeat of this team with excellent ball control and an enviable will to win at all costs he may prove invaluable to his country in their search for glory.

Didier Drogba: At the ripe old age of 33 any attempts to suggest this man may not have a large impact will be laughed off by even the most fair weathered football fan. 50 goals in 76 games for his country, his ability in-front of goal is not questionable, Didier as much as anyone will be hoping this is his native country’s year.

My Prediction: Almost a certainty to reach the final on the 12th of February, anything less will be regarded as failure for what may be the most talented group of African players ever to have graced this game.

Angola narrowly qualified by finishing 1 point ahead of Uganda on the final day though 4 wins and 2 losses is not exactly a bad record to have. Flattering to decieve in recent years, Angola produced a solid display at the 2006 World Cup, drawing with Mexico and Iran but failing to progress past the group stage, and then on home soil at the last AFCON tournament they looked enlightened further only to lose in the quarter finals to a resolute Ghana side. Some of the players who helped at those tournaments have since retired but the following two men are definitely key:

Gilberto: Missed his country’s appearance at the 2006 World Cup this 29 year old winger will be hoping to carry his impressive form from the 2010 AFCON into the 2012 campaign. Always a team player, this man loves to see as much of the ball as possible so he can drive at defences and lay on chances for his team mates.

Manucho: Signed by Manchester United in 2008, things were looking up for the young Angolan but before playing a game he was shipped out to Panathinaikos due to problems with his work-permit. Scoring 4 goals in 10 games for the Greek side he returned to Manchester with a hunger for game time, unfortunately he made one solitary appearance setting up Danny Wellbeck for United’s fourth in a League Cup game with Middlesbrough, before signing for Valladolid in 2009.

My Prediction: Will more than likely finish second in this group but they are seemingly far from good enough to trouble any of the bigger sides in the latter stages.

Sudan are the only side who qualified for Gabon and Equatorial Guinea from the eastern side of Africa, and did so scoring 8 goals in 6 games and having conceded 0.5 goals on average per game. Tough to break down and with some impressive recent performances against Ghana they may well prove to be a dark horse in this tournament. Help will come from these two men:

Haitham Mustafa Karar: Embodies everything that Sudanese football stands for, Captain of his country and record cap holder (120) he has won 11 Sudanese Premier League titles with club side Al- Hilal. The kind of man you would want beside you in the trenches on the front-line he will dig in and help out his team in any way he can, born leader.

Mudathir El Tahir: Also plays for Al- Hilal and at only 23 years of age has scored 47 goals in 62 games for his club. His main attribute is his vision for seeing a space nobody else has, beating goalkeepers from all sorts of angles, look out for snap shots from this guy.

My Predication: This year is all about learning for this mostly young squad, if they progress to the knock-out stages I’d see it as a major achievement, more likely to finish bottom of the group I’m afraid.

Burkina Faso reached their record highest 37th spot in the FIFA World Rankings last year, doing so with a talented young side they may well provide some upsets within the group stages of this competition. Although in recent AFCON tournaments they have been very poor performers so consistency will be key. The men they will rely on are:

Bakary Kone: A 6′ 2” centre back signed by Lyon, with fans thinking he’d be a good alternate at the back, were blown away by how quickly this 23 year old hit the ground running and hasn’t looked back. Ever present in a solid defence, he can be relied upon in the biggest of games and will no doubt leave an impression in this torunament.

Alain Traore: With more tricks than a high class clown Auxerre’s pacy winger has scored 7 goals in 17 games so far this season and will provide tremendous wide play for his country. The kind of player you don’t take your eyes off, he may well prove to be the one player who can surprise everyone.

My Prediction: 3rd position awaits this youthful squad in my opinion, but I hope I’m proved wrong and they give it a run for it’s money as they seem to be on the verge of great things which will probably come with experience.

By Mark McInnes

Follow him on twitter @itspartymarky

Advertisements