Review of first round Opponents

 NIGERIA’S FIRST ROUND OPPONENTS:

                                 

NIGERIA’S FIRST ROUND OPPONENTS
Egypt: A Run for Seventh Title

Following their failure to qualify for the FIFA World Cup, the African Cup of Nations in Angola offers the Pharaohs of Egypt the chance of winning any major silverware in 2010.
Incidentally, Egypt goes into this competition as the defending champions and chasing a record seventh African Cup title and would be hard-pressed to emulate their past achievements.

Things have not been the same again for the Pharaohs since their well deserved victory in Ghana two years ago as the Hassan Shehata boys floundered through the qualifiers towards Angola 2010 and South Africa 2010 and it would have been a sort of travesty if they had beaten their in-form eternal rivals, Algeria to the World Cup ticket.

But it would be wrong to write off the chances of the Pharaohs because they are the pace setters at this level after winning the continental championships a record six times (1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006 and 2008). They would be among the favourites in Angola since they have a high reputation of turning adversity to advantage in view of the fact that their victories in 1998 and 2006 were achieved when they failed to qualify for the France’98 and Germany 2006 World Cup Finals.

“Egypt are the champions of Africa so that won’t be easy but if we believe in ourselves maybe we can spring some surprises,” noted Mozambique’s most capped player and record goal scorer Tico-Tico.

Egypt begins their 2010 Nations account on January 12 against the Super Eagles of Nigeria in what is regarded as the most important fixture in Group C, based in the coastal city of Benguela, to be followed by the games against Mozambique and Benin.

Unlike most of the contenders at this Nations Cup, Coach Shehata would as usual, cast his lot with home-based players drawn largely from the country’s two top clubs, Al-Ahly and Zamalek. The Egyptian league is regarded  as one of the best on the continent and this informed the reason why the  players rarely venture out to Europe for professional career.

On their way to winning the trophy in 2008, Shehata said the Pharaohs are usually difficult to beat because they play as a united front: “I think there is an understanding that we have a special bond. We have a side that plays for each other and maybe even for me as coach,” he explained.

More than ever  before, Shehata  would  be relying on his battle-hardened side  to write  his name in gold as the most  successful  coach at the African Cup of Nations by winning a third successive  title. Already, his feat of two consecutive wins in 2006 and 2008 has put him on the same pedestal with Charles Kumi Gyamfi of Ghana, who won the tournament in 1963 and 1965.

Despite failing to qualify the Pharaohs for the 2010 World Cup, Shehata was handed a fresh mandate to lead the team till 2014 by the Egyptian Football Association and the vastly experienced former Army Officer believed it would boost the team’s morale to excel in Angola.

“It would have been difficult to travel to Angola knowing that my contract is expiring at the end of the month. I agreed with the FA to take this step in order to retain mutual respect and make the players feel confident,” Shehata said while unveiling his 32-man provisional squad for Angola 2010.
Shehata’s final list of 23 expectedly included most of the players that helped Egypt conquer the continent twice in 2006 and 2008.

Man to watch 
MOHAMED ZIDAN
From a player that was dropped by his hometown team Al-Masry -for a perceived lack of passing abilities-, Mohammed Zidan has been one of the shinning lights of the Egyptian national team.
Born December 11, 1981 in Port Said, Zidan has been one of the key players in the Pharaohs’ set up .

Scouted by the Danish Superliga side Akademisk Boldklub (AB) while he was juggling a ball at a Danish park in 1999, Zidan moved to the league rivals FC Midtjylland (FCM), in June 2006 where he became the league’s top scorer in the 2003-04 season, and he was awarded the Rookie of the Year award, becoming Player of the Year the following season. In all, he scored 30 goals in 47 appearances for FC Midtjylland.

After making his mark in the Scandinavian nation, top European clubs finds Zidan a beautiful bride and it was not surprising to see him team up with German club SV Werder Bremen for a fee of three million Euros.

He was called to represent Egypt in the 2008 African Cup of Nations qualification match against Burundi, where he scored his first international goal only five minutes after kick-off.

In Egypt’s Africa Cup of Nations opening Group C match against Cameroon in 2008, Zidan turned in a sensational performance, scoring two superb goals, helping the African Champions’ cause for defending their title.

 Squad
Goalkeepers: Essam Al-Hadary (Ismaili), Abdul-Wahed Al-Sayed (Zamalek), Mahmoud Aboul-Saoud (Mansoura)
Defenders: Wael Gomaa, Sayed Moawad, Ahmed Fathi, Mahmoud Fathallah, Hani Said, Mohamed Abdul-Shafi, Moatassem Salem, Ahmed El-Mohammadi (ENPPI), Abdul-Zaher Al-Saqqa (Eskisehirspor, Turkey)
Midfielders: Ahmed Hassan, Shikabala (Zamalek), Abdul-Aziz Tawfik (ENPPI), Ahmed Eid (Harras Hodoud), Hosni Abd-Rabou (Ahli, UAE), Hossam Ghaly (Nassr, Saudi Arabia)
Strikers: Emad Moeteb (Ahli), Ahmed Raouf (ENPPI), Al-Sayed Hamdi (Petrojet), Geddo (Ittihad), Mohamed Zidan (Dortmund, Germany)

 

Unique facts

Egypt was the very first country to represent the continent at the FIFA World Cup, with the Pharaohs appearing at the 1934 tournament in Italy. The North Africans have only appeared in one further World Cup (1990, also in Italy) and they have never progressed beyond the first round.
The Pharaohs have appeared at two FIFA Confederations Cup tournaments (1999 and 2009), falling out at the group stage on each occasion.
Al Ahly is the country’s premiere football club, having won the Egyptian Premier League 34 times and the African Champions League a record six times. The club was named Africa’s club of the Century in 2000.

 

Nations Cup record
1957 Champions
1959 Champions
1962 Runners up
1963 Third place
1965 Withdrew after qualifying
1968 Withdrew
1970 Third place
1972 Did not qualify
1974 Third place
1976 Fourth place
1978 Did not qualify
1980 Fourth place
1982 Withdrew
1984 Fourth place
1986 Champions
1988 First Round
1990 First Round
1992 First Round
1994 Quarter-finals
1996 Quarter-finals
1998 Champions
2000 Quarter-finals
2002 Quarter-finals
2004 First Round
2006 Champions
2008 Champions

 

  Mozambique: Counting on team work and discipline

Mozambique last played at an Africa Cup of Nations in 1998. “We have a good squad and it would be a dream come true if we qualify for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola. We are not thinking in terms of failure.”
Those were the exact words of Dutch coach, Mart Nooij, after the Mambas were grouped alongside Nigeria, Tunisia and Kenya for the final phase of the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup and 2010 Nations Cup.

And how prophetic could anybody be. It is to Nooij’s credit that the Mozambican flag would be hoisted at Africa’s premier tournament after a 12-year absence and the Mambas have really flourished under the guidance of this Dutch tactician.

“We have a nice team. There is nothing wrong with the team of Mozambique. The philosophy and the vision is okay , the players are executing my ideas as if they were their own,” he maintained.

Nooij previously worked with the Dutch FA as a training instructor. He was also coach of Burkina Faso’s under-20 team, which took part in the 2003 World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates before this major assignment with Mozambique.

The Mambas have become an emerging power since he took over from Artur Semedo in February 2007 and they displayed this with great effect during the qualifiers when they claimed Tunisia’s scalp on the last day to book their well deserved qualification to Angola  and not forgetting the scare they gave the Super Eagles as well.

By  chance, Mozambique have drawn Nigeria, Egypt and Republic of Benin for their preliminary group matches at this Nations Cup in Angola and it is assumed that they would not be treated with kid’s gloves by opposing teams.

Mozambique’s most capped player and record goal scorer Tico-Tico said he thought it was a tough draw for his side.
“Nigeria and Egypt would seem the obvious teams to qualify but anything can happen. We’ll just have to compete and see what happens,” he said.
This is their fourth appearance at the AFCON after their debut at the 1986 edition in Egypt. They also made the cut at South Africa’96 and Burkina Faso in 1998. But the Mambas are yet to win a game and the question is: how will things be in Angola?

“It’s time for us to prove who the better team is. Nigeria escaped being beaten in Mozambique. Our fans are still bitter over it. And when we came to Abuja, Nigeria scored a goal almost at the end of added time. While we are still ruing our ill-luck, we got logged together in the Nations Cup.
“I am excited and so it is with all the players. They want to prove a point that they are better than the Nigerian players. We’re united as a team. Our weapon is teamwork and the players are disciplined,” noted the 54-year-old coach.
The Mambas have been a difficult side to beat in front of their home fans at the Machava Stadium but whether they would be able to repeat such performances in Benguela remains to be seen.

 

Two to watch

Tico Tico
Mozambican football will be in the spotlight again due to the influence of Tico Tico Bucuane
Born August 16, 1973 in Maputo, he stars for Jomo Cosmos in the South African Premier Soccer League.
His country’s most capped player and record goal scorer, the 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in) striker is one of the finest footballers his country has ever produced. Many Nigerians particularly the Super Eagles defenders will not forget him in a hurry as he brilliantly in a World Cup qualifier on March 28, 2008.

Dario Monteiro
Dário Alberto Jesus Monteiro otherwise known as Dario plays for Super Sports United in the South African Premier Soccer League.
Born on February 27, 1977 in Maputo, Mozambique, Dário most notably played for Académica Coimbra during 1996 to 2003 and 2004 to 2005 playing over 200 games and scoring over 90 goals. During his career he has played in several countries most notably in Portugal. His previous clubs include Desportivo Maputo, Académica Coimbra, Al-Jazira, Vitória Guimarães, Estela Amadora, Nea Salamis and Mamelodi Sundowns.

At international level, Dário who stands at 5 ft 11 is regarded as one of the best talents ever produced in Mozambique and is currently one of the most renowned footballers in the current squad. Dário played for his nation at the 1998 African Cup of Nations in Burkina Faso, where Mozambique finished at the bottom of their group losing every match in the tournament. As at November, 2009 he had 85 caps and 21 goals for Mozambique.

Nations Cup record
1957-1980: Did not enter
1982-1984: Did not qualify
1986: First Round
1988-1994: Did not qualify
1996:First Round
1998: First Round
2000-2008:Did not qualify

Unique facts

The Mozambique national football team, popularly known as The Mambas, has never qualified for a FIFA World Cup but have previously qualified for three Africa Cup of Nations before in 1986, 1996 and 1998.
Mozambique are currently 84th in the FIFA world rankings, their highest ever ranking was 66th in November 1997.
Famous Mozambican players who never represented Mozambique include Eusebio, considered Portugal’s greatest footballer of all time and one of the world’s best; Abel Xavier, former Liverpool and Portugal player; and current Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz, who was born in Nampula. All of these figures were born when Mozambique was still part of the Portuguese Empire- an overseas colony called Portuguese East Africa.

 

Benin: Ready to ruffle some big feathers

Michel Dussuyer, coach of  Republic of  Benin’s  national football team, will be hoping to make it third time lucky when he matches out his boys against Mozambique on Match-day  One  of the African Nations Cup in the Angolan city of Benguela.

This is the third time Benin Republic would be qualifying for the Nations Cup finals and Les Écureuils (The Squirrels) would be hoping to exorcise the memory of the past when they failed to go beyond the preliminary group in 2004 and 2008. Dussuyer seemed to know what is at stake for his team after the finals draw that pitched him against defending champions, Egypt, Nigeria and Mozambique. He noted that he would be banking on mother luck to move beyond the preliminary stage of the biggest soccer fiesta in Africa. “That is a difficult Group for me but we can only hope on mother luck to help us move out of the group”.
He can however look back and smile, especially after the manner Benin fired themselves into the finals.
With six games to be played (three at home and three away), Les Écureuils knew it wouldn’t be easy to progress from a difficult group that had Ghana, Mali and Sudan.

But fortunately for the Squirrels, Mali lost three points in their encounter against Ghana, and having missed six more points through three draws, Benin jumped ahead to emerge Group D’s runners-up with 10 points, three points behind leaders, Ghana.

The road to Angola kicked off for Benin on November 25, 2007 in South Africa, at a time when 48 African countries were all waiting impatiently for their fate.
At the end of the First Round draw, Benin were placed in Group 3 with Angola, Uganda and Niger-a not too difficult group for them.
Indeed, the Squirrels finished at the top of their table with 12 points coming from four  wins and  two losses which  was enough for them to pass on to the next qualifying stage ahead of Second Round top seeds Angola.

The draw for the finals did not come as a surprise for Benin as they ended up in Group C with African champions Egypt, Nigeria, and Mozambique.
Certainly, it is a difficult one for the Squirrels because it would be an Herculean task to overpower the forces of the Pharaohs and the Eagles; yet, one should also remember that if Benin were capable of succeeding in their mission to bounce back from their poor form and reach the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Angola, then they could at least give Egypt and Nigeria a fight.

In Angola, Benin will play against Mozambique in their first match of the finals in Benguela. Mozambique had hard times in their qualification for the tournament’s finals and thus Benin shouldn’t have too many difficulties starting their campaign on a confident note.

Benin will square up against neighbours Nigeria in their second match and this game is regarded as the battle of ‘friendly foes’ since some of the Squirrels have their roots in Nigeria. The last time the two sides met at this level, Nigeria were the better side with a 2-0 win in Ghana that secured the Eagles’ qualification for the quarter finals.
But Razak Omotoyossi who plays for French side Metz said the Squirrels are ready to ruffle some feathers, insisting that “we consider ourselves strong contenders for the quarter-finals.”

Said he: “All the guys know we are in with a chance and will strive to give their best. This team has what it takes to do well in Angola and in the future but we need that extra bit of determination and anger which makes a team fight harder during their matches. We really don’t have so much to lose since everyone has written us off before the first ball is kicked in Angola. Benin failed to get beyond the group phase of the Nations Cup in Tunisia in 2004 and in Ghana in 2008.
Omotoyossi, who scored eight goals in the qualifying matches, is hoping it will be third time lucky for them in Angola.

“We are opening with Mozambique and if we play well, I think we can win. Of course the next game against Nigeria will be a high-pressure game, [as will] our last match against Egypt, but our players all have big-match temperament. If we can get into the knockout phase, at least that would give us something positive to go home with,” he affirmed.

Two to watch
Michel Dussuyer: Coach Michel Dussuyer was appointed by the Benin FA in June 2008. The Frenchman was the Cote d’ Ivoire assistant manager back in 2006, when the Elephants finished in second position of the Africa Cup of Nations held in Egypt.
This time around, being in charge of the Benin national football team, Michel is expected to lead the Squirrels to success, as it would be his chance to put into application what he learnt while being under former Ivory Coast manager Henri Michel.
Born 28 May 1959, he played for OGC Nice, Olympique Alès and AS Cannes. He was an assistant coach at AS Cannes from 1996 to 2002, when he became manager of Guinea.
In 2006, he was an assistant coach to Henri Michel for the Côte d’Ivoire national football team. He came back at AS Cannes as manager from 2006 to 2007.

Rasak Omotoyossi: Although his quick success is a surprise to many, the world has been keeping an eye on the jet-heeled, muscular Razak since he scored Benin’s first-ever goal at a world finals at the FIFA U-20 World Championship in the Netherlands in 2005. “I always want to score goals, every time I go out on the pitch,” he said then.
In 2008 he scored eight goals in eight matches for his national team, making him joint top scorer in the African World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers with Samuel Eto’o.
He also scored Benin’s winning goal against Sudan on June 5, 2009 in a World Cup qualification match. For an emerging player, Omotoyossi currently holds an impressive record of 14 goals in 28 national games.

Unique facts

The biggest defeat suffered by Benin national team was interestingly in the hands of the Nigeria team. Known as the Dahomey National Football Team until 1975, Benin Republic suffered a scandalous 10-1 in loss to the Nigerians in Lagos on November 28, 1959.