Africa Cup of Nations roars into life


THE 30th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations roars into life tomorrow in Equatorial Guinea where 16 countries will battle it out in the bi-annual soccer jamboree.
The oil-rich Equatorial Guinea host the tournament for the second time after successfully co-hosting it in 2012 with Gabon.
After Morocco refused to host the event over Ebola fears, Equatorial Guinea, offered to host Africa, this time alone.
Morocco had demanded that Confederation of African Football (CAF) postpone this year’s edition by six or 12 months as they feared the Ebola virus would spread to North Africa.
West Africa is the hardest hit area with more than 8 000 deaths recorded.
A total of 20 000 cases of Ebola were reported.
With fear of spreading the virus the North Africans saw it reasonable to postpone the soccer tournament.
But that was not an option for CAF, which opened up fresh bids to host this year’s edition and Equatorial Guinea won.
By virtue of hosting, Equatorial Guinea automatically participates in the tournament.
They play their first match tomorrow against Congo.
Equatorial Guinea and Gabon will be arch rivals at this year’s AFCON edition as they are both in Group A.
Congo, Gabon and Burkina Faso are the other countries in the group.
This year’s edition will not feature the defending champions Nigeria because they failed to qualify.
In the 29th edition, Nigeria met Burkina Faso in the final and won 1-0 through a solitary 40th minute strike by Sunday Mba.
Burkina Faso will seek to pick from where they left in the previous edition and hope to clinch the title this time around.
Many will remember the rise of Aristide Bance with a fancy blonde hair style.
One of Southern Africa’s representatives, ‘Chipolopolo’ of Zambia will seek to emulate the performance of 2012 which saw them crowned African champions. The win was dedicated to the team that perished on the Atlantic Ocean coast near Gabon in 1993.
Three years later, Zambia will be playing in the same region where they conquered Africa.
Goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene who will be appearing for the sixth time is part of the team that won the cup in 2012 while Rainford Kalaba captains the side that will be seeking yesteryear glory.
Goalkeepers Daniel Munyau (Red Arrows) and Joshua Titima (Power Dynamos), defenders Stopilla Sunzu (Shanghai Shenhua,China),Emmanuel Mbola (Hapoel Ra’anana, Israel),Davies Nkausu (Bloemfontein Celtic, South Africa) and striker Emmanuel Mayuka (Southampton, England) were in the team that participated in 2013 AFCON in South Africa and exited at the group stages.
Zambia and DRC are in the same group together with Cape Verde and Tunisia.
Zimbabwean fans will have to be content with adopting, again, a team to rally behind at AFCON as the Warriors continue to put up a dismal performance in the qualifiers.
Ivory Coast go into the tournament as pre-tournament favourites.
Didier Drogba will be missing in action as he retired from international football.
Manchester City’s playmaker Yaya Toure is part of the 23-man squad that will fight for Africa’s most coveted prize.
His brother Kolo who is 33 years old now, will retire from international football after the tournament.
Swansea forward Wilfried Bony who is on Manchester City radar is also part of the squad that many tip to win the title.
Salomon Kalou, Gervinho and Cheick Tiote are part of the stars making the numbers in Equatorial Guinea.
With a bit of luck, Ivory Coast may reach the final and win, but have powerhouse Cameroon, Mali and Guinea to contend with.
South Africa are in a tricky Group C with Senegal, Ghana and Algeria.
The Southern African representatives are in a tough group that may see them exiting the tournament at group stage.
With two West African opposition in Ghana and Senegal, Bafana Bafana will need to play their hearts out to outwit the giant figures from the West, Algerians pose another threat to the aspirations of Southern Africa.
Ghana are also pre-tournament favourites to reach the finals, but they need to play as a unit as the team has a galaxy of stars.
Asamoah Gyan and Kwadwo Asamoah will be missing in action for Ghana while defenders Jonathan Mensah and John Boye, striker Jordan Ayew, French side Olympique Marseille midfielder Andre Ayew, goalkeeper Fatau Dauda and midfielder Emmanuel Agyemang Badu carry the hopes of Ghana.
However, the commitment by some players at AFCON is deplorable.
Several players don’t give their best in what seems to be fear of injuries that may threaten their professional careers.


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