MID WEEK FOOTBALL ROUND-UP

It has been a week where we have seen it all and some more, from Pogba’s newest hair style to maybe celebrate his twitter emoji (that didn’t end well), to Pep’s posture on the bench which has blown into a viral meme, Sevilla finally stopping Madrid and Juventus suffering a rare defeat in the Serie A, it has been a weekend where football came, saw and conquered across the continents. Here is a round-up of the major talking points from the round leather world over the week.
AFCON is here: The African Cup of Nations kicked off in Gabon over the weekend with the hosts playing out a 1-1 draw with Guinea Bissau, the first round of matches which saw just 12 goals scored in 16 games ended on Tuesday and whilst tournament favorites like Algeria and Ivory Coast and the returning Egypt all failed to secure wins in their opening fixtures, Ghana and Senegal have set the tone for others to follow. It has been a tournament where the big boys have turned up with Pierre Aubameyang, Mahrez and Sadio Mane, the top three players in the continent all finding the back of the net in Week 1, but it has also been a tournament that has lacked quality and labored to excite the fans, there have been drab games and the fans have not really turned up at the stadiums due to a bit of political influence. The Afcon last night also witnessed Egyptian Goalkeeper El-Hadary become the oldest player to feature at the Nations cup at 44, one can only hope that this is due to the teams being tentative and not wanting to lose their opening ties and the excitement will kick off properly with the commencement of Week 2 fixtures.

Diego Costa celebrates after scoring his first goal for Chelsea in a friendly v Olimpija Ljubljana.
DieGO?: The Spaniard has been in the news all week following his omission from the Chelsea team that earned a convincing win over Leicester City, whilst the team claims he is injured and he has since been training alone this week, speculations are rife that China calleth and with the amount of numbers mentioned, the big striker is supposedly hearing the voice of the Lord without the help of prophet Eli. It is even claimed that a move is already in place but Chelsea are willing to do business at the end of the season rather than in January.
It looked like all was going well for him at the club, scoring goals for fun and earning the trust of the manager Antonio Conte, hence when the rumors first broke, many chose not to believe but events that have unfolded afterwards shows that the Chinese league may yet be capturing another superstar following the likes of Tevez, Oscar and Mikel Obi. Did you hear the news where Yaya Toure claimed he turned down a big money move to China? Is he on cheap drugs?

Pep at everton
On this Pep being a fraud talk; Now this is a topic that deserves an entire article on its own, but I choose to avoid that temptation as the issue has already been over flogged following his teams’ heavy defeat, his heaviest as a manager in the hands of Everton on Sunday. Contrary to what many believe, I am actually a huge fan of Guardiola and I am of the opinion that he is arguably the best manager in the world, what he achieved at Barcelona and to an extent at Bayern Munich didn’t happen by chance or luck, but I am also of the opinion that where Pep is rightly praised for his weird tactics when it works, his formation adventures and results, he should be rightly criticized when he ‘fails’ or seem to be getting it wrong. Many have slated the Manchester City squad as being too old, with players who cannot carry out Pep’s ideas, blah, blah, forgetting that Pep didn’t get the job whilst the season was on. He had been rumored to be City’s next manager for at least 2 seasons now, he was announced whilst the last season was even still ongoing and every football fan had noticed that when Vincent Kompany’s injury woes began, City had a defensive problem, why didn’t Pep put this on the list of things he needed to fix immediately? Oh, I forgot, just like tackles, he doesn’t defend. Then he made weird signings, Bravo, not because of his actual goalkeeping skills (of which he is quite decent but not exactly that better off than what he had already), but because he can pass the ball from the back, a young John Stones who despite his prospects is still largely un-established got signed also because he was the ‘modern day defender’ who could play the ball out from the back, then he added Nolito and Sane to the team who have struggled with the pace of the league with Ilkay Gundogan who is now injured for the remainder of the season being the only one who has covered himself in any form of glory. Lets imagine for a moment if the 5 signed players who are like half your starting team jelled and with the likes of David Silva, Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Fernandinho all playing at their best like we had at the start of the season, will this discussion even arise? Pep Guardiola has come under some heavy criticism, rightly and wrongly so but he must understand that when a claim is laid on being the best manager in the world, standards are high and every game counts, clearly he is no fraud but he doesn’t need the best and most expensive legs to get City chasing for the title, even league leaders Chelsea do not have the best squad in the league and I wonder what will be said if somehow this City team despite the amount spent in the window finishes outside the top four this season.

Ifeanyi-ubah
The controversial NPFL: The Nigerian Professional Football League which is put together by the League Management Company (LMC) also kicked off over the weekend with the big opener between Kano Pillars and the Billionaires club, FC Ifeanyi Ubah and barely had the league started when we witnessed our first controversy with Ifeanyi Ubah players abandoning the game under instructions. The LMC have since reacted, fines and bans have been meted out and promises of the incident not happening again, one can only hope that indeed we see less ugly incidents over-shadowing the beautiful football that is actually being exhibited across various grounds in which we saw the likes of MFM, 3SC, Enyimba making early statements whilst Champions Enugu Rangers and new boys with free wi-fi Remo Stars suffering home defeats. The league continues midweek with juicy encounters as Sunshine hosts 3SC in the western derby and FC Ifeanyi Ubah hosting MFM in a repeat of the final game of the last season which saw the Lagos side escape relegation.

Zidane_in_Poznan
Madrid finally gets beaten: it was fun whilst it lasted, 40 games and they looked unstoppable but like every good thing, it had to come to an end someday and Sevilla were worthy of being the ice breakers. After almost ruining it during the 2nd leg Copa Del Rey tie where Madrid managed to claw a draw from the jaws of defeat, Jorge Sampaoli’s men had to do it the hard way this time coming back from a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty to win 2 goals to one with a late Jovetic strike. Sevilla now sit one point behind the Madrid giants but having played a game more and whilst for Zinedine Zidane’s side, this is just a stumble as he will be anxious to shake this off immediately and get the team rolling on another run as they seek to win the La Liga title for the first time in 5 years.

HALFTIMENG’S CHAN BEST XI

CHAN

 

The 2014 African Nations Championship best XI has been announced, with champions Libya, beaten finalists Ghana and bronze medalists Nigeria dominating the fantasy side.

The Mediterranean Knights lifted this year’s trophy following their penalty shoot-out win over the Black Stars on Saturday evening after the Cape Town Stadium final had ended goalless after 120 minutes.

Halftimeng’s CAF CHAN Best XI

Goalkeeper: Mohamed Abdaula (Libya)

Defenders: Ali Salama (Libya), Partson Jaure (Zimbabwe), Odunlami Kunle (Nigeria), Joshua Tijani (Ghana)

Midfielders: Rabiu Alli (Nigeria), Mohamed Elgadi (Libya), Jordan Opoku (Ghana), Christantus Ejike (Nigeria)

Forwards: Abdesalam Omar (Libya), Bernard Parker (SouthAfrica)

1 NET – 7 GOALS

Home-Eagles-11111-300x224At halftime, I was asking myself; “there has to be a reason why this game (Nigeria VS Morocco) was included in my halftimeng.com This Weekend “must-see” games. That must-see game is what brought about the title for my write-up, 1 net, 7 goals as all the seven well taken goals all went into the back of the same net. Heard of that popular saying “One-blow-seven-die”? Keshi threw the punch, the Atlas lions were at the receiving end unfortunately.

It all didn’t start well for the Super Eagles with the Moroccans asking virtually all the questions in the early exchanges and all of a sudden, three goals had gone in 7 minutes.

images33′ GOAL 1 – Nigeria gave away possession cruelly and some quick touch passing between the Moroccan found Moutaouali who chips the ‘keeper to make it 1-0.

images37′ GOAL 2 – The Moroccans won a free-kick just outside the box and the man that was brought down stepped up to take the free kick and it was a splendid strike! Well curled in with Agbim having no chance!

images40′ GOAL 3 – Mohsine Moutaouali got his second goal  in seven minutes as he slices in a low drive which strikes the inside of the upright and roles into the back of the net.

The Nigerian defence was in shambles, at halftime it was Morocco 3, Nigeria 0; that was enough to make anyone switch off the tv set, enough to make the supporters leave the stadium, enough to make any football folk spank me for labelling this game as a “must-see”…

But if you had the inner belief like me or you follow the game so passionately like I do, you would definitely want to see the outcome.

Second half got underway with the Moroccans playing with much confidence and the Nigerians looked desperate to give their coach a befitting birthday present (Keshi turned 52 last Thursday) *winks*but this “excited” goal post wanted to “dance  Four minutes into the second half, the comeback begun..

images49′ GOAL 4 – The Super Eagles pulled one back with a toe-poke by Uzochukwu who initially controlled the cross with his chest, 3-1 and it’s game on!

images55′ GOAL 5 – Rabiu Alli smashes home a volley on the edge of the 18-yard area to make it 3-2! Are you kidding me? Are we going to see a repeat of the Uefa Champions League final in 2005 (AC Milan VS Liverpool)?

And the simple answer was YES!!!

images90’ – GOAL 6 – After about 34 minutes of anxious wait and a lot of spurned chances by the Super Eagles, Ejike Uzoenyi – the man that scored Nigeria’s winning goal against South Africa strikes. His shot rattles the underside of the bar to go into extra time and the Super Eagles had come from three goals down to draw level.

After 90 minutes of play, it finished Morocco 3-3 Nigeria. Extra time to follow. What happened to the Moroccans? – One-blow-Seven-Die”

images111′ GOAL 7 – Nigeria turn the game completely on it’s head. Lamyaghri fails to hold onto his ball and Ibrahim pounces on it and snatches onto it.

imagesAnd from there, no story!!! Nigeria are through to the semi-finals of the CAF African Nation Championships after coming back from three goals down to win 4-3 in extra-time! Keshi had orchestrated another brilliant comeback, his second in 4 years when his then Mali side came back from four goals down to draw 4-4 with 2010 AFCON hosts, Angola.

If you didn’t see this classic, you definitely missed it and you might as well have partaken in the “One-blow-seven-die” hit…..

CHAN 2014 PREVIEW

CHAN2014 GB Spot ColourThe third edition 2014 African Nations Championship (CHAN) kicks off on the 11th of January in Cape Town, South Africa with sixteen teams participating. CHAN is a tournament that has the potential to do so much for domestic football. With so much focus on the overseas-based stars and often nothing more than passive interest in domestic leagues, unearthing a gem in a competition like this could potentially win over many new fans to the domestic competition. On Halftimeng, we take a closer look at the participating teams and preview their chances.

Group A: South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria and Mali.

Bafana-Bafana-saSouth Africa
Bafana Bafana have been dubbed as pre-tournament favourites in the eyes of many ahead of this competition starting this weekend. Preparations for the tournament have been far from ideal for coach Gordon Igesund, who endured a torrid time assembling his players but he’s still confident of a good showing. Coach Gordon Igesund has called up Matthew Pattison of Bidvest Wits to replace  injured Jabulani Shongwe in the squad. Shongwe injured his groin in Bafana Bafana’s 1-0 win over National First Division side Milano United FC in a practice match on Tuesday, 7 January 2014.  Interesting enough, the 23-man squad features no Orlando Pirates player. .

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Moeneeb Josephs (Bidvest Wits), Siyabonga Mpontshane (Platinum Stars)

Defenders: Thabo Nthete (Bloemfontein Celti), Tshepo Gumede (Platinum Stars), Tefo Mashamaite (Kaizer Chiefs), Buhle Mkhwanazi (Tuks), Kwanda Mngonyama (Bidvest Wits), Vuyo Simple (Platinum Stars), Bryce Moon (Mamelodi Sundowns), Tsepo Masilela (Kaizer Chiefs), Tebogo Langerman (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Midfielders: Ryan Chapman (Bidvest Wits), Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns), Jabulani Shongwe (Mamelodi Sundowns), Asavela Mbekile (Moroka Swallows), Sibusiso Vilakazi (Bidvest Wits), Lerato Chabangu (Moroka Swallows), Lindokuhle Mbatha (Platinum Stars), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs)
Forwards: Katlego Mashego (Mamelodi Sundowns), Bernard Parker (Kaizer Chiefs), Edward Manqele (Moroka Swalloows)

Mozambique

Mozambique come into the tournament as ‘debutants’ and will be looking to surprise everyone by making a good impression. Coach Jao Chissano believes there is no pressure on his side to impress, as they face giants Nigeria, South Africa and Mail. They will be banking on Star Player David Sonito Majante, who finished as the top scorer in the Mozambican league to fire them through from this group.

mozambique9559_heroaSquad:

Goalkeepers: Pinto (Ferroviario Maputo), Victor (Desportivo de Nacala) Soarito (HCB Songo)

Defenders: João Mazive Dario Khan, Dito (Costa do Sol) , Chico II , Miro (Liga Muçulmana) Chico I (Ferroviario Maputo) Gabito (Maxaquene)

Midfielders: Josemar , Imo (Liga Muçulmana) Alvarito (Costa do Sol) , Diogo (Ferroviario Maputo) , Kito (Maxaquene) Nelito (Ferroviario da Beira) Lanito (Desportivo Maputo)

Forwards: Sonito (Liga Muçulmana ) Manuelito II (Costa do Sol) , Isac (Maxaquene) Maninho , Mario (Ferroviario da Beira) Belito (Ferroviario Nampula

Nigeria

One of the key figures to watch out for in the Nigerian team Africa’s Coach of the year, Stephen Keshi to win the CHAN at Nigeria’s first time of asking. The coach led the senior national team to success in the Nations cup last year also in South Africa and will be looking to replicate this feat. The Super Eagles are favourites on paper despite naming a weakened side for the tourney. Sunday Mba has been omitted after leaving the training camp for Bastia while Yinka Adedeji and Gambo Mohammed have been ruled out of the tournament with hamstring injuries.

nigeria952_heroaSquad:

Goalkeepers : Chigozie Agbim (Enugu Rangers), Daniel Akpeyi (Heartland), Dele Alampasu (Abuja Football College)

Defenders : Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves), Solomon Kwambe (Sunshine Stars); Francis Benjamin (Heartland), Kunle Odunlami (Sunshine Stars), Ikechukwu Gabriel (Bayelsa United), Umar Zango (Kano Pillars), Bright Esieme (Enyimba), Erhun Obanor (Insurance FC)

Midfielders : Joshua Obaje (Warri Wolves), Ugonna Uzochukwu (Enugu Rangers), Rabiu Ali (Kano Pillars), Christian Pyagbara (Sharks), Ikenna Hilary (Sunshine Stars), Abdullahi Shehu (Kano Pillars)

Forwards : Gbolahan Salami (Shooting Stars), Ejike Uzoenyi (Enugu Rangers), Barnabas Imenger (Lobi Stars), Aliyu Ibrahim (Nasarawa United), Christian Obiozor (Enugu Rangers), Ifeanyi Ede (Enyimba)

Mali

Djibril Drame will be hoping his boys qualify from the group stage at least following a disappointing exit in the first round at the last edition where they only managed to score a goal and finished bottom of their group with just one point. Their 23-man squad  contains 9 players from the local champions Le Stade Malien.

mali-afcon-squad2012-300x196Squad:

Goalkeepers: Soumaïla Diakité (Mali Stadium), Cheick Oumar Bathily (Djoliba) Berthé Germain (Eleven Creators).

Defenders: Ousmane Keita (Djoliba), Souleymane Konaté (Mali Stadium) Bourama Coulibaly (Mali Stadium) Issaka Samaké (Mali Stadium), Mahamadou Traoré (Djoliba), Idrissa Sangare (COB), Oumar Kone (Mali Stadium).

Midfielders: Cheick Mohamed Cherif Doumbia (Mali Stadium) Ibourahima Sidibé (Réal), Yaya Samaké (Nianan) Lassine Diarra (Djoliba), Idrissa Traoré NL (Djoliba), Hamidou Traoré (COB), Adama Traoré (COB) Abdoulaye Sissoko (Mali Stadium) Morimakan Koïta (Mali Stadium).

Forwards: Lassana Diarra (AS Bakaridjan), Hamidou Sinayoko (Djoliba), Lamine Diawara (Mali Stadium) and Mamadou Sidibé (SA Police)

MY TAKE: South Africa should qualify from the group considering the home support they will be getting even though the ticket purchases have been on the low side. The Super Eagles of Nigeria should go through from this group as well.

Group B: Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Morocco.

Burkina Faso

Coach Paul Put, who led the mainstream Burkinabe side to silver medals at the last Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, will be eying to go one better with this team as he returns to South Africa. The Stallions will be making their first appearance at the tournament. Preparations for the tourney haven’t been topnotch as they had a poor outing at the recently held WAFU Cup, in which they failed to qualify out of their group.

burkina-faso-chan-2014Squad: 

Goalkeepers : 1 Mohamed KABORE, (ASFA Y), 2 Laré Mohamed DIARRA, (AS SONABEL), 3 Abdoul Kader KOBRE, (MAJESTIC)

Defenders :4 Issouf DAYO, EFO, 5 Ousséni YEYE, USFA, 6 N’Bah KONE, RCB, 7 Alassane SANGO, ASFA-Y, 8 Saïdou SIMPORE, RCK, 9 Issa GUOUO, SANTOS FC, 10 Yaya COULIBALY, ASFA-Y

Midfielders : 11 Aboubacar Sidiki BARRO, EFO, 12 Elizée Demankel TO, ASFA-Y, 13 Aliassou SANOU, AS SONABEL, 14 Valentin ZOUNGRANA, EFO, 15 Eric TRAORE, USO, 16 Issouf KABORE, EFO, 17 Aboubacar Sidiki TRAORE, SANTOS FC, 18 Cyrille Barros BAYALA, ASFA-Y, 19 Oumarou NEBIE, ASFA-Y

Strikers: 20 ILias TIENDREBEOGO, ASFA-Y, 21 Aboubacar NIMI, EFO, 22 Francis KABORE, SANTOS FC, 23 Bassirou OUEDRAOGO, ASFA-Y

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe will be making their third successive CHAN appearance.

The warriors failed to to make in out of their Group containing Ghana, Congo DR and Libya on their first appearance in 2009, failing to win a single game in three outings and eventually placing third.

They were back in the 2011 edition in Sudan, this time managing a single win, but that was not enough to save them from elimination in a group containing South Africa, Niger and Ghana.

Coach Ian Gorowa has been hailed for instilling belief in the boys, translating into some solid performances since he took over in July.

ZimbabweSquad:

Goalkeepers: George Chigova (Dynamos), Tafadzwa Dube (CAPS United), Munyaradzi Diya (Highlanders) Defenders: Oscar Machapa (Dynamos) , Hardlife Zvirekwi (CAPS United) , Augustine Mbara (Dynamos), Milton Ncube (Highlanders) , Felix Chindungwe (Chicken Inn), Themba Ndlovu (Dynamos) , Eric Chipeta (Hwange), Partson Jaure (Dynamos)

Midfielders: Masimba Mambare (Highlanders), Tawanda Muparati (Dynamos) , Danny Phiri (Chicken Inn), Pascal Manhanga (Triangle), Charles Sibanda (FC Platinum), Kuda Mahachi (Chicken Inn), Ali Sadiki, (FC Platinum), Peter Moyo (Highlanders), Donald Ngoma (FC Platinum)

Strikers: Simba Sithole (How Mine), Nelson Maziwisa (FC Platinum), Simba Sithole (Dynamos)

UGANDA

The Cranes of Uganda will be making their second CHAN appearance this month after participating in the 2011. They failed to win a single game at the tournament in Sudan two years ago, conceding five goals in three games to Gabon, Algeria and Sudan.

The Ugandans, coached by Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic, qualified for this edition of the tournament by hammering Tanzania 4-1 over two legs. They are expected to be sharp off the blocks, given that they recently (a month ago) participated competitively in the CECAFA Cup where they made a run to the quarter final.

Illustration_Football_OugandaSquad:

Goalkeepers: Benjamin Ochan (SCVU), Ismail Watenga (SC Vipers), Ali Kimera (SCVU)

Defenders: Ronnie Kisseka (KCCA) (Capt.) Denis Iguma (SCVU), Martin Mpuga (SCVU), Richard Kasaga (Kira Young), Isaac Muleme (SCVU), Savio Kabugo (SCVU), Rogers Aloro (KCCA)

Midfielders: Julius Ntambi (Kira Young), Saidi Kyeyune (URA), Allan Kyambade (Express), Vincent Kayizzi (SC Vipers), Yasser Mugerwa (SCVU), Brian Majwega (KCCA), Ivan Ntege (KCCA), Mpande Joseph (SC Vipers), Hassan Waswa (KCCA).

Forwards: Crespo Asiku (Bul FC), Francis Olaki (Soana), Simon Okwi (SCVU), Yunus Sentamu (SC Vipers)

Morocco

Despite making their first ever CHAN appearance, there seems to be a lot of expectations on the chances of the Moroccans, coached by Hassan Benabicha.

That could be because they are the reason why 2011 CHAN champions Tunisia failed to make this tournament. The Atlas Lions edged them out in qualifying, winning 1-0 on aggregate (their win, rather impressively, happened away at the Stade Olympique de Sousse in Tunisia).

Aside this, their squad (seven out of the 23 players called up) is made up of mostly players of Raja Casablanca , who made huge strides at the recent FIFA Club World Cup by placing second.

maroc-chanSquad:

Goalkeepers: Nadir Lamyaghri (WAC), Mohamed El Youssfi (MAT), Khalid El Askri (Raja)

Defenders : Adil Sasaa (DHJ), Zakaria El Hachimi (Raja), Mohamed Aberhoun (MAT), Mohamed Saidi (WAC), Mohamed Oulhaj (Raja), Ahmed Chagou (DHJ), Adil Karrouchy (Raja)

Midfielders: Anas Asbahi (WAC), Issam Erraki (Raja), Said Fettah (WAC), Abderrahim Achchakir (AS FAR), Mohsine Moutaouali (Raja), Walid Karti (WAC), Abdessamad El Mbarki (CRA), Zyed Kerrouch (MAT), Rafik Abdessamad (OCS)

Forwards: Zakaria Hadraf (DHJ), Mouhssine Iajour (Raja), Brahim El Bahri (FUS), Abdelkabir El Ouady (WAF)

MY TAKE: Morocco will give a good account of themselves and qualify alongside either of the three teams.

GROUP C: Ghana, Congo, Ethiopia, Libya.

Ghana

The Black Stars will be returning to the CHAN tournament, after competing in all of the previous versions. Having exited the group stage in the last edition, they will be looking to go one better than in 2009, when they placed 2nd in the competition. The local Black Stars have been camping in Namibia and Coach Maxwell Konadu has expressed his worries about the team’s ability to keep possession of the ball, but will be hoping they resolve the issue.

The team is a fairly balanced one in terms of club participation, with league leaders Kumasi Asante Kotoko contributing eight players.

ghanaz_chan2014~18Squad:

Goalkeepers: Stephen Adams (Aduana Stars) Foli Adade (Medeama) Isaac Amoako (Asante Kotoko)

Defenders: Godfred Saka (Aduana Stars), Tijani Joshua (AshantiGold) Francis Morton (Ebusua Dwarfs) Kwabena Adusei and Abeiku Ainooson (Asante Kotoko) Nuru Sulley (Hearts of Oak) Alfred Nelson (Liberty Professionals)

Midfielders: Michael Akuffo, Jordan Opoku, Richard Mpong and Yahaya Mohammed (Asante Kotoko) Jackson Owusu (Berekum Chelsea) Theophilus Anobaah (Medeama) Aseidu Attorbrah (New Edubiase) Latif Mohammed (AshantiGold)

Strikers: Sulley Mohammed (King Faisal) Kennedy Boateng (Medeama) Paul De-Vries Asare (Wa All Stars) Samuel Afful (Hasaacas) Seidu Bancey (Asante Kotoko)

Congo

The “Red Devils”, as they are affectionately called will be taking part in the CHAN for the very first time. They come into the tournament led by coach Kamel Djabour, and will be huge underdogs. The senior national team narrowly missed out on a last round place in the World Cup qualifiers, and the CHAN presents an opportunity for the local team to put Congo firmly on the African football map.

615x340_congo1Squad

Goalkeepers: Chancel Massa, Gildas Kiwoko Mouyabi, Pavelh Ndzila

Defenders: Stanislas Dua Ankira, Kevine Andzouana, Djodjo Miangounina, Hermann Nkodia, Dimitri Magnoleke Bissiki, Boris Moubhibo Ngonga, Ulrich Nzamba Mombo

Midfielders: Herman Lakolo, Cesaire Gandze, Chardin Madila, Moise Nkounkou, Hardy Binguila

Forwards: Junior Makiesse, Sylver Gavoula, Glen Kinfounia, Bersyl Obassi, Rudy Ndey, Lorry Nkolo, Delvi Ngoyi, Kader Bidimbou

Ethiopia

Ethiopia, like a number of other nations will be making their debut appearance at the tournament.

The Walya Antelopes head into the tournament as favorites after an impressive 2013 saw them make a return to the AFCON and push Nigeria in the final World Cup play offs.

Perennial champions St George dominate the squad with eight players including skipper Degu Debebe.

Ethiopia World Cup 2014Squad:

Goalkeepers: Jemal Tasew; Dereje Alemu; Tariku Getenet

Defenders: Abebaw Butako; Tok James; Salahadin Bergecho; Seyoum Tesfaye; Alula Girma; Degu Debebe; Aynalem Hailu; Birhanu Bogale; Beyadeglegn Elyas

Midfielders: Asrat Megersa; Fasika Asfaw; Shemeket Gugsa; Ephrem Ashamo; Menyahel Teshome; Adane Girma; Mentesenot Adane; Tadele Mengesha

Forwards: Omed Ukri; Manaye Fantu; Dawit Fikadu

Libya

Libya returns to the African Championships after taking part in the maiden edition in 2009. The Libyans would have to improve on their performance in 2009 when they finished bottom of their group with 2 points from 3 games. Ahead of the tournament, new head coach Javier Clemente will be looking to make a good impression as the team has been camping in Tunisia where they played a friendly match with Niger which ended 1-1.

MY TAKE: Ghana should qualify at least from this group considering the experience they have been able to garner over the years and Ethiopia might just have an edge over Congo and Libya.

Group D: Mauritania, Burundi, Gabon, Dr Congo.

Mauritania

Mauritania come into this tournament as a team to watch following there impressive win over Senegal to make a debut appearance at CHAN. Before they met Senegal, they had played and beaten Liberia 3-1 on aggregate. Having needed a television campaign to raise $1.64m to fund their participation at the CHAN, coach Patrice Neveu and his lads will aim to make their countrymen proud by making an impact at the tournament.

mauritanie-footballSquad:

Goalkeepers: Souleymane Diallo (FC Tevragh-Zeina), Boubacar Touré (ASAC Concorde) and Cheikh Fall (FC Nouadhibou).

Defenders: Ibrahima Mamadou Sy (FC Tevragh-Zeina), Cheikh Varajou (FC Tidjikja), Mamadou Idrissa Wade (FC Nouadhibou), Yakhoub Fall (FC Nouadhibou), Babacar Coulibaly (FC Tevragh-Zeina), Abdoul Aziz Lô (ACS Ksar), Pape Moussa Sakho (ASAC Concorde) and Abdoulaye Niass (ASAC Concorde).

Midfielders: Moussa Sidi Bagayoko (ASAC Concorde), Bâ Mohamed Yakhoub Deyna (FC Tevragh-Zeina), Abdoulaye Silèye Gaye (ACS Ksar), El Id El Hacen Moctar (ASAC Concorde), Amar Djibi Samb (FC Nouadhibou) and Denne Taghyoullah (FC Nouadhibou).

Forwards: Ely Cheikh Ould Voulany (FC Tevragh-Zeina), Abdallah Samba Moussa (FC Tevragh-Zeina), Cheikh El Khalil Moulaye Ahmed (ACS Ksar), El Koyry Mohamed Vall (ASAC Concorde), Sao Abdoul Aziz (ASAC Concorde), Niass Mohamed (ASAC Concorde) and Diakhité Ismael (ASAC Concorde).

Burundi

Eliminated by Rwanda in 2009 qualifying, and walloped by Uganda in 2011, Burundi finally qualified for their first CHAN competition by defeating highly rated Sudan 4-3 on penalties after a grueling 2-2 aggregate tie. Last month, they were involved in the 2014 CECAFA Cup, where they failed to qualify out of Group B containing Zambia, Tanzania and Somalia.

Having never qualified for a continental competition before, participation in this month’s CHAN will mean a lot for the Swallows.

burundi-teamSquad

1. ARAKAZA Arthur 2. RUGUMANDIYE Yvan 3. NDUWIMANA Saidi (New) 4. HARERIMANA Rashid 5. HAKIZIMANA Issa 6. NSABIYUMVA Frédéricn 7. RUGONUMUGABO Stéphane (New) 8. HAKIZIMANA Hassa 9. NKURIKIYE Léopold 10. NDUWARUGIRA Christophe 11. NDIKUMANA Yussuf (New), 12. DUHAYINDAVYI Gaël 13. MOUSSA Mossi 14. SHABANI Hussein 15. NDARUSANZE Jean-Claude 16. NDIKUMANA Selemani 17. HABONIMANA Célestin 18. ABDUL Fiston 19. NDUWIMANA Jean 20. NZOHABONAYO Aimé (New) 21. NAHIMANA Shasiri 22. HAKIZIMANA Pascal 23. NDAYIHIMBAZE Gilbert (New)

Gabon

This will be the Panthers’ second CHAN appearance. At the last edition in Sudan two years ago, they failed to make it past the group stage (They were in group A, pitted against Sudan, Algeria and Uganda, where they placed third). After a tense 1-1 aggregate draw against Cameroun, they went on to win 7-6 in a nerve racking shootout to make it to South Africa. This came as a sort of revenge as Cameroun had denied them a chance to qualify for the maiden edition of the CHAN in 2009.

Coach Stephane Boungueza’s men is really hoping to make a statement at the tourney.

gabon-pantheresSquad

Goalkeepers: Stéphane Bitséki, Paulin Nzambi, William Loussoueké.

Defenders: Erwin Nguema, Aaron Appindangoye, Martin Ndong Essono, Farel Mounguengui, Edmond Mouelé, Emmanuel Ndong Mba, Cyrille Avebe, Jean René Nzé Mba.

Midfielders: Franck Engonga Obame, Dieudonné Nkoume, Tchen Kabi, Ness Knox Younga, Samson Mbingui, Alain Djissikadié, Duval Nzembi, Davy Mayoungou, Romuald Tsitsigui, Cédric Ondo Biyoghé.

Forwards: Bonaventure Sokambi, Daniel Cousin, Lionel Yakouya.

DR Congo

They won the first CHAN edition in Cote d’Ivoire five years ago, but were denied a chance to defend it in Sudan two years ago at the quarter final stage. The DRC are one of the favourites for this year’s trophy – much like they’ve been for the previous two editions – because they have many quality players they can count on from premier clubs such as TP Mazembe and AS Vita. In fact, six of the 23-man squad called up by coach Santos Mutumbile is from Mazembe. The Leopards, though, did have a difficult qualification. After losing on goal difference after a 2-2 aggregate draw with their namesakes Congo (Brazzaville), they had to rely on a last gasp 2-1 aggregate play-off win against Cameroun to make it to South Africa.

Tresor Mputu – who spearheaded them to the 2009 title – was controversially omitted from the tournament squad after signing for an Angolan club side.

leopards_du_congo_equipe_footballSquad

Goalkeepers: Robert Kidiaba (TP Mazembe), Hervé Lomboto (Vita Club), Freddy Kaninda Tshini (Dragons)

Defenders: Eric Nkulukuta, Jean Kasusula, Hervé Ndonga, Joel Kimwaki (TP Mazembe ), Ebunga Simbi, Thierry Kasereka (Vita Club), Bodrick Ungenda, Bangala Litombo (Motema Pembe)

Midfielders: Patrick Ilongo (TP Mazembe), Lema Mabidi, Guy Lusadisu, Héritier Luvumbu, Mubele Ndombe (Vita Club), Mbidi Mavuanga, Mukoko Mayayi (Motema Pembe)

Forwards: Ngoyi Emomo (Shark XI), Makusu Mundele (New Bel’or), Mavuba Nlandu (Dragons), Reagan Mpembele, Eric Kabulu (Don Bosco)

MY TAKE: DR CONGO will definitely qualify, going through to the next round will be a battle between Gabon and Mauritania.

For the next three weeks, all eyes will be in South Africa as we get set to “CELEBRATE” Africa’s finest players plying their trade at home. Who will emerge as the Champions come February 1st, 2014?

lacoupe