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African Cup of Nations Preview – Group A

January 10, 2010

The Videprinter’s coverage of the 2010 African Cup of Nations began earlier than expected yesterday when the Togo team bus was attacked by gunmen in the Cabinda province of Angola. Three have been confirmed dead, and Togo today pulled out of the tournament, as we are reminded that football is far less important than we sometimes think.

Despite the attack, the competition is set to go ahead, starting tomorrow as Angola take on Mali in Group A. And so will our coverage, which starts here with a preview of the group stage.

Some decent matches through the group stageslook likely, with some exciting young players coming through as well as some familiar faces for British football fans. But, as with every tournament, there are favourites and underdogs – The Videprinter runs the rule over the contenders.

GROUP A

ANGOLA // ALGERIA // MALAWI // MALI

ANGOLA        

Since arriving in May 2009, coach Manuel Jose has made Angola a difficult proposition. The 63-year-old former Portuguese manager of the year has masterminded two wins and six draws in his tenure and will be hoping that home advantage can spur his players on.        

Something to prove: Manucho is Angola's lethal weapon

Nicknamed “The Black Antelopes,” the hosts can boast La Liga talent in their ranks. Currently plying his trade at newly promoted Valladolid, big things are expected of Manucho at this years tournamant. Snapped up by Manchester United in January 2008, the 26-year-old centre forward failed to create an impression with Sir Alex Ferguson before he was loaned to Hull where he scored just two goals at the KC Stadium. Now the Vallodolid number 9 is relishing the opportunity to showcase his ability on the world stage.        

Angola kick off the tournament against Mali at the 40,000 capacity Estadio Cidade in the capital, Luanda. Their previous encounter was a friendly in March with Mali coming out on top 4-0 winners.          

Qualifying for the 2006 World Cup in Germany after finishing above Nigeria is undoubtedly Angola’s greatest achievement. Could this be the year Angola put themselves back on the footballing map?       

Videprinter prediction – Quarter-finals.      

ALGERIA        

Hassan Yebda's pace could be the difference

England boss, Fabio Capello will have a keen eye on affairs in Group A as his side prepare to take on Algeria at the World Cup. Winners of the African Cup of Nations for the one and only time in 1990, Algeria have Glasgow Rangers central defender Madjid Bougherra to thank for ensuring their place at South Africa; in the dramatic play-off against Egypt, he put in a solid display.

Coach Rabah Sadaane’s side comprises a multitude of British-based players. Portsmouth duo Hassan Yebda and Nadir Belhadj are the standouts as well as the fire power of Blackpool forward, Hameur Bouazza. Algeria should overpower Malawi in their first match.        

Videprinter prediction – Home advantage should see Angola through at Algeria’s expense. Group stage exit.

MALAWI       

Kanyenda made his international debut aged just 17

Written off before they have even kicked a ball, Malawi are the surprise nation to qualify for Angola. Coached by Kinnah Phiri, Malawi’s sole appearance in the competition came in 1984 when they failed to win a single game in their group.       

Most of their players are based in either Malawi or South Africa, but attackers Russel Mwafulirwa and Esau Kanyenda have forged careers in the second tier of Russian and Swedish football. Star man Kanyenda has had spells at South African club Jomo Cosmos and Russian giants Lokomotiv Moscow, whom he joined in 2003. The 27-year-old plays his football for second division club FC Kamaz.        

Videprinter prediction – Incredible achievement to make it to the finals. Malawi will be hoping they are not the whipping boys of the competiton. Group Stage exit.

MALI        

Diarra adds experience at the heart of the midfield

The dark horses, Mali have an abundance of tough tackling midfielders including Real Madrid’s Mahamadou Diarra and Juventus’ Momo Sissoko. Coach, Stephen Keshi guided Togo to the World Cup in 2006 and there is no reason why the former Nigeria captain can’t come up trumps for the 2002 semi-finalists. Fredi Kanoute provides the goal threat for Keshi’s side. The Sevilla striker has netted 21 times in his 35 appearances for his country and the 32-year-old has established himself as a clinical finisher in LA Liga.  

Videprinter prediction – Winners of the group. Quarter-finals. Winning the group should pit them against the quality of either Ivory Coast or Ghana.

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