Hosts set for Nations Cup opener


Published: Friday 16th January 2015 by The News Editor

Comments (0)

The road to this year’s African Nations Cup has been rockier than usual – but the tournament finally gets under way on Saturday when stand-in hosts Equatorial Guinea take on Congo.

With Ebola causing issues on the west side of the continent, there are likely to be a few eyes drawn away from the footballing spectacle and, although there are no reported cases in the country, the Confederation of African Football ruled that all teams entering the country must be screened for the virus.

But there is plenty to keep interest on the tournament itself – not least on the controversial decision to award Equatorial Guinea the hosting rights.

Having co-hosted the 2012 competition with Gabon, Equatorial Guinea stepped in this time around when initial hosts Morocco decided against staging due to the threat of the spreading Ebola virus and it was deemed a questionable move both on and off the pitch.

Equatorial Guinea president Teodoro Obiang Nguema has a chequered history with the United Nations but, even for purely sporting reasons, the country was a surprise choice – given they were disqualified having fielded an ineligible player in their qualification victory over Mauritania.

Hosting the tournament gave them a route back in and they now face Congo, Gabon and Burkina Faso in Group A of the competition.

Congo are first up for the hosts and their coach Claude Le Roy has not been impressed with the facilities since his squad arrived in the county.

“There are not enough places for my staff and it’s even difficult to find rooms for the players,” Le Roy told the BBC World Service.

“The electricity is terrible, everything is exposed. I wanted to wash my hands. There was no water.

“Some of my assistants went around to see if there were rooms available somewhere but it seems very, very difficult.

“I don’t want a big five-star hotel. I just want something very clean. I told the players to qualify for the last eight – some teams will leave and maybe we will have a very nice hotel.”

With seven-time winners Egypt and 2013 champions Nigeria both missing this time around, there is a better chance for a number of nations to reach the final in Bata on February 8.

Group C appears the toughest on paper as Algeria, Ghana, Senegal and South Africa all meet – with Senegal the only nation from the group yet to lift the trophy.

West Ham’s in-form striker Diafra Sakho will be missing for Senegal after injuring his back and with Hammers’ boss Sam Allardyce still angry for what he perceived as poor treatment of the player on previous international breaks.

But his Upton Park team-mate Cheikhou Kouyate will be lining up for the Lions of Teranga and insists there was no pressure from West Ham for him to miss the tournament.

“It was a dream for me to go to the Nations Cup,” he told

“Above all, there is my country and I put Senegal before (West Ham). With all the respect I have for my club, they respected my decision because I was not injured – it was a dream that no-one could mess up.”

Algeria are the top FIFA-ranked team in the tournament but Tunisia are also inside the world’s top 25, currently sitting 22nd in the rankings.

Tunisia will be the favourites for Group B, with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Cape Verde.

It will only be Cape Verde’s second appearance and they are outsiders to make it through such a tough group – even if coach Rui Aguas has challenged his players to do just that.

“The other three teams are stronger and more experienced, but we must try to do our best and shine, (getting) past the group stage must always be a goal,” he told

“A lot depends on our collective strength, our tactical rigour and our concentration. Mental factors that I think can make a difference.”

Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Mali and Guinea make up the fourth and final group – with all eyes on Wilfried Bony after the Ivorian completed a move to Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City on the eve of the competition.

The former Swansea striker will be captained throughout the tournament by new City team-mate Yaya Toure and believes the midfielder can now help his game progress for both club and country.

“I speak with Yaya every day on international duty,” Bony said after penning his deal with City.

“I think he will help me to become a better player and a more clinical striker. I’ll be playing with great players here at City and this is an opportunity for me to work hard and to take my chance.”

Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o have retired from international duty and so the pair will not meet when Group D rivals Ivory Coast and Cameroon clash.

And another Premier League star who will not be taking part is West Ham loanee Alex Song, after his retirement from Cameroon duty was finally confirmed.

But the Indomitable Lions will be pleased to have captain Stephane Mbia training after there were fears the Sevilla midfielder could miss much of the tournament.

The former QPR midfielder is suspended for Cameroon’s opener against Mali but is likely to be recalled into the side for their second game with Guinea.

Published: Friday 16th January 2015 by The News Editor

Comments (0)

Local business search