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African Nations Cup Predictions
by Paul Kennedy, January 18th, 2008 7AM

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The 2008 African Nations Cup kicks off Sunday when host Ghana faces Guinea in Accra.

With such international stars as the Black Stars' Michael Essien, Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba and Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o, the African championship is now arguably the second most popular continental championship in the world behind the European Championship.

It is certainly the most impactful. Dozens of players were reluctantly released by top-level clubs across Europe for the three-week tournament.

(Television: Available on-demand online at 3A Telesud.)

HOST
Ghana won the Africans Nations Cup in 1963 and 1978 when it hosted the tournament. The African Nations Cup is much more competitive these days, though they enter the 2008 tournament with several advantages other than home-field advantage.

Essien is Africa's best midfielder. Frenchman Claude LeRoy is one of Africa's most experienced coaches.
Without the injured captain Steven Appiah, the Black Stars' success in 2008 will depend on the form of its youngsters. Among the top prospects are Anthony Annan, Ahmed Barruso and Andre Dede Ayew, son of ex-Ghana superstar Abedi Pele. Former Dutch U-20 Quincy Owusu-Abeyie is now playing for Ghana.

FAVORITE
Ivory Coast has the deepest team in the tournament. No other team can match the collection of stars at all positions: Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure of Arsenal on defense, Yaya Toure of Barcelona in midfield and Drogba and Salomon Kalou of Chelsea up front.

CONTENDERS
First things first, though. The Elephants must survive the first round in which they face Nigeria, Mali and Benin.

Nigeria is a perennial contender, while Mali features as assortment of European-based stars, notably Frederic Kanoute of Sevilla.

Cameroon has loads of experience with Geremi and Rigobert Song, and Eto in fine form since returning to action recently at Barcelona.

Egypt, winner of a record fifth African title in 2006, has a relatively easy path to the knockout phase but will be without controversial Mido, who is injured and remained back in England at Middlesbrough.

Group D features representatives at the last two World Cups: quarterfinalist Senegal and South Africa from 2002 and Angola and Tunisia from 2006.

Senegal features a team of players based entirely abroad, including goalie Bouna Coundoul, who graduated from high school in the Bronx, attended the University at Albany and now plays for MLS's Colorado Rapids/USA.

LONG SHOTS
Sudan, host of the first African finals in 1957, is making its first appearance since 1976. Plans to naturalize several Nigerians for the 2008 finals were scrapped, so the Sudanese will rely on a totally home-grown team of players from Al Hilal and Al Merreikh.

Namibia's Brave Warriors, who are making only their second appearance in the finals, feature deaf goalkeeper Abiel Mbaha.

PREDICTIONS
Group A -- 1. Ghana, 2. Morocco, 3. Guinea, 4. Namibia.
Group B -- 1. Ivory Coast, 2. Nigeria, 3. Mali, 4. Benin.
Group C -- 1. Cameroon, 2. Egypt. 3. Sudan. 4, Zambia.
Group D -- 1. Senegal, 2. Tunisia, 3. Angola, 4. South Africa.
Quarterfinals -- Ghana over Nigeria, Ivory Coast over Morocco, Cameroon over Tunisia, Senegal over Egypt.
Semifinals -- Ghana over Egypt, Ivory Coast over. Cameroon.
Final -- Ivory Coast over Ghana.

SCHEDULE
Group A
Jan. 20 in Accra
Ghana vs. Guinea
Jan. 20 in Accra
Namibia vs. Morocco
Jan. 24 in Accra
Guinea vs, Morocco
Ghana vs. Namibia
Jan. 28 in Accra
Ghana vs. Morocco
Jan. 28 in Sekondi
Guinea vs. Namibia

Group B
Jan. 21 in Sekondi
Nigeria vs. Ivory Coast
Mali vs. Benin
Jan. 25 in Sekondi
Ivory Coast vs. Benin
Nigeria vs. Mali
Jan, 29 in Sekondi
Nigeria vs. Benin
Jan. 29 in Accra
Ivory Coast vs. Mali

Group C
Jan. 22 in Kumasi
Egypt vs. Cameroon
Zambia vs. Sudan
Jan. 26 in Kumasi
Cameroon vs. Zambia
Egypt vs. Sudan
Jan. 30 in Kumasi
Cameroon vs. Sudan
Jan. 30 in Tamale
Egypt vs. Zambia

Group D
Jan. 23 in Tamale
Tunisia vs. Senegal
South Africa vs. Angola
Jan. 27 in Tamale
Senegal vs. Angola
Tunisia vs. South Africa
Jan. 31 in Kumasi
Senegal vs. South Africa
Jan. 31 in Tamale
Tunisia vs. Angola

Quarterfinals
Feb. 3 in Accra
Match 1: A1 vs. B2
Feb. 3 in Tamale
Match 2: B1 vs. A2
Feb. 4 in Sekondi
Match 3: C1 vs. D2
Feb. 4 in Kumasi
Match 4: D1 vs. C2

Semifinals
Feb. 7 in Accra
Match 1 winner vs. Match 4 winner
Feb. in Kumasi
Match 2 winner vs. Match 3 winner

Third-Place Game
Feb. 9 in Accra

Final
Feb. 10 in Accra

PAST CHAMPIONS
Year - Champion (Host Country)
1957 - Egypt (Sudan)
1959 - Egypt (Egypt)
1962 - Ethiopia (Ethiopia)
1963 - Ghana (Ghana)
1965 - Ghana (Tunisia)
1968 - Congo-Kinshasa (Ethiopia)
1970 - Sudan (Sudan)
1972 - Congo (Cameroon)
1974 - Zaire (Egypt)
1976 - Morocco (Ethiopia)
1978 - Ghana (Ghana)
1980 - Nigeria (Nigeria)
1982 - Ghana (Libya)
1984 - Cameroon (Ivory Coast)
1986 - Egypt (Egypt)
1988 - Cameroon (Morocco)
1990 - Algeria (Algeria)
1992 - Ivory Coast (Senegal)
1994 - Nigeria (Tunisia)
1996 - South Africa (South Africa)
1998 - Egypt (Burkina Faso)
2000 - Cameroon (Ghana and Nigeria co-hosts)
2002 - Cameroon (Mali)
2004 - Tunisia (Tunisia)
2006 - Egypt (Egypt)

 



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