We continue to take a look at the teams competing in the African Cup of Nations this year. Just in case you missed the previous post, you can read it up here.
Nickname: The Elephants
Federation: FIF (Federation Ivorienne de Football)
FIFA Ranking: 34 (December 2016)
The Coach: MICHEL DUSSUYER (FRA)
The 57-year old former goalkeeper is renowned for his time as the coach of the Syli Nationale of Guinea, a team he transformed into one with identity. However, his biggest call arrived in 2015 to fill the big shoes of Herve Renard. He hasn’t found it easy, with his team battling with their identity and often looking aimless at times.
They have laboured in games they normally don’t, and his system as made them somewhat rigid unable to break down the smaller teams. He would be hoping the team can go as far as the final like they did when he was assistant to Henri Michel in 2006.
Star Man: The retirement of four time African best Gnegneri Yaya Toure and his elder brother Kolo SALOMON KALOU is all that is left of the Ivorian golden generation that grew to become nearly men. The absence of Kouassi Gervais Yao(Gervinho) means he takes the mantle of the team’s star man, a minute task for a man who has featured in every nations Cup since 2008. He will be looking to forge a dangerous combination with Bony and Gradel and must instead look to alleviate his team’s troubles.
Most Caps: Didier Zokora (123)
Top Scorer: Didier Drogba (65)
Previous appearances: 20 (1965, 1968, 1970, 1974, 1980, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015)
Best record: Champions (twice) 1992,2015
The Elephants go to Gabon as champions, a tag they last held in 1992. However, it was also one of the few times they got knocked out early. The focus of the team is key, and while many are still in the euphoria of the 2015 win, Dussuyer has left with more questions than answers so far, the air of invincibility is gone and the absence of Gervinho will definitely be felt, it is left to see if they will honour their captain and defend their crown
My Prediction: A tricky one, especially when they are champions but I don’t see them behind the QUARTER FINALS. it is like the beginning of a new era and a lot could hinge on the understanding Wilf Zaha forges with his teammates.
Nickname: The Leopards
Federation: (FECOFA) Fédération Congolaise de Football-Association
FIFA Ranking: 48 (December 2016)
The Coach: FLORENT IBENGE (DRC)
Born in 1961 in Leopoldville, Jean Florent Ibenge is now more than a coach in DRC. His appointment in 2014 as sparked a turnaround in Congolese football. The former Shanghai Shenhua and AS Vita boss has claimed an African Nations Championship title and led them to third place finish at AFCON itself in 2015.
He is known to place emphasis on outscoring the opponent and attention to tactical detail. He recently stated that his only goal is to see the Leopards back in the World Cup by 2018. A lofty ambition for a nation team who were seeking direction only two years ago.
Star Man: Hull City Forward DIEUDONNE DIEUMERCI MBOKANI is the man whom a lot will rest on his shoulders for the Leopards. The 31-year old is a seasoned campaigner having netted 18times in 36games for his country and average of one every two games.
It is the kind of form any striker will be jealous of and it is i=with pride he pulls on the jersey of his nation. His role in their run to the semi-finals along with Yannick Bolasie would not be forgotten and it is he in place of the Everton man whom his teammates and the whole of the DRC will look up too.
Most Caps: *******
Top Scorer: Dieumerci Mbokani (18)
Previous appearances: 15 (1965, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2013, 2015)
Best record: Champions (twice), 1968 and 1974
Only as recently as 2013 did the DRC fail to go beyond the Group stage of the mundial, However, with a student of Claude Leroy’s principle now in the driving seat, they have moved up the ladder. Their ranking of 133 in 2011 has now become history and the rise of the national team has coincided with a period whereby Congolese clubs are successful in African football.
Robert Kidiaba (The donkey-dance goalie) may have retired but they can call on established names too; Yannick Bolasie is one of the first names on the teamsheet at Everton and if not for injury would have been the star man. Cedric Bakambu played a key role in Villareal’s run to fourth place in La Liga last season, Marcel Tisserand and Chancel Mbemba are just as important for their clubs while captain Youssuf Mulumbu is a driving force in Fulham’s push for promotion.
It is yet to be comprehended what these players would do as a team when they begin their campaign under Central African skies
My Prediction: A lot will hinge on their ability to cope without Yannick Bolasie and while it may be difficult for them, they face a two-way battle for second place with Morocco, one they may lose. A GROUP STAGE exit albeit narrowly.
Nickname: The Atlas Lions
Federation: (FRMF) Fédération Royale Marocaine de Football
FIFA Ranking: 57 (December 2016)
The Coach: HERVE RENARD (FRA)
The 48-year old became the first man to win the coveted trophy with two different nations following his success with Cote d’Ivoire in 2015. Always donning a white shirt, Herve’s record at te tournament speaks for itself with only two losses since 2010, both coming in the group stage.
He has built his teams on a strong defence and the ability to hit opponents on the counter. The failures at Sochaux and Lille come to mind but his appointment as morocco boss as seen fans talk about his earlier achievements with the team almost becoming feared again. Maybe a third title would assert that claim.
Star Man: MEHDI BENATIA might only be a defender, but when you are the biggest personality in your team all respect must be accorded. The 29-year old is following in the footsteps of Noureddine Naybet the iconic defender and it is no coincidence that he is achieving more than him.
He has played for Roma, Bayern and Juventus all in the past four years and went on to play a key role for both former clubs. They will need his head to be correct has defensive organization has been some sort of achilles heel for the lions. He must lead his team to glory from the back. Afterall championships are won by the best defence and not the best attack (Adriano Galliani,2010).
Most Caps: Noureddine Naybet (130)
Top Scorer: Ahmed Faras (75)
Previous appearances: 14 (1972, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1986, 1988, 1992, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2013)
Best Record: Champion, 1976
The 1976 champions face a herculean task on their AFCON return. Having failed to host in 2015 due to the outbreak of the Ebola virus, the Atlas Lions have returned to the mundial with one aim, to outperform their predecessors. They have failed to go beyond the group stage in each of their last five appearances and only finished second as recently as 2004 to Tunisia.
It is the reason they have appointed Herve Renard has their manager. The Frenchman is an expert at winning the AFCON and they would be hoping he can draw the best out of a team of new generation Moroccans. The likes of Younes Belhanda, Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez, Hakim Ziyech, Karim Al Ahmadi and Nordin Amrabat must show why they were regarded as stars and that they are a class above the rest of Africa.
My Prediction: A good start his imperative for the Lions and failure to beat DRC could well spell doom for them. Sometimes it is often the coach that makes the difference. A SEMI-FINAL place would be a possibility if they can negotiate the quarters.
Nickname: The Sparrow Hawks(Les Eperviers)
Federation: FTF (Federation Togolaise de Football)
FIFA Ranking: 91 (December 2016)
The Coach: CLAUDE LEROY (FRA)
The 68-year old coach is a veteran on the African scene and can boast of his record on the continent.Leroy has never missed out on the mundial when he has been in charge of an African team and he has always led them beyond the group stage. It is a tradition he hopes to continue.
Having achieved the feat twice with Cameroon, Senegal, the DRC and in 2015 with Congo and it is that reason the Togolese believe they can upset the odds.They need more than Leroy now though.. Mother luck? Even Leroy needs her.
Star Man: EMMANUEL SHEYI ADEBAYOR , the most iconic and greatest Togolese footballer. Currently without a club, the lanky forward owns every Togolese record and would once again play a key role for his side. He will appear in his third nations cup and while he is prone to getting carried away, the Hawks will need him fit and fully focused if they are to find a way past their monstrous opponents.
Most Caps: Emmanuel Adebayor (73)
Top Scorer: Emmanuel Adebayor (30)
Previous appearances: 7 (1972, 1984, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2013)
Best Record: Quarter Finals, 2013
The Sparrow Hawks are back and after 6consecutive group stage exits finally made it to the Quarter Finals in 2013. It is the kind of performance they put in that tournament that they would be hoping to replicate in Gabon giving that they edged Tunisia and Algeria to the other ticket.
Claude Leroy’s men however will need to fire on all cylinders if they will repeat that feat giving the quality of the opposition this time. They are seen as the group whipping boys and their record against their opponents don’t favour them either.
My Prediction: While 2013 was when they did the impossible, lightning rarely strikes twice… GROUP STAGE exit this one
Author: Rotimi “Papi the Great” Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi the Great is the owner of ForTheGoal.
A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio and television to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @papi_thegreat to keep up with his writings, engage him and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.