Africa Cup of Nations – Group A Camp Focus

When a country’s football team loses their manager two weeks before they host the biggest tournament in African football, pressure is exceedingly high on the replacement. Henri Michel quit over “third party interference” ahead of Equatorial Guinea’s co-hosting of the Africa Cup of Nations and the job was left to Gilson Paulo, a 62-year-old Brazilian who was formerly youth coach at Vasco Da Gama. Paulo has now been rewarded a new contract after brilliantly leading the Nzalang Nacional to the quarter-finals.

Paulo’s side only need a draw with Zambia in their final group game in Malabo to top the group, which would be a remarkable story given their 151st FIFA ranking. What was even more remarkable is they beat one of the pre-tournament favourites Senegal to progress. The Teranga Lions had three of the in-form strikers in the European Leagues, but Demba Ba, Papiss Demba Cisse and Moussa Sow could only manage one goal between them in both games. Senegal have now been eliminated with a game to spare, but coach Amara Traore wants his side to bow out on a high.

Traore said: “I am very disappointed with our current state, because we deserve to win something at this tournament. It is frustrating for some of the players who are playing at the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time. We hope to win our last match and bow out with our heads high.”

The other two sides in the group, Libya and Zambia, are both fighting for qualification after their 2-2 draw in Bata. Libya face the slimmest possibility to progress, having only one point from their first two games and will need to beat Senegal as well as Zambia losing by a two-goal margin. Coach Marcos Paqueta believes in his side and is hoping they can overcome Senegal, who will be eager to pick up three points after their elimination.

Paqueta said: “If you have a chance, you have to believe. We have to do our task; the other thing is not in my hands. The most important thing is to do our job by winning. I had a meeting with my players and they appear ready. They want to leave a mark and make a point and the game presents the perfect opportunity to showcase their talents to the rest of the world.”

Zambia coach Herve Renard has affirmed that he wants his side to finish top of the group. The tournament is 19 years after the Zambia squad of 1993 lost their lives in a plane crash flying to Senegal for a World Cup qualifier. This Chipolopolo squad have represented the honour of that squad superbly and will be looking to beat Equatorial Guinea to top the group. Frenchman Renard has done a superb job with Zambia and knows that their task is not over.

Renard said: “We are in a good position, but our target is to finish first in our group. That means we have to win our last game. At the moment, we have one of the best attacks at the tournament and that is a positive sign. Every game comes with its own tactics. We are on the right path and you have to end it very well. We have our card in our hands”

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