Having lost out on penalties in the final in both 2006 to Egypt and more agonisingly, 2012 to Zambia, this tournament surely represents the last big opportunity for the most talented Ivory Coast team of all time to bring home the international tournament success that their ability deserves. Ivory Coast dispatched Senegal to qualify for South Africa 2013 in a tempestuous clash that saw the second leg abandoned due to crowd trouble, and the Elephants will arrive as rightfully one of the major favourites to finally take the trophy.
Indeed, with a squad containing the likes of Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho, Cheick Tiote, Arouna Kone, Didier Zokora and Emmanuel Eboue, it is hard not to argue that it is by far the strongest set of players at the tournament and if they are anywhere near their best, 2013 could finally be the year when all previous disappointments are forgotten.
Tunisia: Best Performance – Winners 2004
The Tunisians have gone a little under the radar following the high point of their 2004 tournament success on home soil. Indeed, after reaching three consecutive World Cups from 1998 to 2006 to add to that sole continental triumph, the North Africans have slowly seen that crop of players leave the international stage.
Coach Sami Trabelsi has elected to select a squad of young and largely home-based players and while victory this year is most probably beyond them, a run to at least the quarter-finals will certainly be seen as a useful learning experience for future World Cups and Africa Cup of Nations.
Algeria: Best Performance – Winners 1990
The winners in 1990 have a poor record in this competition of late, not qualifying in 2006, 2008 and 2012, although 2010 did see them collect a fourth-placed finish. The squad is much changed from the one that performed with relative distinction at the 2010 World Cup, where the Foxes famously obtained a 0-0 draw against England on their way to a group stage exit.
Coach Vahid Halilhodzic has surprisingly chosen to omit two of his country’s perceived best players in former Rangers centre-back Madjid Bougherra and prolific Olympiakos striker Rafik Djebbour, although Valencia’s impressive youngster Sofiane Feghouli is one to watch as far as the entire tournament is concerned.
Togo: Best Performance – Group Stage 1972, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006
Togo have a dismal record in the Africa Cup of Nations and their preparations for this year’s tournament have not been helped by the ongoing saga surrounding star striker Emmanuel Adebayor’s participation. The Tottenham striker retired from international football after his country were forced to withdraw from the 2010 competition after their coach came under fire in Angola, which tragically saw members of their squad and coaching staff killed.
However, after returning to the international fold, Adebayor has found himself in a tug of war between both club and country, who, with his talents, have a chance of sneaking into the quarter finals in South Africa. Without Adebayor, those chances look bleak for the Sparrow Hawks.
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