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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 October 2005, 23:15 GMT 00:15 UK
Group B: Wounded Lions seek revenge
Compiled by Farayi Mungazi

Nickname: The Indomitable Lions
Coach: Artur Jorge
Captain: Rigobert Song
Cup record: Winners in 1984, 1988, 2000 & 2002; Qualified 14 times


Despite the cataclysmic blow to morale inflicted by their failure to qualify for the World Cup, Cameroon remain highly-fancied to challenge for the Nations Cup title.

Make no mistake, Cameroon will always be Cameroon.

With four African titles to their name, the Indomitable Lions are a side accustomed to life at the top.

The bitter taste of World Cup failure is bound to galvanise everyone connected with this team but they know that a fifth triumph is by no means a foregone conclusion.

They have the talent, the strength in depth, the individual brilliance in key areas and the mental strength required to win Africa's premier tournament.

They may have awesome attacking firepower with players like Samuel Eto'o and Achille Webo, but it is the enormous physique of their players that intimidates opponents.

Samuel Eto'o
Samuel Eto'o has developed into a deadly marksman
Key players: One thing is certain: Cameroon possess one of the world's deadliest strikers in Samuel Eto'o.

The Barcelona forward's eye for goal makes him one of the few exceptions to the saying that nobody is indispensable.

"Cameroonians were so disappointed by our World Cup failure and now the pressure is on to deliver the Nations Cup. We have to conquer Africa," says Eto'o.

Cameroon also have one of the most reliable goalkeepers in Idris Kameni who plays for Espanyol in Spain's La Liga.

Elsewhere, Geremi Njitap is the fulcrum of Cameroon's midfield despite being a bit-part player at English Premiership champions Chelsea.

Verdict: Although the luck of the draw favoured Cameroon, their Portuguese coach Artur Jorge has been around long enough not to view Group B through rose-tinted glasses.

Failure would represent another nightmare for Cameroon football followers. The Indomitable Lions are, therefore, unlikely to take anything for granted.

Always a threat, if the Indomitable Lions find their rhythm, they will be hard to beat. Only a catastrophic turn of events can prevent them from advancing to the second round.

The Indomitable Lions should fight their way all the way to the final, and at worst finish among the top four.


Nickname: The Hawks
Coach: Stephen Keshi
Captain: Abalo Dosseh
Cup record: Sixth appearance in finals

Once upon a time everyone knew what to expect from Togo's national team.

The Hawks were always doing their utmost to hang on and avoid humiliating cricket score-line defeats.

So who are these impostors not only on their way to the World Cup in Germany but also making a stop-over in Egypt?

The Hawks have undergone something of a revolution and the tenure of Stephen Keshi as coach has seen them squeeze out enough results to reach their first World Cup finals.

If you had told Togo's players at the start of the qualifiers that they would be going to Egypt, let alone Germany, they would have done cartwheels down the main street in Lome.

Having missed the last finals in 2004, they made it to Egypt 2006 by winning a tough pool which also included Senegal.

Togo's mean defenders conceded just eight goals in 10 qualifying matches but they will be severely tested when Nigerian Keshi leads them into battle in Egypt.

It is somewhat ironic that in three of the four African titles Cameroon have won, Nigeria were the beaten finalists, with Keshi playing a role either as captain or assistant coach.

However, Keshi might take inspiration from his Togolese players. The Hawks beat Cameroon 1-0 during the group stages of the 2000 finals and he will be hoping the feat can be repeated once more.

Emmanuel Adebayor
Emmanuel Adebayor scored 11 goals in qualifying for the Hawks
Key players: New blood and fresh ideas have been introduced by Keshi over the past year or so as he looks to transform Togolese football.

The predatory instincts of France-based Emmanuel Adebayor means that the Hawks can no longer be dismissed as easy pickings.

The 21-year-old forward scored half of the 22 goals that ushered a new era for Togolese football.

Cherif Mamam Toure and Abdel Coubadja were outstanding in qualifying and should also pose a few problems for the opposition.

Verdict: The Hawks go to Egypt confident of ending a miserable run of five consecutive first-round exits at African football's flagship tournament.

But there is little reason to suspect that they will win the biggest prize on the continent. However, there is also no reason to think that they cannot dent a few reputations in Egypt.

Togo may be a lightweight football nation but they certainly hit their World Cup/Nations qualifying group with the power of a heavyweight.


Nickname: The Palancas Negras
Coach: Luis Oliveira Goncalves
Captain: Fabrice 'Akwa' Maeico
Cup record: Third appearance at finals
Although football is the main sport in Angola, it gets a good run for its money from basketball.

But while the Palancas Negras never win anything, the national basketball team does.

The baksetballers have won the African title eight times and qualified for everything from the World Championship to the Olympic Games.

In contrast, the Angolan national football side does indeed have a dismal Nations Cup record - two appearances have failed to deliver even one victory.

So Egypt 2006 is not just about showing the world that there is more to Angola than diamonds and war - it is also an opportunity for football to show why it should remain Angola's number one sport.

But given their abysmal record over the years, no one could have anticipated Angola finishing top of a qualifying group containing a Nigerian side packed with big-name players.

But that is just what the Palancas Negras did, and they approach the Nations Cup in quietly confident mood.

Perhaps for the first time in many years, they have assembled a well-balanced squad capable of coping with the demands of the three-week tournament.

Akwa's eye for goal is the key to Angola's success in Egypt
Key players: Qatar-based striker Fabrice 'Akwa' Maeico is a survivor from the 1996 and 1998 Nations Cup campaigns.

He is a particular favourite with the crowd, thanks to a goalscoring touch that never seems to desert him.

The powerfully-built striker has scored 31 goals in 67 international appearances.

"The Nations Cup offers us a great opportunity to show off Angolan football. We want to prove to the rest of the continent that there is a lot more to our country than just war and poverty," Akwa said.

Paulo Figueiredo is hardly a spring chicken at 33, but the Portuguese second division player was outstanding in the qualifying campaign.

Verdict: Having qualified for the World Cup at Nigeria's expense, the Palancas Negras have given the Angolan people high expectations for Egypt 2006.

They will certainly not win the Nations Cup but they may well make it difficult for others who do fancy their chances.


Nickname: Simbas
Coach: Claude Leroy
Captain: Lomana LuaLua
Cup record: Winners 1968 & 1974; Qualified 15 times

Okay, the then Zaire won the Nations Cup in 1968 and 1974, and the Congolese have qualified for their share of Nations Cups down the years.

But many people today are most likely to identify the vast country with civil war, corruption and poverty.

Since their last triumph in 1974, the Simbas have struggled to remain within the African elite but it says something about them that they have not missed out on a Nations Cup party since 1992.

This will be the eighth consecutive Nations Cup appearance by the Simbas but, apart from an excellent third place finish in Burkina Faso eight years ago, they have underachieved.

It will not be easy for the Congolese to survive this group, let alone progress further in the tournament, but this is a side with pretty much nothing to lose.

In their favour is that their opening game is against Togo. Win that and they will go into the Angola fixture full of confidence.

Lomana LuaLua
Lomana LuaLua is the DR Congo's driving force
Key player: With injury ruling Shabani Nonda out of a second consecutive Nations Cup, coach Claude le Roy will bank on captain Lomana LuaLua.

The England-based striker is one of the most colourful characters in African football and is undoubtedly the DR Congo's driving force.

LuaLua left the 2004 Nations Cup under a cloud after being sent off for abusing the referee. But the former gymnast says he has learnt to control his temper.

"Everyone makes mistakes and we all say things out of anger. I let myself down partly due to inexperience. I believe you learn how to conduct yourself as you grow up," LuaLua said.

Verdict: A DR Congo supporter would have to be an outrageously optimistic soul to believe that the Simbas have any chance of winning the Nations Cup.

The last time they impressed in the finals was in 1998, finishing third and beating Cameroon along the way.

The more probable outcome this time around is a first-round exit for Claude LeRoy's team.


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