The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations will be the first time Equatorial Guinea have qualified and that is down to their host status. The Nzalang Nacional have seen their squad quality boosted by an influx of Spanish players with Equatoguinean heritage, which has resulted in solid performances including a draw with Cameroon. Former coach Henri Michel quit the job a month before the finals and Gilson Paulo has been called in at short notice to spearhead the Nzalang Nacional’s campaign.
Ivan Zarandona has been surprisingly omitted from the squad and the responsibility falls on the shoulders of Deportivo La Coruna forward Rodolfo Bodipo. The 34-year-old will captain the side ranked 150th in the FIFA rankings and Bodipo’s experience will be vital along with midfielder Juvenal, who plays for CE Sabedall in Spain’s Segunda B. Teodoro Obiang Nguema, president of Equatorial Guinea, has set the team a target of winning the Africa Cup of Nations on their first attempt, but they would be just delighted with progression from the group.
Coach – Gilson Paulo: Paulo faces a monumental task after he was appointed at short notice following the resignation of Henri Michel at protest from ‘third party interference’. The 62-year old-Brazilian is a former youth coach at Brazil side Vasco Da Gama.
Player – Javier Balboa: Signed by Real Madrid in 2005 as a 20-year-old prospect, Balboa’s career never reached the predicted heights. The fleet-footed winger, who plays with Portuguese side Beira Mar, will be the architect of the side’s goal scoring opportunities.
Undefeated in the qualifiers, Senegal have undergone a revolution in recent years after their failure to qualify for the 2010 Cup of Nations. They are now spearheaded by a superb strike force, which has seen Lille hit man Moussa Sow, pictured above, on the verge of a £11m move to Fenerbahce, reduced to a wider role in an attacking 4-4-2 formation played by Senegal coach Amara Traore. Captain Mamadou Niang, Newcastle striker Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cisse, now a domestic teammate of Ba, are fighting to lead the line for the Lions of Teranga.
Senegal scored 16 goals in their qualifiers and their defence, featuring Queens Park Rangers left-back Armand Traore as well as a host of experienced France-based centre-backs, only conceded twice. The Lions hold an extremely underrated midfield general in Wigan’s Mohamed Diame, who links play from the defence to the forwards. Senegal have a great chance of winning the Cup of Nations for the first time and although expectations have dampened following recent friendly defeats to Colombia, Peru and Morocco, they have enough attacking firepower to cause a real threat.
Coach – Amara Traore: The former Senegal international forward has been superb in restoring pride to football in the West African nation. Traore has played at the World Cup with Senegal and has been in the job since replacing Lamine N’Diaye in December 2009.
Player – Moussa Sow: The 25-year-old Fenerbahce newboy scored 25 goals on the way to winning the French title last season with Lille. Senegal’s attacking talent means Sow’s regular role comes wide in midfield, yet he still provides a threat and scored four times in qualifying.
Libya qualified for the tournament as a best-placed runner up in the same qualifying stage as Zambia, who they will play within this group. The Mediterranean Knights were unbeaten in the qualifiers, but with the same amount of draws as wins, they had to settle for best-placed runner up behind the Chipolopolo. Civil unrest within Libya over a political revolution fuelled the side through qualification, but they will hope that their lack of football, with a game not played in the country since March, will not damage their performance.
Libya have finished runners up in the tournament twice, once in 1982 and most recently in 2006, and coach Marcos Paqueta will be looking to progress as far as possible with the pride of Libya firmly behind them. Paqueta will be without striker Oussaama Fazzani, who withdrew from the squad for personal reasons, and the 53-year-old Brazilian boss will have to look to his other two forwards Ahmed Zuway and Iheb Al Boussifi for goals.
Coach – Marcos Paqueta: The 53-year-old managed Saudi Arabia to their poor showing at the 2006 World Cup, but has drawn admirers for his effective work with Libya. Paqueta went nine months without a salary whilst working wonders with the Mediterranean Knights.
Player – Samir Aboud: The most successful goalkeeper in Libyan history, Aboud was recalled for the final qualifier with Zambia and performed brilliantly. 39-year-old Aboud has won nine Libyan titles with Al-Ittihad and will be vitally important for Paqueta at the tournament.
Zambia are one of the most experienced countries in the tournament, having made 15 past appearances at the Africa Cup of Nations, the third-highest behind tournament favourites Ivory Coast and Ghana, but they have never progressed past the quarter-final stage. The Chipolopolo finished top of Group C in qualifying under former Roma and Juventus coach Dario Bonetti, who was then fired by the Zambian FA. Former coach Herve Renard, who left to manage wealthy Angola for six months, is back in charge and looking to develop a solid team who lack of major stars.
The most poignant match of the tournament will come in this group, as the Chipolopolo face Senegal 19 years after the death of the majority of Zambia’s team as they travelled to the Lions of Teranga for a World Cup qualifier in 1993. Their current solidity is based on the experienced Joseph Musonda in defence, capped 73 times for Zambia, and the ever dangerous Christopher Katongo up front, who plays in China with Henan Jianye.
Coach – Herve Renard: Former Cambridge United manager Renard was lured to oil-rich Angola following Zambia’s bad luck at the Africa Cup of Nations 2010. The 43-year-old inherits the solid foundation and team ethic that Bonetti built during qualifying.
Player – Emmanuel Mayaka: Along with Katongo, the 26-year-old forward will be relied on to score goals for the Chipolopolo due to the absence of Jacob Mulenga. Mayaka currently plies his trade at Swiss side Young Boys and notched three in qualifying.
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