Africa Cup of Nations 2015: Group B – Zambia; Tunisia; Cape Verde; DRCongo
Best Finish: Champions, 2012.
If Zambia is to match their performance in 2012, when they emerged as surprise winners, the Chipolopolo (“The Bullets”) will have to start better than they did in qualifying when their first three games garnered just two points and captain Chris Katongo was dropped from the team. The are joined in the group by old foes Cape Verde, who bested them in qualifying, Tunisia, who coasted through qualifying without a loss, and the DRC, who posted one of the results of qualifying with a 4-3 win against Côte d’Ivoire. If Zambia are to progress from the group, nothing less than a flying start will do. This will require them to fix a slow defence and shaky midfield.
Kennedy Mweene, Nyambe Mulenga, Emmanuel Mbola, Stoppila Sunzu, Christopher Munthali, Nathan Sinkala, Rainford Kalaba, Bruce Musakanya, Given Singuluma, Emmanuel Mayuka, Ronald Kampamba.
Best Finish: Champions, 2004.
It will perhaps come as a surprise that in 16 appearances at the Africa Cup of Nations Finals, Tunisia have only won the tournament once. The Carthage Eagles will be trying to address this shortcoming once again this year, and after failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, their impressive showing in AFCON qualifying suggests they have a good chance. Tunisia did not lose a single game and are considered by many as one of the strongest teams in the tournament. Belgium’s Georges Leekens has built a side that is not only solid in defence, but has more than a healthy dose of creative talent in the likes of Yassine Chikhaoui, Youssef Msakni and Wahbi Khazri. Furthermore, the skills of Sami Allagui, Issam Jemaa and Fakhreddine Ben Youssef up front mean the Carthage Eagles have arguably the most balanced squad in the tournament.
Aymen Mathlouthi, Rami Bedoui, Ali Maâloul, Aymen Abdennour, Syam Ben Youssef, Mohamed Ali Yacoubi, Hocine Ragued, Youssef Msakni, Yassine Chikhaoui, Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, Issam Jemâa.
Best Finish: Quarter-finals, 2013.
Over the last four years, Cape Verde, one of Africa’s smallest nations, have made stunning progress on the football pitch. Helped by the conscription of players from Europe, mostly from the Portuguese league, the country qualified for their first African Nations Cup in 2013 by shocking giants Cameroon 3-2 on aggregate. Then, at the tournament proper, draws with hosts South Africa and Morocco were followed by a 2-1 win over Angola, taking them to the quarter-finals, where they lost despite outplaying Ghana. The Tubarões Azuis (‘Blue Sharks’) also came within a hair’s breadth of reaching the play-offs to get into the 2014 World Cup Finals but lost out on a technicality after fielding an ineligible player. This disappointment did not slow them down for long, however, and they comfortably qualified for AFCON 2015 with a game to spare. They are certainly one to watch.
Vozinha, Nivaldo, Fernando Varela, Jeffrey Fortes, Josimar Lima, Calú, Babanco, Nuno Rocha, Héldon, Ryan Mendes, Kuca.
Best Finish: Champions, 1968, 1974.
The DRC, one of Africa’s most exciting sides in the 60s and 70s, have fallen from glory. A return to the golden days could yet be on the cards though as they boast a team with a cosmopolitan face led by the mercurial talent of Yannick Bolasie and the power of Youssouf Mulumbu. The Leopards squeaked into the tournament as the best third-placed side and will have to justify their place among the continent’s best. In doing this, they would do well to try and recapture the spirit and confidence that helped them beat Côte d’Ivoire 4-3 in qualifying.
Robert Kidiaba, Gabby Zakuani, Jean Kasusula, Issama Mpeko, Chancel Mangulu, Cédric Mongongu, Youssouf Mulumbu, Yannick Bolasie, Jeremy Bokila, Neeskens Kebano, Junior Kalonji.