Thursday, January 10, 2013

The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations - Preview

The 2013 African Nations Cup will be the 29th Africa Cup of Nations (ACON), the football championship of Africa, organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

It takes place in South Africa in nine days time. South Africa and Zambia both qualify automatically as hosts and holders respectively. The opening match will be played in Johannesburg on the 19th January between South Africa and Cape Verde, with the Islanders making their finals debut. The winner of the ACON tournament will automatically qualify for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil as the representative from CAF and will line up in group B alongside Spain, Uruguay and Tahiti.

On 29 January 2011, Libya won the right to host the 2013 tournament and Morocco won the bid to host the 2015 edition. However due to the 2011 Libyan civil war, Libya and South Africa traded years with South Africa hosting in 2013 and Libya hosting in 2017.

The Africa Cup of Nations, also referred to as the African Cup of Nations or African Nations Cup, officially CAN (French for Coupe d'Afrique des Nations), is the main international association football competition in Africa. It is sanctioned by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), and was first held in 1957. Since 1968, it has been held every two years.

In 1957 there were only three participating nations: Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. South Africa were originally scheduled to compete, but were disqualified due to the apartheid policies of the government then in power. Since then, the tournament has grown greatly, making it necessary to hold a qualifying tournament.

Egypt is the most successful nation in the cup's history, winning the tournament a record seven times (including when Egypt was known as the United Arab Republic between 1958 and 1971). Ghana and Cameroon have won four titles each.

In May 2010, it was announced that the tournament would be moved to odd-numbered years from 2013. This will mean the tournament will now not take place in the same year as the FIFA World Cup. The 2010 tournament was unfortunately shrouded in controversy after the Togo team bus was set upon by gunfire leading to the tragic death of three officials. Togo left the competition as a result. Egypt eventually won the tournament, defeating Ghana in the final.

In 2012 the tournament was co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The 2012 surprise winners were Zambia who defeated Ivory Coast in a penalty shoot-out in the final held in the Stade d'Angondjé, Libreville.

Zambia's players celebrate their ACON success after defeating Ivory Coast in the 2012 Final

The win was dedicated to the 18 players who perished in April 1993, after a plane carrying the Zambia squad crashed just miles from the site of the 2012 final in Gabon. Malia beat Ghana in the 3rd place match. Christopher Katongo of Zambia, who plays professionally for Chinese Super League club Henan Construction F.C. as a striker was voted most valuable player. Frenchman Hervé Renard was the Zambian coach.

All-time ACON top scorers:

Samuel Eto'o - Cameroon 18 goals
Laurent Pokou - Ivory Coast - 14
Rashidi Yekini - Nigeria - 13
Hassan El-Shazly - Egypt - 12
Patrick Mboma - Cameroon and Hossam Hassan - Egypt - both 11.

23 English-based players have been named in provisional squads ahead of the tournament, and they are as follows:

South Africa: Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace, right), Dean Furman (Oldham).

Morocco: Oussama Assaidi (Liverpool).

Ghana: Albert Adomah (Bristol City).

Mali: Samba Diakite (QPR), Mahamadou Diarra (Fulham), Tongo Doumbia (Wolves), Modibo Maiga (West Ham).

Congo DR: Gabriel Zakuani (Peterborough), Youssouf Mulumbu (West Bromwich Albion).

Zambia: Emmanuel Mayuka (Southampton).

Nigeria: John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses (both Chelsea), Shola Ameobi (Newcastle), Danny Shittu (Millwall).

Ivory Coast: Kolo Toure, Yaya Toure, Abdul Razak (all Manchester City), Cheick Tiote (Newcastle), Arouna Kone (Wigan, front right), Gervinho (Arsenal) .

Algeria: Adlene Guedioura (Nottingham Forest).

Togo: Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham).

Stadium Venues:
The venues were announced on 4 May 2012. The National Stadium (Johannesburg) will host the opening match and the final. Other the venues selected for matches are Mbombela Stadium (Nelspruit), Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (port Elizabeth), Royal Bafokeng Stadium (Rustenburg) and Moses Mabhida Stadium(Durban)


Group A: South Africa, Angola, Morocco, Cape Verde

Group B: Ghana, Mali, Niger, Congo DR

Group C: Zambia, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia

Group D: Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Algeria, Togo

The top two teams from each group qualify for the the knockout stages beginning on the 2nd February.
The semi-finals take place on the 6th February and the final is on the 10th February.

Africa Cup Of Nations: The betting and the players to watch out for!
Ivory Coast at 7/4 are favourites to win the 2013 tournament, followed by Ghana 7/1, hosts South Africa 9/1 then Nigeria 10/1 and holders Zambia at shades of 12/1. Togo and Ethopia are the rank outsiders. However I believe there are better value betting options to consider than the Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast, last years beaten finalists are on paper at least the stand-out side. They boast a wealth of internationally recognised talent in the form of Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure, Didier Drogba, Arouna Kone, Salomon Kalou and a host of other familiar faces are all there, and having come so close last time they and their fans will be in expectant mood.However not only have they been put in Group D with former champions Algeria and Tunisia and a Togo team with all to gain and nothing to lose, but tradition suggests potential trouble for the title favourites, and at 7/4 they look far too short a price.
Ghana will be missing their best player, Andre Ayew, who has a hamstring injury. One of Africa's finest players, Ayew the Marseille winger/striker will be sorely missed. His absence deals a potentially fatal blow to the Black Stars' hopes of becoming champions.

I like the look of Morocco at 18/1 - France-based players Zakaria Bergdich (Lens), Abdelhamid El Kaoutari (Montpellier), Younes Belhanda (Montpellier) and Chahir Belghazouani (AC Ajaccio) arrive in fine form, and they have a good striker in Youssef El Arabi of La Liga side Granada CF.

Mali's squad is packed with power and talent - Samba Sow (Lens), Cheick Fantamady Diarra (Rennes) and Sambou Yatabare (Lens) are names to look out for. Mali and Algeria are both 16/1 outsiders to win the tournament but both look capable of causing an upset in this years competition. Mali came third at the 2012 finals and are the obvious choice to progress from Group B along with Ghana, but DR Congo pose a threat if only because they are coached by wily Frenchman Claude le Roy. A small wager on either Mali and Algeria making the final could be a shrewd bet.

Algeria have in Ryad Boudebouz (FC Sochaux) and Foued Kadir (Marseille) two of the most technically gifted players in the tournament. Boudebouz and Kadir are both attacking midfielder players and are sure to excel in South Africa.

Other players to look out for in the tournament. I can see debutant's Cape Verde causing an upset or two, because they have one of the tournament's finest young footballers in Lille's Ryan Mendes, an explosive attacker with flair and good finishing ability. Also look out for flying winger Odair Fortes (Stade Reims) and striker Julio Tavares (Dijon).

Burkino Faso have two outstanding attacking players in Lorient's Alain Traore and Rennes' Jonathan Pitroipa. Burkin Faso have been drawn in one of the two more winnable groups, alongside Zambia, Nigeria and Ethiopia and their odds of 6/1 to win their group, look overpriced!

My Best Bet:
Morocco to Win the Tournament at 14/1
Outside Bets:
One of Mali or Algeria to Reach The Final both at 5/2
Burkina Faso to Win Group C at 6/1

# Odds courtesy of Betfair and correct at time of writing.

Go to oddschecker for all your ACON betting.

Live coverage of the 2013 African Cup of Nations on TV will be shown on ITV4 and British Eurosport in the UK. ITV4 will broadcast 20 live African Cup of Nations games including 12 group matches, 4 Quarter Finals, both Semi Finals, the third-place play off and the African Cup of Nations Final.

British Eurosport will broadcast all 32 games live from the tournament including the African Cup of Nations Final On TV. See here for the full TV schedule of matches and kick-off times.

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