Africa Cup of Nations 2013 – Group A Focus

South Africa: Best Performance – Winners 1996

Qualified as hosts, when taking over from Libya due to their political upheaval, Bafana Bafana will be under pressure to produce on home soil. However, their recent record is poor, having failed to qualify for the last two tournaments and not having won the tournament since 1996 – encouragingly though that victory also came as hosts.

The majority of the squad are drawn from the home Premier Soccer League [PSL] and will be well known to coach Gordon Igesund who has won four PSL titles – all with different clubs

Angola: Best Performance – Quarter Finals 2008, 2010

The Palancas Negras qualified after victory over Zimbabwe in the play-offs. Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, the Angolans produced a 2-0 win to clinch a trip to South Africa. The play-offs were the first two competitive matches in charge for new coach Gustavo Ferrin, who previously had coached at international youth level.

The squad, drawn mainly for the local Girabola league, appears a blend of veterans and youth and will be led by the ex-Manchester united striker Manucho. Fans of AFCON may be hoping for Angola matches like the 2010 opener against Mali, where Angola, leading 4-0 with 11 minutes to go, ended up drawing 4-4.

Morocco: Best Performance – Winners 1976

The Atlas Lions came from 2-0 down in the first leg to Mozambique to take overall victory 4-2. The first leg cost defeat Eric Gerets his job and he was replaced by Rachid Taoussi, who had just completed a historic treble with Mahgreb Fez.

If there was surprise at the omission of Adel Taarabt, look no further than the play off result. Morocco are overloaded with attacking talent, especially midfielders, but were as terrible at the back as they were beautiful going forward. Something had to give and Taoussi has tried to redress the balance of the squad. If Morocco can cut out the defensive errors, they have the players going forward to win matches. It may be a big if.

Cabo Verde: Best Performance – Debutantes

As the smallest nation ever to compete at the finals, the Blue Sharks may be seen as underdogs but could they be the dark horses? After all, victory in the play-offs came at the expense of the mighty Indomitable Lions, Cameroon.

The squad is drawn from far-a-field, playing in Portugal, France, Belgium, Holland, Cyprus and Angola. Despite this diaspora, Cabo Verde appear to be a cohesive, united squad. Much of this must go down to coach Luis Antunes. Taking over the team in 2010, after assisting at senior level and being in charge at youth level, Antunes knows Cabo Verdan football inside out. The flight controller – his day job – has guided his team to an all-time high FIFA ranking of 51. The romantics may be hoping the Blue Sharks take to their debut swimmingly.

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