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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 January 2008, 13:26 GMT
Africa Cup of Nations 2008 - Team guide



GhanaMoroccoGuineaNamibia

Compiled by Piers Edwards

GHANA

Ghana
GHANA FACT FILE
Nickname: Black Stars
Coach: Claude Le Roy
Captain: John Mensah
Nations Cup record: Winners 1963, 1965, 1978 & 1982; Qualified 16 times

Ghana is hosting the Nations Cup on its own for the first time in 30 years - and superstitious fans will hope the experience will repeat the titles the side won at home in 1963 and 1978.

In 2000, the West Africans co-hosted the finals with Nigeria but the event seemed to remove the Black Stars' shine.

Unconvincing in the group stages, they duly surrendered in the quarter-finals but the class of 2008 are a different proposition.

With a World Cup appearance under their belts, there will rarely be a better chance to win a fifth African crown.

Indeed, a first trophy since 1982 would restore much-needed sheen to Ghana's illustrious record in the competition.

Yet coach Claude Le Roy must make do without midfielder Stephen Appiah, the heartbeat of the Ghanaian side.

606: DEBATE

Injury means the 27-year-old misses the chance to captain his country in Africa's most prestigious tournament, and also greatly reduces Ghana's title chances.

In Appiah's absence, the onus falls on England-based midfielders Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari to deliver but crucially, a key link in Ghana's greatest weapon - their midfield - has gone.

Another worry for Le Roy is midfielder Laryea Kingston, who is also struggling for fitness after suffering an ankle injury last month.

Le Roy has issued a rallying cry: "Without our captain, we need the support of our fans more than ever."

But with the host country having won the last two Nations Cups, Ghana will be under intense pressure.

At Egypt 2006, the Black Stars exited in the group stages and if they play as poorly again, the Accra fans may turn on the team - as they did eight years ago.

Ghana and Chelsea's Michael Essien
Essien will hope he can make up for missing the 2006 Nations Cup
Key players: Michael Essien missed the dismal 2006 Nations Cup campaign but some fans believe his ankle injury was faked so he could help Chelsea's Premier League bid.

Africa's most expensive footballer proved his worth at Germany 2006, where he was outstanding and sorely missed as suspension kept him out of the second-round defeat to Brazil.

Dynamic, powerful and incredibly fit, the 25-year-old must assume Appiah's talismanic mantle.

With the Black Stars having found goalscoring a problem in recent years, striker Asamoah Gyan is another vital component.

The Udinese man is Ghana's sharpest weapon but opposition defences must also keep an eye on long-range specialist Muntari.

Verdict: Ghanaians greeted the Nations Cup draw with delight but they will find Group A far harder than first thought.

The Black Stars kick off the tournament against Guinea, who should not be underestimated, while Morocco are a tough proposition.

Should the hosts go through, their fortunes will be determined in the quarter-finals.

Beat likely opponents Nigeria or Ivory Coast, and fans will undoubtedly be dreaming of another home success.


GUINEA

Guinea
GUINEA FACT FILE
Nickname: Syli Nationale
Coach: Robert Nouzaret
Captain: Pascal Feindouno
Nations Cup record: Runners-up 1976; Qualified nine times

After a chequered qualification history, Guinea have now booked their place at the Nations Cup three times in a row for the first time - and their improving football has been reflected by quarter-final places in both 2004 and 2006.

Few of the Syli Nationale are household names but they will shoot into the limelight on 20 January when they step into the Accra Sports Stadium for the opening match against Ghana.

That said, world football's governing body, Fifa, ranks the Guineans as Africa's third best team behind Nigeria and Cameroon.

Guinea's best Nations Cup came in 1976 when they finished runners-up, and their match against Morocco will revive memories of that era.

For the only time in its history, the Nations Cup was decided by a mini-league with the Guineans' final group match against the Atlas Lions effectively serving as the final.

With four minutes left, the Syli Nationale had one hand on the trophy until the Moroccans equalised to top the group and so win the title.

Despite omitting three mainstays of recent campaigns (Sambegou Bangoura, Ibrahima Yattara and Kaba Diawara), coach Robert Nouzaret has great confidence in his squad.

He believes they can reach the final given their quality and recent hard work in training.

This would be some feat but the Frenchman has already produced one during his 13-month tenure.

The 64-year-old took charge of Guinea's qualifying campaign after a poor start had left their Ghana 2008 hopes in tatters.

Nouzaret inherited a team at the bottom of the group but steered them to the top following three wins and a draw in their final matches.

Guinea's Pascal Feindouno
Pascal Feindouno will be key to any Guinea success in Ghana
Key players: Guinea's fortunes will once again depend on captain and wideman Pascal Feindouno, 26, who performed heroics in Egypt as he scored four times while leading his side to the quarter-finals.

Dangerous from set pieces and with a keen eye for goal, the St Etienne star has netted six times in his last eight Nations Cup matches.

Skilful winger Fode Mansare is also a threat - his pace and direct approach a handful for any defence when on form.

Mansare and Feindouno will aim to tee up Dynamo Kiev striker Ismael Bangoura, 23, who has Champions League goals against Manchester United and AS Roma this term.

Verdict: Guinea's qualification chances will be largely determined by the clash with Ghana: if they can avoid defeat, they will fancy their chances of pushing onto the next round.

But edging out Morocco may prove a step too far for the Guineans.

Should the Syli Nationale reach the second round, they could meet Ivory Coast - who Nouzaret coached between 2002-2004.


Morocco
MOROCCO FACT FILE
Nickname: The Atlas Lions
Coach: Henri Michel
Captain: Abdeslam Ouaddou
Nations Cup record: Winners 1976; Qualified 13 times

MOROCCO

Like Ghana, the Atlas Lions failed to progress from the group stages two years ago.

Egypt was a humiliation for the Moroccans, who returned home without a win or a goal (even against north African rivals Libya) to their name.

Yet the 2004 runners-up have bounced back in impressive style.

Reaching Ghana proved a breeze as they brushed aside Malawi and Zimbabwe in a three-team group, conceding just once along the way; yet qualification was not enough to save coach Mohamed Fakhir.

He was dismissed in August as Henri Michel returned for his second spell as Morocco coach, after leading the nation between 1995 and 2000.

Since losing his first friendly against Ghana, results under the Frenchman have been impressive - beating both Namibia and Senegal in comprehensive fashion before drawing 2-2 with France in Paris.

Under Michel, who led Ivory Coast to the 2006 Nations Cup final, the 1976 champions are a far tighter unit and look more physical than in years gone by.

Solid at the back, there is considerable flair in attack where Youssef Hadji and Marouane Chamakh lead the way.

The duo netted four of Morocco's six qualifying goals - and scored five between them en route to the 2004 final.

The four-time World Cup finalists were unlucky to lose 2-1 to Tunisia on that occasion, when goalkeeper Khalid Fouhami gifted the hosts their winner but he surprisingly returns to the squad after a two-year absence.

One notable absentee is young midfielder Mbark Boussoufa, who has been winning plaudits in Europe but will miss the finals through injury.

Morocco's Marouane Chamakh
Morocco's Chamakh can look a world-beater if the mood takes him
Key players: Forwards Youssef Hadji and Marouane Chamakh have the ability and the understanding to unlock any defence.

Along with defender Michael Cretien, Hadji has been central to Nancy's unexpected challenge to French champions Lyon.

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Chamakh can look a world-beater when the mood takes him.

Dynamic midfielder Youssef Mokhtari will also be key, having scored four goals in the 2004 finals. Morocco's strengths are their compact style and difficulty to break down.

Verdict: Although Ghana and Guinea are difficult opponents, the Atlas Lions have the ability to finish ahead of at least one of them.

Group qualification is likely to ensure a quarter-final clash with either Nigeria or Ivory Coast.

Meeting the latter would play into Michel's hands since he led the Elephants to qualification for both the 2006 Nations and World Cups.

Should the Atlas Lions perform as they have recently, they could spring a major surprise.


Namibia
NAMIBIA FACT FILE
Nickname: Brave Warriors
Coach: Arie Schans
Captain: Michael Pienaar
Nations Cup record: Qualified 2 times

NAMIBIA

Sprint legend Frankie Fredericks is undoubtedly Namibia's greatest sportsman but the Brave Warriors will try to create new heroes as they contest only their second Nations Cup finals.

The Namibians are Fifa's lowest-ranked team in Ghana, lying 114th behind the likes of Guatemala and Armenia, and qualification for the second round would be a fairytale.

Yet Namibia's presence in Ghana is the stuff of dreams already. The southern Africans booked their place in dramatic style when striker Muna Katupose struck in the very last minute of qualifying to secure a 3-2 win in Ethiopia.

The Brave Warriors leapt from third place in the group to first, so ousting double African champions DR Congo.

But that is where the good times stopped.

In Namibia's next four matches, they failed to score as they suffered successive friendly defeats.

Far worse followed as Zambian coach Ben Bamfuchile, who masterminded Namibia's shock qualification, died on 27 December after a long illness.

The task of leading the Warriors has fallen to Arie Schans.

The Dutchman, 56, has limited experience in Africa, with just a one-year spell as Mozambique's technical adviser, and faces an enormous challenge - having only met his full squad for the first time on 3 January.

Although they only achieved independence in 1990, Namibia soon qualified for their first Nations Cup.

They failed to win a match in 1998 but provided plenty of entertainment - scoring seven, conceding 11 as they drew with Angola but lost to Ivory Coast and South Africa.

The Namibians qualified through hard work and stubborn resistance, as exemplified by their defence, so do not expect much flair from a side that may well tire in the closing stages of their matches.

Namibia's Collin Benjamin
Collin Benjamin is one of just three Namibian players based in Europe
Key players: Germany-based Collin Benjamin is one of only three Namibians who plays his club football outside of Africa.

Yet the midfielder has played just a handful of matches for high-flying Hamburg SV so may be short of fitness.

Big things are also expected from another Europe-based midfielder, Quentin Jacobs, who plays for Bryne in Norway.

"He is our playmaker - with physical ability, a great attitude and fighting spirit - and was key to our qualification," Sylvester Goraseb, Namibia's most capped international, told BBC Sport.

Verdict: Namibia are the weakest team in Group A by some distance and will be hard-pushed to win a match.

On the plus side, they have nothing to lose since little is expected from them.

A maiden victory at the Nations Cup is the best Namibia can hope to achieve at Ghana 2008.



Africa Cup of Nations Table
19 January 2010 09:39
    P GD PTS
1 Angola 3 2 5
2 Algeria 3 -2 4
3 Mali 3 1 4
4 Malawi 3 -1 3

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