Goal.com takes a look at Group B involving Ghana, DR Congo, Mali and Niger.
|Favourites: Ghana & DR Congo
The Black Stars are one of the most successful teams in the tournament’s history. Ghana have won the title four times, joint-second with Cameroon and have been to the final of the tournament eight times which is also the joint most final appearances along with Egypt. The west Africans have, however, not won the trophy since 1982 only managing two final appearances in 10 tournament appearances since then. As favourites, the Black Stars will be expected to at least make the semi-finals with a tournament win thought to be very much in line with their capabilities which presupposes that very few see them not getting out of the group, despite possible tricky clashes with DR Congo and Mali. If previous clashes are to be relied on then Ghana will have an edge having won one and lost one of two Afcon clashes with Mali and won four and lost two out of six with the DRC.
With two Afcon titles from 15 appearances, the Democratic Republic of Congo formerly Congo-Leopoldville, Congo-Kinshasa, Zaire have had relatively good appearances at the tournament. The Leopards are, however, having a lean period with this tournament being their first appearance since 2006. They will, however, be looking to really announce their presence with a solid base of players from hugely talented club side TP Mazembe. Despite their six-year absence the Leopards will be favourites to make it into the next round just ahead of the Eagles though for many it will be a battle between the two for a place alongside Ghana.
The Eagles like DRC have also had a lean period in recent years but managed a podium finish at the last tournament when they beat Ghana in the third place play-off game courtesy goals from Cheick Diabaté. Patrice Carteron will be hoping his players can repeat the feat, but they find themselves in a very tough group with tournament favourites Ghana as well as DR Congo and organised Niger.
The Menas will be looking to improve on their performances at the tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon where they were given a very rude welcome to the tournament as they lost all three games. At the second time of asking, Niger will be looking for their first point of the fiesta and will be aiming to make their opponents work for any points they get off them. Menas will also take a lot of inspiration from the fact that they have made it to the tournament for a second consecutive time, especially after having to come from behind in the qualification game against Guinea.
|Players to watch
Kwadwo Asamoah (Ghana): One of the in-form players of the national team, Kwadwo Asamoah, has had a whirlwind start to life at the Juventus stadium and has been hugely influential for the Old Lady this season in a wing-back role. The midfielder’s skill, determination and ability to find a pass may well mean that he could orchestrate another good run in the tournament just as he did in Angola in 2010.
Asamoah Gyan (Ghana): The in-form national team captain popularly known as the Baby Jet will be expected to carry most of Ghana’s goal threats and will be looking to add to his tally of five goals from three tournaments - a feat which will most likely be achieved considering he is averaging almost two goals a game for Al-Ain in the UAE league this season.
Modibo Maiga (Mali): The West Ham forward Modibo Maiga will be a handful for most teams at the tournament with his power and pace. The 6ft 2in forward causes problems with his movement and adds to that a keen eye for goal as well a combination which will make him difficult to deal with at the tournament.
Cheick Tidiane Diabate (Mali): A player who has had little joy at club level, the Bordeaux man has managed to step up his performances time and again for Les Aigles and was one of the top scorers at the last tournament with three goals two of which came in the third place play-off against Ghana to give Mali their best result in the tournament since placing second in 1972. If Diabaté manages to get to the levels of a year ago he may well be one to watch in this tournament.
Tresor Mputu Mabi (DR Congo): Arguably one of the best African players currently plying their trade on the continent, Trésor Mputu Mabi can be regarded as the heartbeat of this Congo team and most of his country men will be looking up to him to pull the country through. Mputu was influential in DRC’s CHAN win in 2009 where they defeated Ghana in the finals, a tournament which finally woke up a sleeping giant of football on the African terrain and the midfielder will be looking to finally complete that renaissance and provide DR Congo with a third Afcon trophy.
Youssouf Mulumbu (DR Congo): Relentless pressing and hard tackling, that is what you get from this West Brom midfielder, a combination which drives the team forward while providing solid protection for the defence. Mulumbu’s performances will be vital to how far the DRC can go as he is the engine that keeps the team going.
Robert Muteba Kidiaba (DR Congo): Arguably the safest pair of hands the continent can boast of, Kidiaba was also an influential part of that significant CHAN win in 2009 with his strange butt-hitting celebrations probably the present on all highlight reels from the tournament. He will be hoping to be doing more of the same at the big stage and will definitely contribute heavily to whatever successes the Leopards chalk at the tournament with his great shot stopping skills as well as his accurate senses of anticipation.
Ouwo Moussa Maazou (Niger): The Etoile du Sahel forward is probably the perfect target man in his team and his skill fits his team perfectly. Moussa causes all the havoc with his ability to hold up play and unsettle defenders and he also possesses the ability to put away the chances he gets making him an invaluable asset to Menas.