Saturday, 17 January 2015
Yaya Toure (Cote d’Ivoire)
Four-time African Footballer of the Year, Yaya Toure, will undoubtedly be the most high-profile star to watch in Equatorial Guinea as Cote d’Ivoire seek to win the Africa Cup of Nations title for the first time since their only previous success in 1992. And with his doggedness and incisive passes, not forgetting his impressive goal scoring ability, fans of Les Elephants will be hoping Toure can replicate his impressive form for Manchester City in the famous orange colours of his country.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been one of the most consistent African strikers in Europe in recent times and has made the final five-man shortlist of nominees for the CAF African Footballer of the Year award in the past two years and he will be in Equatorial Guinea to further confirm his status as one of the continent’s top players, even though he has not been able to lead his country past the AFCON quarterfinals. But after scoring twice and providing four assists as the Panthers finished top of their 2015 AFCON qualifying group ahead of Burkina Faso, the Borussia Dortmund striker will be hoping to lead his country to a historic last-four appearance in Equatorial Guinea.
Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroun)
With Cameroun’s all-time leading scorer Samuel Eto’o missing out of the 2015 AFCON after retiring from international football, Vincent Aboubakar is expected to lead the Indomitable Lions’ quest for a fifth AFCON title, especially after impressing during the qualifiers where he grabbed four goals as the Central Africans finished top of their qualifying group ahead of Cote d’Ivoire. Strong, fast and very deadly in front of goal, the 22-year-old, who scored 16 goals for French side Lorient last season before making a summer switch to FC Porto, will be out to prove to officials of the Portuguese side that he deserves to be playing much more regularly than he currently does for the former European champions.
Asamoah Gyan (Ghana)
Ghana’s all-time leading scorer, Asamoah Gyan, has scored more goals than any other African at the World Cup and has won numerous awards as a player. But the Ghana captain is yet to win a major international tournament with the Black Stars, who will be keen to finally land an AFCON title after securing topfour finishes in the last four editions albeit without winning the trophy. The scorer of three goals in the qualifiers for AFCON 2015, Gyan is now expected to build on his fine goal-scoring form for his country as they try to navigate past a tough group stage where they will be up against Algeria, Senegal and South Africa.
Nabil Bentaleb (Algeria)
Not since Sunday Oliseh has an African player showed so much creativity playing in front of the backline as Nabil Bentaleb has displayed in the colours of his beloved Algeria and English Premier League side, Tottenham. The youngster performs the important role of shielding the back four from danger while also contributing to the attack with precise passing reminiscent of the iconic Nigerian midfielder who played a pivotal role for the Super Eagles on their way to the 1994 AFCON title. Algerians will be hoping Bentaleb can do likewise and lead their side to a second AFCON title, 25 years after their only success.
Jonathan Pitroipa (Burkina Faso)
Two years ago, at the last AFCON in South Africa, Jonathan Pitroipa emerged as the biggest star of the tournament as Burkina Faso marched all the way to the final before succumbing to a lone goal defeat at the hands of Nigeria. The Al Jazira of the UAE star will be in Equatorial Guinea hoping to continue from where he left off last time around in the hope of leading the Stallions to a historic AFCON title after finishing as the top scorer of the qualifying campaign with six goals in as many matches.
Wilfried Bony (Cote d’Ivoire)
With the legendary Didier Drogba no longer around, the man now charged with the responsibility of leading Cote d’Ivoire’s charge for goals in a Cup of Nations group that also includes Cameroon, Guinea and Mali will be new Manchester City signing Wilfried Bony. Although he netted only once during their qualifying run, as Les Elephants finished in second place behind Camer-oon, Bony’s impressive goal scoring form, which saw him bag more goals in 2014 than any other EPL player, could serve as a motivational boost for the 25-year-old as the West African nation look to win a first AFCON title since their only previous success in 1992.
Seydou Keita (Mali)
Seydou Keita may be 35 and may not be as fast as he was during his AFCON debut in 2002, where his dazzling skills led the Malians to a fourth-place finish on home soil, but he still has an eye for a killer pass and will be hoping he can do enough to help the Eagles make an appreciable impact at what is his seventh AFCON appearance. With few leaders to call upon in his team, Mali coach, Henryk Kasperczak, may need the Roma player’s calming influence in the centre of midfield as they face Guinea, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire in the group stage. Papiss Cisse (Senegal)
The Teranga Lions of Senegal will need to be at their best in order to progress to the knockout rounds from a tough group featuring Algeria, Ghana and South Africa. But they will be confident of their chances with Papiss Cisse leading a frontline that also has his former Newcastle United teammate, Demba Ba, and Stoke City star, Biroum Diouf. The in-form Cisse will be hoping his fine form for struggling English Premier League side, Newcastle, can be replicated at the AFCON as Senegal look to win a first ever continental title.
Yosouf Mulumbu (DR Congo)
There are very few teams in Africa that can boast of having a player with the physical attributes of Yosouf Mulumbu, who not only does the dirty job for his country and English club side, West Brom, but also creates goal scoring opportunities for his teammates despite spending most of the time on the pitch positioned in front of his backline. With no AFCON title to their credit since 1974, Mulumbu could prove to be the catalyst DR Congo need to reclaim their status as one of the continent’s top sides.
Mame Diouf (Senegal)
Stoke City winger, Mame Diouf, has since the start of the English Premier League season mesmerised opposing defences with his speed and skill and will be sorely missed by fans of the Potters throughout Senegal’s involvement at the AFCON. With five goals for Stoke so far, despite playing from a wide position, fans of the Senegalese team will be hoping Diouf can replicate his club form for his country and even turn provider for his teammates.
Yannick Bolasie (DR Congo)
Not much was known of Yannick Bohis impressive displays last season for English side Crystal Palace who finished a very impressive 12th in the EPL standings. But the forward will be a marked man in Equatorial Guinea as the 1974 AFCON champions look to progress to the knockout rounds from a group that also has Cape Verde, Tunisia and Zambia. However, Bolasie is fast becoming a growing force in Africa and has emerged as his country’s key man in recent times as exemplified in his country’s impressive 4-3 victory over Cote d’Ivoire in Abidjan, where his pace, dribbling ability and eye for a pass persistently tormented the Ivoirians.
The African Nations Cup finally gets underway on Saturday after a controversial build-up to the 30th edition which included a hasty late switch of hosts to Equatorial Guinea in the wake of concerns over the Ebola virus.
Sixteen nations again line up for the biennial continental championship, seeking Africa’s top sporting prize at the tournament which starts on Saturday and finishes on February 8.
Few previous editions have had such a dramatic backdrop with the hosting of the 2015 finals being switched two months ago after Morocco asked for a postponement in the wake of the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa.
That request precipitated a crisis that left the tournament having to be organised almost from scratch in a few weeks.
Fears that travelling fans could spread Ebola and damage Morocco’s tourist industry were seen as alarmist by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), who rejected the request and then stripped Morocco of their hosting rights.
From a country with plentiful resources, who have previously bid to host the World Cup, the Nations Cup is now being played in one of Africa’s smallest and most enigmatic countries.
Equatorial Guinea is a family-ruled former Spanish colony which has new-found oil wealth and is revelling in rescuing the continent’s most eagerly anticipated sporting event.
It was the only country willing to step in at the last moment, saving the finals from being moved to Qatar.
It is a tournament that this time has no clear favourites and in which almost all the teams will believe they can emerge as champions at the end of the three-week event.
Algeria, who reached the second round at last year’s World Cup in Brazil, are Africa’s top-ranked team and would have been a firm favourite were the event still taking place in Morocco.
So too would Tunisia, who were impressive in an unbeaten qualifying run in a preliminary group competition that lasted three months from September to November.
But North African teams are rarely get into their stride in the difficult conditions of central Africa.
Holders Nigeria did not qualify but there is still the perennially strong challenge from the West African region with Ghana, Guinea, the Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal and Burkina Faso, who were surprise runners-up in South Africa two years ago, reports Reuters.
Mali have won the bronze medal at the last two editions and Ghana have played in the last four semi-finals.
Senegal, who will have one of the strongest squads, have never won the Nations Cup but arrive with top credentials.
The Cote d’Ivoire have often been favourites but crashed out at the last five tournaments, unable to add to their one success in 1992. This time the Ivorians, now without their talismanic striker Didier Drogba, stumbled through the qualifiers.
It could be a country close to the hosts that will win.
Neighbours Cameroon have enjoyed a remarkable resurgence since their controversial World Cup in Brazil.
Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon also offer a strong central African presence while South Africa and Zambia are the only two sides from the south of the continent.
Tiny Cape Verde Islands return after their shock run to the quarter-finals two years ago and they are even stronger this time with the potential to provide more surprises. The tournament will be played at four venues.
Stadiums in Bata and Malabo were extensively renovated for the co-hosting of the 2012 finals since when smaller venues have been built in the towns of Ebebiyin (8,000 seats) and Mongomo (15,000) on the far eastern border of the country.
The latter is made up of an island in the Atlantic Ocean, where the capital Malabo is situated, and a block of real estate on the African mainland where Groups A, B and C will be hosted.
Bata will stage the opening match and the final.
Friday, 16 January 2015
2014 Glo Nigeria Premier League champions Kano Pillars will battle Dolphins FC in the opening match of the Super 6 on Saturday, January 24, at the Abuja National Stadium.
The tournament will also feature the national U23 and U20 sides who are preparing towards the All African Games’ qualifiers and the African Youth Championship (AYC)respectively.
The Super 6 tourney is scheduled to hold between January 24 and February 1, 2015. Participants are Dolphins, Kano Pillars, Warri Wolves, defending champions Enyimba as well as the Flying Eagles (U20) and Dream Team (U23).
The competition is meant to keep the participants in shape ahead of their engagement for the country in continental competitions this year.
Enyimba and Kano Pillars will hoist the nation’s flag in the Caf Champions League while Warri Wolves and Dolphins will feature in the Caf Confederation Cup.
Match Day 1 (Saturday, January 24th)
Kano Pillars vs Dolphins – 1pm
Enyimba Int’l vs Flying Eagles – 3pm
Warri Wolves vs Dream Team – 5pm
Enyimba vs Warri Wolves – 1pm
Kano Pillars vs Flying Eagles – 3pm
Dolphins vs Dream Team – 5pm
Match Day 3 (Wednesday, January 28th)
Flying Eagles vs Warri Wolves – 1pm
Kano Pillars vs Dream Team – 3pm
Dolphins vs Enyimba – 5pm
Match Day 4 (Friday, January 30)
Dream Team vs Enyimba – 1pm
Kano Pillars vs Warri Wolves – 3pm
Flying Eagles vs Dolphins – 5pm
Match Day 5 (Sunday, February 1st)
Warri Wolves vs Dolphins – 1pm
Kano Pillars vs Enyimba – 3pm
Dream Team vs Flying Eagles – 5pm
There are reports by people in the know that Chelsea and Super Eagles midfielder, Mikel Obi is building a mini estate in the Ajah/Badore new development area of Lagos. Mikel and his partners (including a bank) are planning to build over 100 housing units of 2/3/4bedroom service apartments, a multipurpose hall and recreational facilities. The estate will be called Chelsea Estate and construction has already begun.