Africa Cup of Nations Group D preview – Cote d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Algeria, Togo.
Star of the group: Cote d’Ivoire
One of the favourites for the competition, the Elephants of the Cote d’Ivoire are brimming with high class talent. How do you choose one star from a side studded with them?
If this Afcon represents the last chance of the fading Golden Generation to secure continental gold, it surely won’t be a lack of talent that lets them down.
Yaya Toure could well be Africa’s stand-out talent, having secured the Premiership title for Manchester City following a number of world class performances last term. The squad is also brimming with prolific goal scorers; Wilfried Bony has been in electric form in Holland, whilst the likes of Koné, Traoré and Gervinho offer diverse and devastating options.
What price for Didier Drogba to go one better than last year’s final defeat and claim Afcon gold?
One to watch: Youssef Msakni, Tunisia
After an impressive Afcon last time around, where he helped Tunisia to the quarter final stage, Youssef Msakni will be hoping for even more success in South Africa.
The Tunis-born forward introduced himself to a continental audience in stylish fashion in 2012, scoring two and being named among the substitutes in the official team of the tournament.
His form in front of goal continued since the cup, with a crucial goal in the qualifier against Sierra Leone, and some impressive displays for Espérance in their run to the African Champions League final.
Key matchup: Tunisia v Algeria, 22 January, Rustenburg
What better way to set the Afcon alight than with a tense and tempestuous North African derby? Both sides have tasted Afcon success before, Tunisia in 2004 and Algeria back in 1990, and both will harbour hopes of ascending to the pinnacle of continental competition once more.
With the Ivory Coast lying in wait, both the Eagles of Carthage and the Desert Foxes will realise that a win in this opening clash is imperative.
Absent friends: Algerian Experience
Whilst the Ivory Coast have all their big names present for the Afcon spectacle, the same cannot be said of Algeria, who enter the tournament shorn of some of their stalwarts.
Ishak Belfodil of Parma had initially been earmarked for a call-up, before rumours proved to be false – despite his nationality change from France being ratified.
Rafik Djebbour and ex-skipper Madjid Bougherra – with over 80 caps between them – have also failed to make the cut. With the likes of Belhadj, Yebda, and Ziani all forgotten, it is time for a new Algeria to step up.
It’s hard to look beyond Cote d’Ivoire as group leaders, with their settled squad, impressive spine, and options up front.
The North African derby will be crucial in deciding who joins them in the second round, whilst Togo are likely to be too reliant on Tottenham striker Emmanuel Adebayor to make a genuine impact in the tournament.