So first we gave you the back story. Now here’s our official predictions for the African Cup of Nations 2013. We’ll have more detailed team profiles by fans of each country coming up in the next few days, and if you think we’ve got it horribly wrong about your team don’t be shy about calling us out in the comments, especially if you’re Zambian or South African. (Also, don’t forget to join our Fantasy Football league for the tournament where you can test your football knowledge against ours – our league pin is 9132137935284.)
Angola | Palancas Negras (Sable Antelopes) | Ranked 83 in world, 20 in Africa
Player to watch: Manucho, as always.
No goalkeeper is safe when Manucho is around, and Angola will be relying on the former Manchester United netbuster once again in South Africa. Will they be relishing their Lusophone derby vs Cabo Verde and who will the Brazilians and Mozambicans be rooting for in that one? | Prediction: Group stage exit
South Africa | Bafana Bafana (Boys Boys) | Ranked 76 in world, 19 in Africa
Player to watch: Steven Pienaar, but he’s at home in Liverpool.
They’re rubbish. But home advantage is always a huge boost in international tournaments and Bafana Bafana have the bare minimum of quality to make it count (they’re not as bad as Equatorial Guinea were last time). | Prediction: Undeserved quarter-finalists.
Morocco | The Atlas Lions | Ranked 75 in world, 18 in Africa
Player to watch: Younes Belhanda.
Struggled past Mozambique in qualifying but Morocco have quality. Defensive rock Mehdi Benatia is known as the “Moroccan Maldini” and Belhanda is a top class playmaker. | Prediction: Group stage exit
Cabo Verde | The Blue Sharks | Ranked 51 in world, 10 in Africa
Player to watch: Djaniny.
A rising force, this will be the Blue Sharks’ first CAN. Stunned Cameroon to qualify and more surprises could be on the way. Wouldn’t it be great to see them make it out of the group-stage? | Prediction: Quarter-finalists
Mali | Les Aigles (the Eagles) | Ranked 27 in world, 3 in Africa
Player to watch: Cheick Diabaté.
Not for nothing did the Eagles finished third at the last tournament, and they have enough quality to challenge at this tournament. Much may depend on how much power midfield talisman Seydou Keita still has in his legs, but they have some good youngsters in there as well, and the dire situation at home could give them extra motivation in SA (remember when Drogba “single-handedly” ended the war in Cote d’Ivoire?). | Prediction: Semi-finalists
Ghana | Black Stars | Ranked 31 in world, 4 in Africa
Player to watch: Christian Atsu, Kwadwo Asamoah.
Right now Ghana are enjoying a golden age for midfielders. They have the best midfield at the competition, incredible when you consider that star names Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Kevin Prince-Boateng and Andre Ayew will all be absent. With Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu and Anthony Annan bossing the middle of the pitch and Kwadwo Asamoah and Christian Atsu offering power and penetration on the flanks, the Black Stars should dominate most of their games in South Africa. But they still aren’t scoring enough goals.
That will be the job of new captain Asamoah Gyan, who is off penalty-taking duty after his mother told him from her death bed that he should stop taking penalties, a decision that will come as a relief to Ghanaians everywhere. A more attacking style could see the four-time champions finally end their 30 year wait for another CAN trophy. This team looks fresh and dynamic, and we think this could be their time. | Prediction: Winners