African Cup of Nations 2006: Group C
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Coach: Roger Lemerre
Captain: Riadh Bouazizi
Nickname: Carthage Eagles
Cup record: Winners 2004; Qualified 12 times
One to watch: Fancileudo dos Santos
The news from the Tunisian camp is that there is no news. A third consecutive World Cup appearance was confirmed in a qualifying group that threw up little in the way of surprises, though a nervy 2-2 draw in the final game with Morocco was needed to edge the group by a single point.
The reigning African champions, who secured a first continental crown by beating the same opposition in the final of a tournament they hosted with aplomb, have that rare luxury for an African side of a settled and happy squad that look well set to mount a strong defence of their title.
Under the expert stewardship of Frenchman Roger Lemerre, who guided France to European glory in 2000, the football mad country has finally delivered on the latent promise that has always existed and there is no reason to think that the good times will end anytime soon. Certainly not in a group that, far from a group of death, looks the group of an easy life for the Carthage Eagles.
With broadly the same squad from two years ago, Brazilians Fancileudo dos Santos and Clayton, who became naturalised Tunisians shortly before the last event, again look likely to star; dos Santos's predatory instincts and Clayton's willingness to get forward from defence to help with attacking forays a prominent feature of previous successes.
Yet the true star of the side remains 28-year-old Ajax right back Hatem Trabelsi. Coveted across Europe, Trabelsi missed much of the last Nations Cup finals through injury (though he did feature prominently in the final itself) and so will be keen to add to his reputation. The presence of the towering Radhi Jaidi adds weight, literally, to Tunisia's powerful rearguard as well as giving the Eagles an advantage at set-pieces in the opposite box.
Zambia, Guinea and a fast fading South Africa look to be playing for second place whilst Tunisia will already have one eye on the latter stages.
Goalkeepers: 1-Ali Boumnijel (Club Africain), 16-Khaled Fadhel (Erciyespor, Turkey), 22-Hamdi Kasraoui (Esperance).
Defenders: 19-Anis Ayari (Samsunspor, Turkey), 20-Clayton (Qatar SC, Qatar), 3-Karim Hagui (Racing Strasbourg, France), 15-Radhi Jaidi (Bolton Wanderers, England), 2-Issam Merdassi (CS Sfaxien), 21-Alaeddine Yahia (St Etienne, France), 6-Hatem Trabelsi (Ajax Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Midfielders: 18-Slim Benachour (Vitoria Guimaraes, Portugal), 7-Chaoki Ben Saada (Bastia, France), 13-Riadh Bouazizi (Erciyespor, Turkey), 14-Adel Chedli (FC Nuremberg, Germany), 10-Kais Ghodhbane (Samsunspor, Turkey), 4-Sofiane Melliti (Vorskla Naftohaz Poltava, Ukraine), 12-Jaohar Mnari (FC Nuremberg, Germany), 8-Hamed Namouchi (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland).
Strikers: 9-Haikel Guemamdia (Racing Strasbourg, France), 5-Zied Jaziri (Troyes, France), 17-Issam Jomaa (Racing Lens, France), 23-Amine Ltifi (Esperance), 11-Francileudo dos Santos (Toulouse, France)
Coach: Kalusha Bwalya
Captain: Elijah Tana
Cup record: Runners up 1974, 1994; Qualified 12 times
One to watch: Collins Mbesuma
The trip north for Zambia coach Kalusha Bwalya will bring back happy memories. It was in Egypt that Bwalya took his Nations Cup bow as a player in 1986. The North African state has proved a happy hunting ground in the past when, in 1974, Zambia embarked on a run to the final, where the Chiolopolo were only denied ultimate glory by Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo).
Can Bwalya pull off something of a repeat? It's unlikely, however, few would have given Zambia much hope in a qualifying group containing Togo, Mali and Senegal, yet they ran the World Cup quarter-finalists close for second place after handing eventual winners Togo their only defeat of the campaign.
The majority of the squad ply their trade in the poverty of the country's domestic league but, after missing out altogether last time, a resilient and close knit squad will be determined to excel back on the big stage.
Of those who play in Europe, Portsmouth's Collins Mbesuma is probably the best known and, whilst he has endured something of a stuttering start on the English south coast after impressing Alain Perrin last summer, his record in African football is impressive.
A big, strong target-man who can hold the ball up well and bring others into play, Mbesuma scored 35 goals last season for the Kaizer Chiefs, both a club and league record, as his former side retained their South African title and Mbesuma picked up that country's player of the year award.
Invention in midfield usually comes through Andrew Sinkala and Bwalya will be hoping that the break from Cologne's disastrous Bundesliga run prior to the winter hiatus will give him fresh impetus to put in a performance on a par with his reputation within the country.
If it does, there is no reason why the Chipolopolo can't progress to the knock out stages.
Goalkeepers: 16-George Kolola (ZANACO), 1-Kennedy Mweene (Free State Stars, South Africa)
Defenders: 19-Clive Hachilensa (Free State Stars, South Africa), 13-Misheck Lungu (Primeiro Agosto, Angola), 4-Joseph Musonda (Free State Stars, South Africa), 18-Billy Mwanza (Lamontville Golden Arrows, South Africa), 3-Kennedy Nketani (ZANACO), 5-Elijah Tana (Petro Atletico, Angola), 6-Mark Sinyangwe (Green Buffaloes)
Midfielders: 10-Ian Bakala (Primeiro Agosto, Angola), 8-Isaac Chansa (Orlando Pirates, South Africa), 22-James Chamanga (Umtata Bush Bucks, South Africa), 21-Rainford Kalaba (Nice, France), 11-Chris Katongo, 20-Felix Katongo (both Jomo Cosmos, South Africa), 14-Numba Mumamba (ZANACO), 7-Clifford Mulenga (Örgryte, Sweden), 17-Andrew Sinkala (FC Cologne, Germany)
Forwards: 15-Linos Chalwe (Etoile Sahel, Tunisia), 12-Harry Milanzi (Primeiro Agosto, Angola), 9-Collins Mbesuma (Portsmouth, England), 23-Lameck Njovu (Lusaka Dynamos), 2-Dube Phiri (Red Arrows)
Coach: Ted Dumitru
Captain: Sibusiso Zuma
Nickname: Bafana Bafana
Cup record: Winners 1996; Qualified six times
One to watch: Benni McCarthy
To say that South Africa arrive in Egypt in less than fine fettle would be an understatement to rival labelling Sam Allardyce not the tournament's biggest fan.
After limping through a qualifying campaign that saw them lose four out of 10 matches (including embarrassing defeats at the hands of Uganda and Burkina Faso) as well as popular boss Stuart Baxter, the joy at hosting the 2010 World Cup has been tempered by the realisation that, at present, they do not have a team of sufficient quality to compete on the international stage.
Baxter's replacement, for the short-term at least, is the outspoken and pugnacious Ted Dumitru, and the uncompromising nature of the man who won back-to-back league titles with Mamjelodi Sundowns and Kiaizer Chiefs has already had an impact.
Captain and midfield dynamo Aaron Mokoena has withdrawn from the squad and refused to play under Dumitru after he called a vote on the Blackburn player's leadership that found in the negative. Accusations and counter accusations over travel plans and assurances notwithstanding, the Bafana Bafana don't have the liberty of losing such an important player without suffering the consequences.
Dumitru, prior to the bust up, suggested the team's settled nature and playing away from the pressures of a home crowd makes them serious contenders, but this fighting talk sounds hollow.
There does remain quality in the side. Benni McCarthy, whilst perhaps short of the 2004 form that saw him win the Champions League with FC Porto, still possesses the trickery and gangly athleticism to trouble any defence.
Arminia Bielefeld's Sibusiso Zuma - who won the captaincy vote - came joint 29th in the FIFA world player of the year awards back in 2001. A speedy winger who can also play up front, Zuma has a knack of drawing fouls in and around the penalty area. A tactic not to everyone's taste but an effective tool for a side that needs all the breaks it can get at the moment.
And youth has been given its chance with several uncapped players in the squad. Defender Tshepo Masilela, despite having yet to play top league football, is included alongside former Marseille and Watford defender Pierre Issa though the latter has not played for the last six months because of a contract dispute in Greece.
Commendable forward thinking or desperation, only time will tell. But, without a win in their nine matches prior to a shock friendly win over Egypt in their final warm up match, it's going to take something dramatic to turn fortunes around in a month.
Goalkeepers: 16-Moneeb Josephs (Ajax Cape Town), 1-Calvin Marlin (SuperSport United), 22-Avril Phadi (Jomo Cosmos)
Defenders: 6-Siboniso Gaxa (SuperSport United), 13-Pierre Issa (OFI Crete, Greece), 4-Ricardo Katza (SuperSport United), 5-Mbulelo Mabizela (Valerenga, Norway), 19-Tshepo Masilela (Premier United), 21-Vuyo Mere (Mamelodi Sundowns), 2-Jimmy Tau (Kaizer Chiefs)
Midfielders: 8-Mlungisi Gumbi (Lamontville Golden Arrows), 12-Joseph Makhanya (Orlando Pirates), 20-Siyabonga Nkosi (Bloemfontein Celtic), 3-Daniel Tshabalala (Orlando Pirates), 7-Simphiwe Tshabalala (Free State Stars), 11-Elrio van Heerden (FC Copenhagen, Denmark), 10-Benedict Vilakazi (Orlando Pirates)
Strikers: 17-Benni McCarthy (FC Porto, Portugal), 23-Lebohang Mokoena (Orlando Pirates), 18-Katlego Mphela (SuperSport United), 9-Nkosinathi Nhleko (Viking Stavanger, Norway), 14-Siyabonga Nomvete (Orlando Pirates), 15-Sibusiso Zuma (Arminia Bielefeld, Germany)
Coach: Patrice Neveu
Captain: Dianbobo Balde
Nickname: Syli Nationale
Cup record: Runners up 1976; Qualified eight times
One to watch: Pascal Feindouno
A quarter-final appearance last time round was a major achievement for the Syli Nationale but they will be confident of a repeat after a kind draw in the group stages.
An upturn in on-field fortunes in recent years, off the back of a crop of exciting youngsters emerging together, has not been matched by organisational development. The squad arrive in Egypt under a cloud of financial difficulties. Coach Patrice Nevue, in charge since 2004, even threatened to quit if not paid salary arrears, whilst talismanic striker Pacal Feindouno resigned the captaincy last year in protest over missing monies and poor administration of the team.
But once the football starts all will be forgotten by a powerful, physical side capable of upsetting the rhythm of more cultured opponents.
Nevue, despite never holding what would be considered a top managerial post after a nomadic existence that has taken him from the French lower leagues to Africa via spells in China, is hailed as an astute tactician. He has targeted a positive result in the opening fixture against South Africa as a springboard for a successful tournament.
If Guinea are to put in a strong showing, much will depend up the performance of Feindouno. Whilst no longer captain, commitment to the cause has never been questioned during the 24-year-old's seven-year international career. Based in France since a teenager, he made his name by scoring an 89th-minute goal in the final game of the season that ensured a Ligue 1 title for Girondins Bordeaux in 1999. A move to St Etienne saw him score 13 league goals last season.
The captaincy has been taken over by Celtic's giant defender Dianbobo Balde. A towering fixture in the side, Balde's recent club form has been erratic at best and question marks hang over a defence in which he is the elder statesman.
That Feindouno will be sharing striking responsibilities with Stoke City's Sambegou Bangoura shows the weakness in the Guinea squad compared to some of their more exalted peers but breaking out of the weakest group is a realistic ambition for this young side.
Goalkeepers: 22-Kemoko Camara (Hafia FC), 1-Naby Diarso (Satellite FC), 16-17-Aboubacar Bangoura (AS Chateauneuf, France)
Defenders: 5-Dianbobo Balde (Glasgow Celtic, Scotland), 3-Ibrahima Camara (Parma, Italy), 12-Morlaye Cisse (Sedan, France), 17-Mamadou Alimou Diallo (Lokeren, Belgium), 21-Daouda Jabi (AC Ajaccio, France), 4-Mamadi Kaba (FC Gueugnon, France), 15-Oumar Kalabane (AJ Auxerre, France)
Midfielders: 13-Ousmane Bangoura (Charleroi, Belgium), 23-Sekouba Camara (AS Kaloum), 7-Fode Mansare (Toulouse, France), 14-Ibrahima Souare (Jura Sud Foot, France), 8-Kanfory Sylla (Ethnikos, Greece), 18-Mohamed Sylla (Leicester City, England), 6-Pablo Thiam (VfL Wolfsburg, Germany)
Forwards: 11-Ibrahima Bangoura (Troyes, France), 10-Ismael Bangoura (Le Mans, France), 9-Sambegou Bangoura (Stoke City, England), 19-Kaba Diawara (AC Ajaccio, France), 2-Pascal Feindouno (St Etienne, France), 20-Ibrahima Yattara (Trabzonspor, Turkey)
Tunisia v Zambia: Harras El-Hedoud Stadium, Alexandria (1515) South Africa v Guinea: Harras El-Hedoud Stadium, Alexandria (1800)
Zambia v Guinea: Harras El-Hedoud Stadium, Alexandria (1515) Tunisia v South Africa: Harras El-Hedoud Stadium, Alexandria (1800)
30 January Tunisia v Guinea: Harras El-Hedoud Stadium, Alexandria (1700) Zambia v South Africa: Alexandria Stadium (1700)