All over Africa talks are on about who will eventually be crowned the African football kings. Defending champions Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast and the hosts Angola are tipped as favourites.
Aside from the usual suspects vying for the title in Angola,
there will be a select few who may have what it takes to upset a favourite on
their day, and these teams create further excitement in a tournament that will
already have the entire continent glued to their television sets and radios on
Malawi, who are making a return to the African Cup finals after a 26-year
absence, will definitely be one team capable of pulling a few surprises.
They are in Group A, which is a tricky one to progress from, as it
features the host Angola, Mali and the 2010 World Cup bound Algeria.
Able to play well away from home at times, the Flames of
Malawi will be hoping that Angola 2010 gives them the opportunity to make a
mark on the African stage. The Kinnah Phiri coached side might not be a star
studied side like Ivory Coast or Ghana but they have a big match
temperament and with nothing to lose they will be underestimated at their
Zambia is another team capable of getting tongues wagging at
this year’s tournament; led by the South African PSL record
goal scorer, Collins Mbesuma, and the talented Chris Katongo up front,
opposition defenders will have a nightmare trying to keep this partnership at
Anything is possible in this continental showpiece and Zambia is one of
the teams with their hands itching for the crown.
Mozambique find themselves in Group C at the African Cup of
Nations in Angola together with Nigeria, Benin and defending champions Egypt,
but the former Portuguese colony could be another surprise package. Coached by
the experienced Viktor Bondarenko, Mozambique have a talented new generation of
players that includes Mamelodi Sundowns’ Elias Pelembe, who has an eye for goal.
Above all the youngster’s pace and skill will remind many of Ronaldinho’s early
days at Camp Nou. Up front they will be banking on their experienced senior
citizen Tico-Tico, who has a wealth of experience, to pass onto the African
side a typically South American playing style.
Mali are at the tournament this year with one thing in mind,
go as far as possible and aim for the title. The Malians have a strong group of
players on paper, but they have disappointed in the last few tournaments, while
missing out on qualifying for the World Cup. With stars like Fredi Kanoute,
Souleymane Diamoutene, Mohamed Sissoko and Seydou Keita at their disposal, they
will aim for the final with a generation of players hungry to impress on the
Tunisia, whose clubs often do well in the African championships, are possibly the team with the most potential out of the underdog
category. The North African side have a point prove in this year’s tournament. After
Cameroon hauled them out 3-2 in the quarter-finals of the 2008 competition, the
Eagles of Carthage have a chance to avenge that defeat as early as the group
stages this time.
They last tasted success in the African Nations Cup back in
2004, for the first time in their history, when they hosted and won the
tournament. Ever since, lady luck seems to have deserted them but this time the
Faouzi Benzarti coached outfit will be out in full force.
The Tunisian side has great promise, and they narrowly missed out on
a place in South Africa at the World Cup later this year. Thus they
are even more desperate to win the title along with the respect of their fans
and the continent in Angola. Benzarti has picked a young group of hungry players, mostly from the domestic league which means that there will be no shortage of motivation for them.
This year’s tournament will be a tense one as everyone who
failed to make it for the trip to South Africa in June will be out vent out
their frustrations. While those who qualified for World cup will be out to
prove that they are the continent’s crème de le crème.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to talk about minnows
and favourites on the African continent, as teams are constantly improving and
the gap between the best and the chasing pack continues to diminish. Perhaps
this is the year of the underdogs, and the neutral supporter will have a
tournament to savour in Angola.
Clyde Tlou & Peter Pedroncelli, Goal.com