African Cup of Nations 2006: Group D
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Coach: Austin Eguavoen
Captain: Jay-Jay Okocha
Nickname: Super Eagles
Cup record: Winners 1980, 1994; Qualified 14 times
One to watch: Obafemi Martins
Nigeria can be viewed as the Holland of Africa: blessed with all the raw talent in the world, far too often internal indiscipline, fuelled by inflated egos, as well as a shambolic national association that prove more hindrance than help, prevents them fulfilling their potential.
Last winners in 1994, and finalists in 2000, losing 4-3 on penalties to Cameroon when co-hosting the tournament with Ghana, the Super Eagles' star has been on the wane in recent years. Despite finishing their duel Nations Cup and World Cup qualifying group with the same points as eventual winners Angola, a 1-0 defeat in the second round of matches in Luanda cost them when the two sides' head-to-head record came in to play. The sides drew 1-1 when they met in Nigeria.
The romance of Angola's fairytale run to Germany did not soften Nigerian disappointment on missing their first World Cup since 1990; and did not save innovative and respected coach Christian Chukwu his job.
Present incumbent Austin Eguavoen - part of the 1994 squad that shone in the USA and were African champions, along with assistants Samson Siasia and Daniel Amokachi - knows his fate should Nigeria fail to reach at least the semi-final stages in Egypt.
Though the inspirational Austin 'Jay-Jay' Okocha - player of the tournament in Tunisia two years ago - is likely to be making his last appearance at an international tournament, Nigeria's hopes rest squarely on the broad shoulders of Inter Milan's Obafemi Martins. A powerful, direct striker, he has established himself with the Milan giants and recently signed a lucrative long-term contract.
Nigeria are blessed with attacking flair and a host of stars have experience in big European leagues; though the loss of Middlesbrough's prolific Aiyegbeni Yakubu, who has decided in Boro's favour in the club v country battle, may be keenly felt.
Youth has also been given a chance with teenage talents John Obi Mikel and Sani Kaita included along with the Italian-based teenage striker Obinna Nsofor, who has yet to win a cap at senior level.
Both Obi Mikel - who is the subject of an as-yet unresolved tug of war between Chelsea and Manchester United - and Kaita were part of the Nigerian side that finished runners-up at the World Youth Championship in the Netherlands in June.
Smarting from World Cup elimination, the Super Eagles could well soar to ultimate heights. The only opponent they need fear is themselves.
Goalkeepers: 23-Dele Aiyegnuba (Enyimba), 12-Austin Ejide (Etoile Sahel, Tunisia), 1-Vincent Enyeama (Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv, Israel)
Defenders: 6-Joseph Enakarhire (Dinamo Moscow, Russia), 21-Obinna Nwaneri (Esperance, Tunisia), 5-Chidi Odiah (CSKA Moscow, Russia), 3-Taye Taiwoo (Olympique Marseille, France), 2-Joseph Yobo (Everton, England)
Midfielders: 13-Yusuf Ayila (Dinamo Kyiv, Ukraine), 22-Sani Kaita (Sparta Rotterdam, Netherlands), 11-Garba Lawal (Iraklis, Greece), 15-Paul Obiefule (Viborg, Denmark), 8-John Obi Mikel (Lyn Oslo, Norway), 18-Christian Obodo (Udinese, Italy), 10-Austin Okocha (Bolton Wanderers, England), 16-Wilson Oruma (Olympique Marseille, France)
Strikers: 17-Julius Aghahowa (Shakhtar Donetsk, Ukraine), 4-Nwankwo Kanu (West Bromwich Albion, England), 19-Stephen Makinwa (Palermo, Italy), Obafemi Martins (Inter Milan, Italy), 14-Obinna Nsofor (Chievo Verona, Italy), 20-Peter Odemwingie (Lille, France), 7-John Utaka (Stade Rennes, France).
Coach: Ratomir Dujkovic
Captain: Stephen Appiah
Nickname: Black Stars
Cup record: Winners 1963, 1965, 1978, 1982; Qualified 15 times
One to watch: Matthew Amoah
These are heady times for the Black Stars after a sustained period of underachievement stretching back fully twenty years.
No country has won more continental championships than the West Africans but their fourth and last came way back in 1982 when they defeated host nation Libya in a sudden-death penalty shoot-out.
Despite being blessed with stars of the calibre of Michael Essien, Stephen Appiah, Matthew Amoah and Osei Kuffour, this most recent qualification campaign looked in danger of faltering after an early defeat to Burkina Faso and a draw with Uganda threatened to undermine their challenge. However, the erratic form of group heavyweights South Africa and DR Congo gifted them the opportunity to make up the ground with something to spare.
Much of Ghana's newfound resilience - and their debut World Cup appearance - can be attributed to the wily Serbian coach Ratomir Dujkovic, who became the Black Stars' fifth coach in two years when he replaced Portuguese Mariano Barreto in December 2004, who had quit as coach in September to return home and manage domestic club Maritimo.
Dujkovic came to international prominence when he led Rwanda to their first African Cup of Nations finals in Tunisia two years ago, ironically at the expense of Ghana, and much is expected of his side in Egypt.
Appiah and Essien - who became Africa's most expensive footballer when Chelsea paid Lyon £24 for his services - form as formidable a middle two as you will find in international football but news that the Chelsea man will be missing after sustaining an injury on club duty is a major blow.
Fenerbache have benefited massively from Appiah's effective box-to-box midfield industry since his switch from Juventus but even more will be required of him in the absence of his more heralded partner.
Another concern is, despite a parsimonious defence that let in just 4 goals in 10 qualifiers, just where the goals will come from. Fleet-of-foot Vitesse Arnhem striker Matthew Amoah scored some vital goals to get Ghana to Germany and nine goals in 17 starts for the Dutch side this season suggests he is a man in form. And he'll need to be if Modena striker Asamoah Gyan fails to recover from a training ground injury picked up after joining up with the squad.
The Black Stars have proved their calibre already this year and go into the tournament as one of the favourites. But thoughts of Germany may divert focus from the task in hand and without Essien they may struggle to exert their talents.
Goalkeepers: 1-Sammy Adjei (Moadon Sports Ashdod, Israel), 16-George Owu (AshantiGold), 22-Philemon McCarthy (Feyenoord Academy)
Defenders: 18-Yakubu Abubakari (Vitesse Arnhem), 21-Issah Ahmed, 2-Aziz Ansah (both Asante Kotoko), 11-Francis Dickoh (FC Nordsjaelland, Denmark), 17-Daniel Edusei (Egaleo, Greece), 4-Samuel Osei Kuffour (Roma, Italy), 6-Emmanuel Pappoe (Hapoel Kfar Sava, Israel), 15-John Pantsil (Hapoel Tel Aviv, Israel), 5-John Mensah (Cremonese, Italy) , 8-Hans Sarpei (VfL Wolfsburg, Germany)
Midfielders: 10-Stephen Appiah (Fenerbache, Turkey), 20-Baba Adamu (Krylya Sovietov Samara, Russia), 12-Godwin Attram (Al Shabab, Saudi Arabia), 23-Haminu Dramani (Red Star Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro), 7-Laryea Kingston (Terek Gorzny, Russia), 19-Hamza Mohammed (Real Tamale United)
Strikers: 3-Louis Agyemang (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa), 14-Mathew Amoah (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), 13-Joetex Frimpong (Enyimba, Nigeria), 9-Prince Tagoe (Hearts of Oak)
Coach: Abdoulaye Sarr
Captain: Ferdinand Coly
Nickname: Teranga Lions
Cup record: Runners up 2002; Qualified 10 times
One to watch: Mamadou Niang
After the fairytale that was 2002, a harsh reality has set in for Senegal since.
Unlucky to lose the Nations Cup final that year, to Cameroon on penalties after a goalless final in Mali, the Teranga Lions then went to the Far East for their debut World Cup appearance. Beating World and European champions France in the opening game set the tone for an exhilarating run to the quarter-finals and earned a number of players lucrative contracts in Europe.
But these foundations have proved difficult to build on. Their performance in Tunisa will be long remembered, but not for the right reasons. A 1-0 quarter-final defeat to the hosts saw a petulant El Hadji Diouf lose his cool to such a degree that he earned a three-match ban for violent conduct, extended to four games on appeal.
His personal fit of pique was compounded by a general fracas and unseemly pitch invasion by Senegal substitutes and coaching staff after Tunisia's goal.
On the football side, the architect of that success, Frenchman Bruno Metsu, left for the riches of club management in UEA soon after the World Cup adventure, replaced by compatriot Guy Stephan, a coach for France that tumultuous afternoon in the Far East. He could not repeat his predecessor's magic and now Senegal are coached by one of Metsu's former assistants, Abdoulaye Sarr.
Defeat to Togo early in qualifying undermined their attempts to reach Germany and, despite the seasons of experience earned by a squad containing only a solitary home based player in goalkeeper Mamadou Diouf, the Lions have yet to roar menacingly since Japan.
Taking chances, should they come, should not prove a problem with Henri Camara, who scored seven goals in qualifying, Marseilles' Mamadou Niang and Diouf all in form going in to the finals. Though a lack of genuine creativity in midfield, where athleticism and strength is in abundance, may prove their undoing in a tough group.
Goalkeepers: 16-Pape Mamadou Diouf (Jeanne d'Arc), 22-Cheikh Tidiane Ndiaye (Rennes, France), 1-Tony Sylva (Lille, France)
Defenders: 21-Habib Beye (Olympique Marseille, France), 17-Ferdinand Coly (Parma, Italy), 2-Omar Daf (Sochaux, France), 4-Pape Malikou Diakhate (Nancy, France), 13-Lamine Diatta (Olympique Lyon, France), 5-Souleymane Diawara (Sochaux, France), 18-Boukary Drame (Paris St Germain, France), 3-Guiranne Ndaw (Sochaux, France)
Midfielders: 10-Issa Ba (Chateauroux, France), 19-Pape Bouba Diop (Fulham, England), 23-Dino Djiba (Metz, France), 20-Abdoulaye Diagne Faye (Bolton Wanderers, England), 12-Amdy Faye (Newcastle United, England), 14-Frederic Mendy (St Etienne, France)
Forwards: 6-Rahmane Barry (Lorient, France), 7-Henri Camara (Wigan Athletic, England), 9-Souleymane Camara (Nice, France), 11-El Hadji Diouf (Bolton Wanderers, England), 15-Diomansy Kamara (West Bromwich Albion, England), Momar Ndiaye (Metz, France), 8-Mamadou Niang (Olympique Marseille, France).
Coach: Charles Mhlauri
Captain: Peter Ndlovu
Cup record: Qualified twice
One to watch: Benjani Mwaruwari
If, as most observers agree, group D is the 'group of death' then Zimbabwe are the most predictable fatality. Pitched against three heavyweights with realistic ambitions of lifting the trophy, it is difficult to envisage anything other than a repeat of their maiden appearance in Tunisia - the group wooden spoon and an early flight home.
In truth, just by qualifying for a second successive finals, the Warriors have achieved great things already. That the majority of the squad play their club football in the South African leagues tells its own story, but the experience of competing at this level can only add to their burgeoning reputation as an emerging side under the enthusiastic and innovative stewardship of Charles Mhlauri.
The 36 year-old Bulawayo-born Mhlauri has a reputation as a modern thinker after benefiting, as many African coaches have, from German training programmes and enjoyed success with domestic clubs before taking charge of the national team in 2004.
Though past his prime, the Warriors still look to captain Peter Ndlovu for inspiration. Benjani Mwaruwari, who missed the 2004 tournament through injury, will be looking to justify becoming the most expensive signing in Portsmouth's history after his £4.1m move from Auxerre earlier this month.
Prior to the switch, Mwaruwari had bagged just one goal in eleven starts, and has hardly kicked a ball in competitive anger since early November. The portents do not look good and the Warriors will need all their fighting spirit just to avoid a chastening experience, though a recent 2-0 victory over Germany-bound Angola suggests they have it in them to cause at least one shock.
Goalkeepers: 16-Tapuwa Kapini (Highlanders), 1-Energy Murambadoro (CAPS United), 23-Gift Muzadzi (Buymore)
Defenders: 13-Cephas Chimedza (Germinal Beerschot, Belgium), 2-Herbert Dick (AmaZulu), 6-Zvenyika Makonese (Santos, South Africa), 21-James Matola (Buymore), 14-George Mbwando (SSV Jahn Regensburg, Germany), 4-Bekithemba Ndlovu (Silver Stars, South Africa), 11-Charles Yohane (Wits University, South Africa)
Midfielders: 5-Francis Chandidia (Buymore), 22-Lloyd Chitembwe (CAPS United), 19-Edzai Kasinauyo (Moroka Swallows, South Africa), 20-Edelbert Dinha (Orlando Pirates, South Africa), 7-Joel Lupahla (SuperSport United, South Africa), 8-Tinashe Nengomasha (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa), 3-Esrom Nyandoro (Mamelodi Sundowns, South Africa), 15-Ronald Sibanda (AmaZulu)
Strikers: 18-Brian Badza (CAPS United), 10-Shingirai Kawondera (unattached), 17-Gilbert Mushangazhike (Jiangsu Shuntian, China), 9-Benjani Mwaruwari (Portsmouth, England), 12-Peter Ndlovu (Mamelodi Sundowns, South Africa).
Nigeria v Ghana: Port Said Stadium (1515) Zimbabwe v Senegal: Port Said Stadium (1800)
27 January Ghana v Senegal: Port Said Stadium (1515) Nigeria v Zimbabwe: Port Said Stadium (1800)
31 January Nigeria v Senegal: Port Said Stadium (1700) Ghana v Zimbabwe: Ismailia Stadium (1700)