African Cup of Nations - Group C: Guide

Thu, 19 Jan 12:12:00 2012

Our preview of the African Cup of Nations continues with an in-depth look at the countries in Group C.

2011 Gabon - 0

GABON

Previous appearances in finals: 4

Best performance: Quarter-finalists in 1996

FIFA world ranking: 77th

Coach: Gernot Rohr's continued tenure in charge of Gabon has often been the subject of much speculation but he has hung onto a difficult post and leads the co-hosts at the Nations Cup. The 58-year-old played at Bayern Munich and Girondins Bordeaux, and then coached Bordeaux when they lost to Bayern in the 1996 UEFA Cup final. Other past managerial jobs include French club Nantes and Nice and Young Boys Berne in Switzerland.

Star men:

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (St Etienne). Age: 22 Position: Forward

Son of a former Gabon captain, who was born in France but grew up in Italy where he was a junior at AC Milan. Aubameyang played for France's Under-21 side but then suddenly changed his allegiance and featured for Gabon at the last Nations Cup finals in Angola. His two brothers have also won caps for the central African country but did not make the cut for the 2012 finals.

Didier Ovono (Le Mans). Age: 28 Position: Goalkeeper

Ovono is one of Gabon's most experienced internationals, whose globetrotting career has taken him to clubs in El Salvador, Portugal and Georgia, where he won the championship with Dinamo Tbilisi in 2008. For the last three seasons he has played at Le Mans in France, but has had only four games in Ligue 2 this season.

Bruno Ecele Manga (Lorient). Age: 23 Position: Defender

Strong performances in the Gabon league with FC 105 Libreville earned a transfer to Girondins Bordeaux in 2006 but his progress was swiftly halted and within two yeas he had been released without playing. Two season in Ligue 2 at Angers re-established his reputation and prompted a transfer to Lorient, where he has finally made his name in Ligue 1.

Prospects: Gabon's small population, estimated at some 1.5 million, means the country is always going to be struggling to qualify for the Nations Cup finals but did reach the 2010 finals in Angola where they turned in a credible performance. As co-hosts of the 2012 finals, they have been without any competitive football since and a decent return of results over the last 22 months might yet prove deceptive.

TUNISIA

Previous appearances in finals: 14

Best performance: Winners in 2004; Runners-up in 1965 and 1996

FIFA world ranking: 59th

Coach: Sami Trabelsi was a long-standing fullback for the Tunisia side, playing at three Nations Cup finals between 1996 and 2000 and also at the 1998 World Cup in France. At the 1996 Nations Cup he competed in every game but then missed out on the final, which Tunisia lost to hosts South Africa. Trabelsi coached Tunisia's home-based players to victory at the 2011 African Nations Championship in Sudan and was then given the national team job in March.

Key players:

Issam Jemaa (AJ Auxerre). Age: 27. Position: Forward

Tunisia's all-time top scorer, with 26 goals, is heading to his fourth successive Nations Cup tournament. Jemaa won the Tunisian championship with Esperance in 2003 and 2004 before moving to Europe, where he first played at Racing Lens, then Caen. Since the start of the season he has played for AJ Auxerre but his role in Ligue 1 has been limited with two goals in four starts since joining his new team.

Yassine Chikhaoui (FC Zurich). Age: 25 Position: Midfielder

Tall and imposing, he has overcame a litany of knee problems to re-establish a leading role in the side. He was picked for the 2006 World Cup at the age of 20 and moved the following year to Switzerland, where Zurich have been patient with his travails because of his obvious potential. He is known as 'Zizou' to the fans, likened to the skilful Zinedine Zidane.

Aymen Abdennour (Toulouse) Age: 22 Position: Defender.

Former captain of the under-21 side who was a firm favorite at Etoile Sahel before going on loan to Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga last January. Toulouse signed him in August and such has been their delight at his adaptation to Ligue 1 that they extended his contract last week. He started as a left wing and later played at left back but is often also used as a centre back.

Prospects: Tunisia are a perennial presence at the Nations Cup and the last of the 16 teams at the finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon to have won the title. However, a lack of depth means they are always hard pressed once they get to the business end of the competition. Their side is a mix of players from clubs in Europe and those from several strong clubs in Tunisia, including African champions Esperance.

MOROCCO

Previous appearances in finals: 13

Best performance: Winners in 1976; Runners-up in 2004

FIFA world ranking: 61st

Coach: Former Belgian international Eric Gerets has been Morocco coach for just over a year and amassed a record of four wins, three draws and two loses. More importantly he has proved a charismatic presence in Morocco's bid to establish a new team in the wake of their failure to qualify for both the 2010 World Cup and Nations Cup tournaments. Gerets won the European Cup as player at PSV Eindhoven and competed at three World Cup finals. As a coach he has won the championships in Belgium, Netherlands and Turkey while he also took charge of Olympique Marseille and two Bundesliga clubs.

Star men:

Oussama Assaidi (SC Heerenveen). Age: 23. Position: Midfielder

Ball wizard who is being widely tipped as one of the next shining lights of African football. Made his national team debut last February and has quickly ensured a berth for himself in the starting lineup, scoring a goal in a vital qualifier againstAlgeria in June. He scored seven goals in the first half of the current Dutch league season.

Mehdi Benatia (Udinese). Age: 24 Position: Defender

Former French junior international who had trials at both Chelsea and Manchester United before signing for Olympique Marseille and being sent out on loan. He then signed as a virtual unknown for Udinese, penning a five-year contract in early 2010, but quickly established himself as a regular. Morocco supporters widely regard him as the best player in their side.

Mbark Boussoufa (Anzhi Makhachkala). Age: 27 Position: Midfielder.

Twice voted the best player in Belgium during his time at Anderlecht, Boussoufa is now playing alongside Samuel Eto'o - and earning a veritable fortune - at the eccentric Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala. He was born in Netherlands and was a junior at Ajax Amsterdam.

Prospects: Morocco will be heavily fancied to finish top of Group C and go on to at least reach the final four. Their side has been transformed into a quick paced, dynamic outfit by coach Gerets. A tough opening group will also give the Moroccans a platform of confidence to potentially go all the way .

NIGER

Previous appearances in finals: none

FIFA world ranking: 97th

Coach: Harouna Doula Gabde, a former international full back, took on the job in 2009 but has no profile outside of Niger. He was in charge of his country's surprise qualification for the African Nations Championship in Sudan last year - the tournament for home-based players only - and then oversaw their remarkable qualification to the 2012 Nations Cup finals. His lack of experience prompted the Niger federation to appoint veteran French coach Rolland Courbis to help him, ostensibly as an advisor but it is likely that the former Girondins Bordeaux and Olympique Marseille coach will make all the key decisions at the Nations Cup finals.

Star men:

Moussa Maazou (Zulte-Waregem) Age: 23. Position: Forward

Bulldozing forward whose has been the country's major export to Europe, playing at Bordeaux and Monaco in the French league and CSKA Moscow in Russia, but is now stuck in the anonymity of Belgium where his club career seems to be stagnating. His goals against Egypt and South Africa in the qualifiers proved the catalyst for Niger's surprise qualification.

Daouda Kassaly (Coton Sport). Age: 28 Position: Goalkeeper

Played for Cameroon club Coton Sport in the 2007 African Champions League and has four league titles with the club. Previously, he was also a national champion in Niger with Sahel SC. A proposed transfer to Rapid Bucharest fell through two years ago.

Kamilou Daouda (CS Sfaxien). Age: 23 Position: Forward

Well-travelled striker who has been a regular in the qualifying competition for his country. There is some doubt over his official age because he went to Cameroon in 2005 after several domestic achievements, ostensibly still a teenager. Since then, he transferred to Al Ittihad in Libya but left when the league stopped there last March because of the rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi's regime. Signed at the start of the season for CS Sfaxien in Tunisia.

Prospects: Niger secured qualification in fortuitous circumstances, when favourites South Africa misjudged the permutations needed to win the preliminary pool, and will likely find themselves well out of their depth at the Nations Cup. They lost all their away matches in the qualifiers and while they have made their home ground in Niamey a tough place for opponents in recent times, they have no track record on the road or in major tournaments. They are also arguably in the toughest group in the first round.

Teaser CAN 2012

Reuters / Eurosport

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