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Major casualties at 2015 Africa Cup of Nations

Posted: 9 October 2014 Time: 10:26

This week we will pass the halfway stage of the qualification series for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

By next weekend, the seven groups will have firmly taken shape and we may be in a position to pencil-in some of the the 15 nations that will join Morocco at the continental high table in January.

Following the first round of games, several high-profile nations have dropped points or have even fallen to defeat.

Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Egypt have all been beaten, while Ghana were only saved from a similar predicament against Uganda by an Andre Ayew penalty.

It will all be clearer after the next two rounds of games, but at this moment in time it looks likely that at least one major side won’t make it to the African main event early next year.

There is, of course, precedent to this.

Reigning African champions Nigeria may have shone in 2013, but a year earlier they had missed out altogether as Zambia claimed the crown in Angola.

Similarly, Egypt, the dominant force in Africa for three consecutive competitions, failed to earn an invitation to the last two tournaments – they were absent in 2012 and didn’t qualify either the year after, for South Africa 2013.

Cameroon and Bafana Bafana also know what it feels like to watch from afar as the continent’s finest contest Africa’s highest honour.

But who will it be this year?

Perhaps the first name that springs to mind is Egypt, who look on course to complete an unhappy hat-trick this year. Over the last few years the nation has undergone a devastating civil war, domestic football has been, at times, decimated, while the national side has been subject to immense transition.

The Golden Generation departed one by one, with the likes of Wael Gomaa and Mohamed Aboutrika – true African greats – ending their glittering international careers in ignominy as the Pharaohs were smashed 6-1 by Ghana in Kumasi in a World Cup qualifier.

The North-African giants were dealt a tough hand with a taxing group-stage draw. Not only were they paired with Senegal, a side who have their own recent experiences of missing out on Nations Cups, but they were also joined by local rivals Tunisia.

All was not lost, however, and with a good start, Egypt could have placed themselves in a positive position ahead of the upcoming double-header with Botswana.

Things have gone about as disastrously as they good.

Egypt remain, plainly, a team in transition. They lacked cohesion and intensity as they were beaten 2-0 by Senegal in their qualifying opener, and it didn’t help that their star man, the hope of the new generation, Mohamed Salah, was clearly lacking match sharpness. The former Basel forward has been resigned to a bit-part role at Chelsea this year and, shorn of game time, he was guilty of several clumsy touches and wayward finishing.

Having been beaten by Senegal, the Pharaohs were defeated by Tunisia. Heading into their double against Botswana, they find themselves six points behind both Senegal and the Eagles of Carthage.

It is imperative they beat the Zebras, however, with the federation unhelpfully threatening Shawky Gharib with dismissal should he fail to qualify, and the manager himself losing faith with a swathe of the players he invited for the first two matches, they look sent for an extended spell away from the continental spotlights.

Nigeria are another giant whose progress looks less than certain.

After two games, the Super Eagles sit on one point, behind both South Africa (with four) and the Republic of Congo (with six). Perhaps Nigeria will take solace from the fact that they face group whipping boys Sudan (who have zero points), but the Falcons of Jediane will take confidence from the reigning champions’ recent performances.

Stephen Keshi’s side ended their 33-year record of home dominance by losing 3-2 to Congo in Calabar in September, ending a run that had stood since 1981. They followed that up with a lacklustre 0-0 draw against South Africa in Cape Town.

The manager’s position is under increasing threat and a recent squabble with Emmanuel Emenike hasn’t helped matters. The inclusions of the likes of Hope Akpan, Michael Babatunde and Raheem Lawal may well freshen-up the squad, but the loss of Victor Moses through injury is a major blow and may spell disaster for the Super Eagles’ AFCON aspirations.

However, if Nigeria can ‘come good’ against Sudan, could South Africa find themselves in rocky territory?

Bafana Bafana impressed in the second half against the North Africans last month, but appeared toothless against Nigeria and found themselves under increasing pressure as the match wore on.

Mashaba has returned to old-timers such as Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Tefu Mashamaite, suggesting he isn’t totally convinced by those that avoided defeat against Nigeria and Sudan.

Thulani Serero’s return should bring composure and class to the midfield, but Bafana will need to be wary of Congo. In Thievy Bifouma, the Red Devils boast a tricky and occasionally explosive forward, while the indefatigable Prince Oniangue will look to cause trouble for Dean Furman, Oupa Manyisa and Andile Jali.

Nigeria and their supporters witnessed, first hand, just how effective Congo could be. They are well-organised and determined under Claude Le Roy and, in Bifouma, possess menace in attack.

The team did, however, look a little naïve in defence against Nigeria. With high-profile centre-back Christopher Samba having refused a call-up, there will be concern that Le Roy’s team may have a weak underbelly which the likes of Mandla Masango, Tokelo Rantie and the newly-recalled Kermit Erasmus may enjoy some joy.

For Bafana to avoid another uncomfortable absence from the top table, they will need to demonstrate, once again, the qualities that they boasted in their first two qualifying matches. Only two other sides (Burkina Faso and Senegal) are yet to concede a goal in AFCON qualifying and it is important they retain this resiliency in Pointe-Noire and then Polokwane.

By Ed Dove
@Eddydove
Eddydove.com

Ed is the Founder of the African Football Weekly podcast: https://soundcloud.com/africanfootballweekly

Livefyre comments on this story...

khosimynation
posted: 2014-10-09 09:34:08

D/Trebble Champs (2013 ChampsLeagueFinalists) we need at least four points from Congo before we can say that, of course that assuming Nigeria will beat Sudan twice.

Malabulabu
posted: 2014-10-09 09:35:53

Well written article, it's easy to tell that  it was not written by a Kick Off journalist, having said that Bafana Bafana will be playing in Morocco come January!

FriendofBatman
posted: 2014-10-09 09:38:10

Harsh Malabulabu

Malabulabu
posted: 2014-10-09 09:40:16

Dee FanatiK And some idiots in here do not understand why the coach called Yeye and Masha.

khosimynation
posted: 2014-10-09 09:43:40

If Nigeria fails to get six points from Sudan they are out, surely Congo will get something from them in Brazzaville. As for Bafana worst case scenario is three points out of six from Congo otherwise they are out. As for Congo even if they lose twice to us they can still qualify all they'll need to do is to beat Nigeria and Sudan which shouldn't be a problem for them. Bafana needs 11 points to be safe we can achieve that before our final game with Nija.

D/Trebble Champs(Caf Elite/Highest Classification)
posted: 2014-10-09 09:43:51

khosimynation We have to go for six points and I'm confident we can do it..!!

iburo
posted: 2014-10-09 09:44:02

Bafana being the second weakest team in this group will accordingly, be dropping more points against its main opponent (Red Devils) for the other slot available in the group due to the fact that Super eagles' slot is non negotiable. I strongly believe Bafana's worst undoing was not able to take the maximum points against the Eagles at a time the African champions were at their off day and were absolutely available to be taken apart.

A critical review of Bafana's strike force has shown a team so weak in front of goals (29 goals in last 20 matches), only able to find the back of the nets more than once against very weak oppositions (Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland, CAR, Sudan) and definitely struggles against attack minded sides in keeping clean sheets (conceding 21 goals in the last 20 matches).

So on one hand, it perfectly makes sense knowing the targets are excelling at tournaments from 2022 and beyond. This will give room for proper analysis of the team's progression and also necessary correctional measures undertaken.

khosimynation
posted: 2014-10-09 09:48:47

iburo  My brother Nija should be worried what makes you so sure you'll beat Sudan and get the six points even if you do something I hope for you, you must still go to Brazzaville and by the look of things Bafana can beat you in Nija my brother hoh. Mistake Nija did was to loose at home my brother lets be honest.

bafana & kaizer chiefs addict
posted: 2014-10-09 09:49:04

iburo you are a nigerian rite?hahah we are weak mate wow you must be high if you think you are the best..we have got better players than your mikel

khosimynation
posted: 2014-10-09 09:53:33

D/Trebble Champs (2013 ChampsLeagueFinalists) Lets keep our fingers crossed

Mgugudi Treble Addict
posted: 2014-10-09 09:54:26

bafana&kaizer chiefs for life 

You are being untruthful. Our players are not better than those of Nigeria pound for pound.

Iburu stated facts....

Mgugudi Treble Addict
posted: 2014-10-09 09:55:16

khosimynation 

Iburu stated facts & did not attack SA in anyway. Can we engage him on that?

bafana & kaizer chiefs addict
posted: 2014-10-09 10:02:15

Mgugudi Treble Addict bafana&kaizer chiefs for life jali,furman,mhlangu,serero just a few are far much better than your nigerian players ,i know you going to say them guys play for chealse but hey that dosent count ..mikel is not better than jali or furman..no one can compete with serero in that team 

Mgugudi Treble Addict
posted: 2014-10-09 10:04:21

bafana&kaizer chiefs for life

Of course, you once believed that Nyawana is better than Messi.

khosimynation
posted: 2014-10-09 10:06:04

Mgugudi Treble Addict are you saying its not a fact that loosing at home to a team that can run away with a group is not a disadvantage.

Its a fact that Nija when we face them will invite their European stars that means they have no choice but to take us to a good pitch which will give us hope since we one of the best possession football nations in the world and taking into consideration the quality of players we have these days.

Need I remind you that our football did not go down but instead we were let down by a certain generation of players I will mention and you figure out what they did. Just a few jabu pule old John Steve lekeolea Patrick mbuthu sipho nunens qibi naughty mokwena vilakazi you can even add those that past.

khosimynation
posted: 2014-10-09 10:07:19

iburo  I want iburo to respond

khosimynation
posted: 2014-10-09 10:13:17

@Mgugudi Treble Addictt do you honestly think south Africa is the second weakest team in that group how did you prove that because rankings are only there to indicate form not strength.

Even Germany might have won the cup in Brazil and um sure there is a team they avoided there that could have given them a hiding, next time think before you take sides or just stick to what you know best pirates.

Mgugudi Treble Addict
posted: 2014-10-09 10:13:23

khosimynation 

In your response, you stress hope (that Nigeria will call their European stars) about a good surface that will give us advantage. And I am not for that, we as a nation have been living in that shadow for too long. We should have won against Nigeria to tip the scale into our favour, by failing to do that & taking control of our destiny, we opened the possibility of not qualifying.

By the way, Nigeria has never played SA on an inferior ground.

Mgugudi Treble Addict
posted: 2014-10-09 10:14:33

khosimynation 

Our failures over the decade are proof to that. What more do you need?

khosimynation
posted: 2014-10-09 10:19:04

Mgugudi Treble Addict yes we could have won we didn't, so we have to take that to nija. Do you know sehulere stadium, anyway all was saying is Nija are introuble and that's a fact do not talk stats here according to me not worth it.

We play Congo next that's all that should worry us. Can we continue with this next week.

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