Group C: Zambia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Nigeria
Zambia are the defending champions going into the 2013 AFCON tournament, which will be their 16th appearances in the AFCON. Their unbelievable underdog victory against African footballing fiants Cote D’Ivoire last time round captured the imagination of football fans Worldwide, leaving many fans to wonder how the Zambians can fare in South Africa..
On the 27th of April 1993, the Zambia national team were on their way to play Senegal in a World Cup qualifier when the plane crashed and killed all 18 players on board, plus the coach and backroom staff. That team was the best Zambia has ever had and potentially one of the greatest in African history. Incredibly, despite this tragedy, they managed to put a team together the next year for the AFCON. Surprisingly they managed to reach the final but lost out to African heavyweights Nigeria, who are also in the same group with them this year.
They have what it takes to advance to the quarter finals; great team spirit and a never-say-die attitude which was a key factor in their success in the last edition. Despite the fact that they have been in poor form going into the tournament I see them and Nigeria qualifying from this group.
Player to watch out for: Emmanuel Mayuka (Southampton, England)
Ethiopia won the AFCON in 1962 when it hosted the tournament; they were runners up in 1957 and ended fourth in 1968. They made 7 appearances at the AFCON from 1957 to 1972. Over the years their football was in a declining state, this is their first appearance in 31 years, demonstrating their fall from grace. Considering the lack of inexperience within the current squad, as well as the lowly condition of their domestic league (where they draw most of their talent from) it is difficult to see them qualifying from their group.
Player to watch out for: Adane Girma (Saint Georges SA, Ethiopia)
Burkina Faso have competed in eight of the last 10 tournaments, their best performance was back in 1998 when they qualified from the group stage as host of the tournament. They have a chance in this group, the game against Zambia will be very crucial in their quest to qualify for the quarter finals. On paper, they have a decent squad and are capable of causing an upset in this group.
Player to watch out for: Alain Traore (Lorient, France) Jonathan Pitroipa (Stade Rennes) Charles Kabore (Olympique Marseille, France)
Nigeria won the AFCON 1980 as host and 1994 in Tunisia; they finished third in 1976, 1978, 1992, 2002, 2004, 2006 & 2010 edition of the tournament. They are clear favourites to finish top in this group. They have some of the best footballers in the tournament with the likes of Mikel Obi and Victor Moses who both play for Chelsea FC in the Barclays`s Premier League. They made their first appearance at the world cup in 1994 and were minutes away from qualifying for the quarter finals against Italy who paraded the likes of Roberto Baggio, Paolo Maldini, and Roberto Donadoni. Nigeria took the lead in 26th minute; Italy got a goal back through Roberto Baggio in the 89th minute and went on to score the winner during the extra time. They are a force to reckon with in Africa football and are one of the favourites to win the tournament. That being said, in recent years they have so often failed to meet expectations, despite an array of quality within the squad. If the players can foster a sense of team spirit, the sky is the limit for this inconsistent but very talented side.
Player to watch out for: Victor Moses (Chelsea FC, England) Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia)