Africa Cup of Nations 2015: Group D – Côte d’Ivoire; Mali; Cameroon; Guinea
BEST FINISH: Champions, 1992.
As has been the case over the last decade, Côte d’Ivoire travel to AFCON as one of the favourites for the title. However, given the retirement of captain Didier Drogba, the ageing legs of Kolo Touré, Siaka Tiéné and Didier Zokora, and the team’s habit of leaving fans disappointed, those expectations will be somewhat tempered. The form of Les Eléphants (“The Elephants”) in qualifying was also less than formidable. The squad may well have lost some of their fear factor, for instance, after losing at home to DRCongo. Lowered expectations may prove to be a positive for the Ivorians, however, while they still possess a frightening array of talent in the likes of captain Yaya Touré, midfielder Cheick Tioté, and forwards Wilfried Bony, Seydou Doumbia and Gervinho.
POSSIBLE LINE-UP: Sylvain Gbohouo, Serge Aurier, Siaka Tiéné, Kolo Touré, Ousmane Viera, Serey Die, Max Gradel, Yaya Touré, Gervinho, Lacina Traoré, Salomon Kalou.
BEST FINISH: Runners-up, 1972.
Les Aigles (“The Eagles”) stormed to the final in their debut appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations in 1972, losing 2-3 to the Republic of Congo in the final, before failing to make it into the tournament for the next 22 years. In the last couple of decades, however, Mali have developed a consistency and have now qualified for the fifth time in a row. Led by midfielder Seydou Keita, who has been around the block in his club career, the current squad made heavy work of qualifying, only just managing to stay ahead of Malawi in the table on the final day to get through. It is hard to see them emerging from their group.
POSSIBLE LINE-UP: Oumar Sissoko, Adama Tamboura, Fousseni Diawara, Idrissa Coulibaly, Ousmane Coulibaly, Bakary Sako, Sambou Yatabaré, Tongo Doumbia, Yacouba Sylla, Abdoulay Diaby, Cheick Diabaté.
BEST FINISH: Champions, 1984, 1988, 2000, 2002.
Cameroon have endured a topsy-turvy few years with an inner turmoil that has ranged from the football federation to the government to the players. At one point, former star forward Samuel Eto’o reportedly brought his own meals from home when at camp, believing the federation was trying to poison him. The results reflected the unrest, with the four-time champions failing to qualify for the previous two editions of AFCON, but Cameroon seem to be climbing their way out of this self-dug hole now and qualified in impressive style. Much credit must go to German Coach Volker Finke who has culled most of the team and rebuilt the Indomitable Lions from the ground up. With the likes of Eto’o, Jean Makoun and Alex Song out of the picture, a new and exciting team is emerging under the leadership of Stéphane Mbia and Nicolas N’Koulou, and with goals from youngsters Vincent Aboubakar and Clinton N’Jie.
POSSIBLE LINE-UP: Fabrice Ondoa, Ambroise Oyongo, Henri Bedimo, Nicolas N’Koulou, Stéphane Mbia, Edgar Salli, Eyong Enoh, Georges Mandjeck, Clinton N’Jie, Vincent Aboubakar, Eric Choupo-Moting.
BEST FINISH: Runners-up, 1976.
With two games left to play, Guinea looked out of the running for a place at the Nations Cup. The Syli Nationale (“National Elephants”) travelled to Togo knowing that only a win would be enough to revive any hopes of qualification. Fortunately for them, they got the win they needed, hammering their hosts 4-1 on the back of a Seydouba Soumah hat-trick, and completed the job a few days later with a 2-0 home win against Uganda.
Guinea reached the quarter-finals in 2004, 2006 and 2008 but have since faded as a force to be reckoned with, and they will need to continue the run of form that helped them scrape through qualifying if they are to have any hope of emerging from a very tough group.
POSSIBLE LINE-UP: Naby Yattara, Fodé Camara, Kamil Zayatte, Naby Keïta, Boubacar Fofana, Ibrahima Conté, Kévin Constant, Seydouba Soumah, Alhassane Bangoura, Idrissa Sylla, Ismaël Bangoura.
Read the special report here