AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS 1998 - Comments on the situation
of the teams
Going to such a small country (economically) with such a huge tournament
can be called an admirable step by the CAF, the confederation of African
Football Associations. The motto is 'going back to the warm heart of Africa'.
It means a warm welcome in the same time as a stepdown from the organisational
level of the last tournament in "rich" South Africa.
The matches will be played in three stadium located in two cities from
7th of February to 28th of February. It will be tried to add a short description
of participating teams in time.
A heat of 40 degrees will make it hard for some teams as well as the
non luxuary facilities will not please every player who is not used to
the conditions in this area. Finals in West Africa have been won by teams
from West Africa with the exception of Congo 1972 at Cameroon. (Some strange
statistics count this as a Central African location but Cameroon as a West
African winner of the 1984 cup at Côte d'Ivoire).
So the teams to beat this time are Cameroon, Guinea, Ghana, Togo, Côte
d'Ivoire and hosts Burkina Faso. The favorite of the press is Morocco who
left the best impression over the last two years.
The tournament is played in four groups with four teams, the first two
advance to quarter-finals. There is a tricky detail in the group games
that may influence the result of the first round: The top seeds encounter
in the first match as do the two supposed 'minnows'. The loser of the 'giant'
match can get nervous while the winner of the 'minnows' match could gain
self-confidence. A draw in the match of the favorites could make it even
more interesting while a draw in the game of the outsiders might spoil
both their prospects. So the first game will be of greatest importance
at least for psychology.
Some skillful players, but yet an unbalanced and unorganised team. They
qualified for last African Cup Of Nations where they looked terrible helpless
in defence especially against organised or experienced teams like Algeria
or Zambia. Zambia was able to outscore them easily 5:1. In the same matches,
anyway, they were able to create a few moments of sheer excitement with
their unconventional attacking game. In World Cup they had no chance in
group1, finsihing without a single point. The results against Kenya (3-4
away and 2-4 at home) are perfect example for their game. Their new rising
star is only 17 years old: With 15 goals scored Mamadou Zongo was this
years top goal scorer in Cote d'Ivoire's First League, playing for the
undefeated champions ASEC, one of Africas most famous clubs of this decade.
A few months before the tournament, in September, Burkina Faso pulled off
a coup by hiring Phillip Troussier, whose contract as national coach of
Nigeria had not been renewed. Now it is said that Troussier becomes South
Africas coach for the World Cup at France. He will coach the Burkinabé
during the Nations Cup finals anyway before he'll leave. They are hoping
to make a good impression.
Latest news: Mamadou Zongo was not among the 22 names of the official
Cameroon, once among the dominating powers of African football, have come
into a bad state. The organisation and administration appeared to look
shaken during the last years. Still somehow they managed it to the World
Cup1994 where attracted more attention by arguments with their association
than on the field. In the following years it seemed that infrastructures
at home had been distroyed after the 1990 success instead of being built.
But their new team is better than the 1994 and 1996 edition, so that they
have an outsider chance, being in a quite balanced group.
The crisis shooked country did bad in football as well. The Algerian championship
is controversary and the football association has its problems. The national
team received a severe blow when they lost to Kenya in the preliminary
knock out round to qualify for one of the qualification groups for World
Cup. In 1996 they did not bad losing to South Africa in the quarter finals
in a close rain match. They could make it to the second round where it
depends on whom they will meet.
One of the tournaments ambitious outsiders. They almost came close to being
a real challenge to Nigeria in the World Cup qualification and gained confidence.
They surely want a place in the quarter-finals but in this balanced group
(if you count the homefield advantage for Burkina Faso) it is not easy
For Ghana this Cup is of great importance.Having failed again in the World
Cup qualification, this players generation has not been able to win the
African Cup of Nations while Ghanas youth teams had been promising so much.
The last time Ghana won was 1982 and Abedi Pelé had been a substitute
player. 1992 he was suspended for the final they lost after penalty shoot
out to Côte d'Ivoire, due to a second yellow card. This is maybe
his last chance to win as a capatain. He says he is important for the team
as the only team member speaking all the dialects. Ghana has a group they
can win but they face again Congo DR, the former Zaire. In 1996 quarter
finals it had been an evil match especially from the side of the then Zairians
who fouled Pele on and on.
Tunisia is very hard to beat. A very concentrated and organised side with
talented attackers. After their failure at the 1994 Nations Cup at home,
Tunian football was rebuilt. Henry Kasperczak, a well-recognized tactician
took over the national team. But it was also the good work in the club
teams that made the success possible.How far they can get in world Cup
may be arguable with their discipline and organisation they are very succesful
against African teams. Should easily make it to the second round and probably
An ambitious outsider. They did not too bad in World Cup qualification
and they want to manage a surprise here. Their striker Bashiru Salou is
a tank, feared among Bundesliga defenders for his physical strength when
he plays for MSV Duisburg. The first game against Congo DR will tell much
about their chances.
DR Congo, the former Zaire has not looked strong neither in the World Cup
qualification nor in the Nation Cups 1994 and 1996. It was reported of
arguments in the squad with players from different regions and different
German leagues. Their most spectacular match was in Nations Cup 1996 against
Ghana and it was one of evil temperament. They will meet again in a group
match now and the team should concentrate on playing football this time.
South Africa was the darling of European press after they hosted some matches
against the great teams of the world like Brasil and Germany some years
ago. They impressed with their blend of European and African styles and
they won the 1996 Nations Cup at home. But away from home they were only
half as strong and so their World Cup qualification came down to the last
match against Congo (Brazzaville), a team that could not qualify for this
Nations Cup. Now they have not won seven in a row and were knocked out
by little Namibia in a Cosafa Cup play off game (a southern African championship).
Their preperation for this Nations Cup has not been going well and they
are coached by Jomo Sono only for this tournament. Clive Barker, their
succesful coach of 96 resigned after unsuccessful friendly matches in Europe
and the Continental Cup at Saudi Arabia. Sono brought in many new players
so that South Africa are not heavy favorites anymore. After having delivered
their list of 22 players too late, South Africa was fined with a penalty
that included the reduction of the squad to 20 players. A late arrival
is considered as problematic to their acclimatisation. Anyway they will
be a team to watch. Many talk about the rematch against Namibia but the
first match is against Angola and they look strong.
The rising team in Africa. They came close to World Cup qualification but
in an easier group. They left a good impression at the last Nations Cup
and their association seems to be in a good condition. The Portugal based
players are said to do extra training sessions together so it seems the
team is determined to reach some goals in the near future.
Côte d'Ivoire are looking for a comeback. In the first half of the
nineties they have been one of the big powers. They won the Nations Cup
in 1992 and they finsished third in 1994, only beaten after penalties by
winners Nigeria. They were the African team closest to Nigeria at that
time under their coach Henry Kasperczak who works now at Tunisia. And they
probably would have been at the World Cup 1994 if they had not been
in one qualification group with the Nigerian Super Eagles who beat them
on goal difference. The country's best club ASEC did not lose for years
and after a ban because of casualties in an international cup game after
riots they finally stood in the finals of the African Cup Of champions
1995. That was about when the downhill ride began. Very unlucky they lost
the return game at home 0:1 (first game 2:2) to the Orlando Pirates. This
game was the first in a series of international disasters like the early
knock out in World Cup qualification against Congo in the preliminary play
off round. Their performance at South Africa 1996 had been far from impressive
as well. But they managed their way back to this finals and they are said
to be a bit stronger again. Their stars are in the attacking front with
experienced striker Joel Tiehi and the new star Ibrahima Bakayoko from
French side Montpellier. Also Ahmed Outtara, former player at Sporting
Portugal and now returned to Switzerland could add some danger.
A big asset could be their mini homefield advantage. Many supporters
are expected to support them in their group games at Bobu Dioulasso (->map)
so that maybe they can grasp their mini-chance for a second round spot
with a good start against Namibia and regain confidence.
Namibias rise is hard to believe. Only taking part at African international
competitions since 1990, Namibia was able to manage penetration among Africas
top 16 now. In South Africas case such an effort does not appear to be
a miracle, but Namibia is a small country from the number of inhabitants
side regarded. Not half the city of Berlin, not to speak of London or Paris.
With only 1.5 Million inhabitants Namibia achieved to launch its football
team to the finals of only the second African Cup of Nations they took
part. They made it among the 20 African teams that battled in the final
qualification groups for a World Cup spot at France 98 and they topped
everything they had reached on Friday, 23rd of January 98, only 2 weeks
before the Nations Cup kick-off, when they knocked giants South Africa
in a sensational 3-2
after-extra-time-victory out of the Castle Cup. The Castle Cup is a
new but very popular regional competition for the Southern African football
associations, among them blockbusters Zambia, Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.
Namibia had been runners up to winners Zambia last year, but South Africa
had not taken part in that first edition. Namibias example shows how succesful
a determined and well-organized association can be. One should not expect
too much of them, the team is developing and a small power anyway. But
the teams is on a solid way up. Beginning the world cup qualification with
a 1:7 loss at Egypt, the were able to pull of 4 points out of the 2 encounters
with Liberia. And they are really excited now. Anyway it seems very unlikely
Zambia are longing for a title. It has been a decade of 'almost'. Struck
by an airplane crash that killed the complete national team with the exception
of Kalusha Bwalya they still almost qualified for the World Cup 1994. They
almost beat Nigeria in the African Cup final 1994, finishing second and
they looked to be the challenger of South Africa in the Cup 1996, but lost
in the semi-finals to clever Tunisia, who capitalised on all their opportunities.
Zambia finsihed third. This was followed by an unsuccessful World Cup campaign.
The Zambian football association is often criticised by local press and
the World Cup campaign did not seem pursued with enough determination.
Zambia was behind from the beginning and finished third behind South Africa
and Congo. More arguments and problems turned up now when key player Kalusha
Bwalya, one of Africas best, did not report for a training camp. He plays
at Mexico. Finally he apologised for remarks on the new coach Bernard Ziese
from Germany and he will play carrying the hopes of Zambian football fans.
Other difficulties occured when Zambian negotiated for the release of three
players, playing at Saudi-Arabia. The club officials who had not let go
the players felt insulted. But all this is probably less important than
it was made. Such news are easier to read from Zambia than from other countries
because the news infrastructure (especially Internet) is better developed.
Zambia plays in the so-called group of death, but should be considered
as stronger than Egypt. After a serious preparation they now are one of
the competitors for the title again.
Morocco is the best looking African team apart from Nigeria now. They did
not lose a competition match for two years and 1997 they only lost to Brasil
where they left a good impression. In this game an old problem, converting
the opportunities in close matches, became visible again. Maybe Abderrahim
Ouakili from Bundesliga side München 1860 can help here. The conditions
will not make them feel home and the tournament has not as important to
them in the past as for example to Ghana. So they may lack a bit of determination
to win the tournament on West African ground.
The Egyptian football machine is not running smoothly anymore. The preparation
has not been to good after quarrels between club sides and the National
coach. The club sides themselves did lose their dominant position in African
football to the Tunisian clubs and the National teams had no chance against
Tunisia in the World Cup qualification, too. Some young talented players
have not developed as expected, yet (an example: Yasser Radwan from Bundesliga
club Hansa Rostock). Egypt will need an upset to qualify for second round
but if they can pull off a victory from the first match against Mozambique
they have a fair chance.
Mozambique was already out of the tournament with 2 minutes to go in the
final qualification match against Malawi. Malawi only needed a draw
and lead 1-0 at Mozambique. But the miracle happened, Mozambique scored
twice and qualified for a second successive finals. Like at Angola, football
began to improve after the war was over and Mozambique did not too bad
at the last Nations cup. Their thorough preparation will make them hard
to beat but in this difficult group it will be very difficult for them
to collect a three-pointer. It looks as if a good impression again is all
they will achieve.
The finals - Other information sources
You want the result right after the match? then hurry and look up at Reuters
or/and the shot's news ticker attempt.
For match details check on other news sources in African
Football news ressources on Internet or review the news ticker match
impressions of the past days in the shot's match
discription page. Another fine site is the BBC
World Service with different style match discriptions and impressions.
You can put questions to journalists in Burkina Faso that do not get answered.
(for a review of the
first round see GOAL FEVER, an already
available part of the Nations Cup documentation under construction)
Results and standings as well as statistics on this and past tournaments
can be reviewd at RSSSF
or at this page
by Raoul S da Silva Curiel .
Recommended information sources for information on the host country
or links to information on the host country as well as maps you find at:
Faso Page at University of Pennsylvania.or this new Africaindex
to the tournament by FIFA
to the tournament from South Africa
CAF online, the WWW service
of th African Football Confederation has some informations as for example
the complete team roasters and refers to official Burkina
Faso 98 Site. This page is very nice done, bilingual (Francais, English),
has team photos, and exposes the BF98 mascot, one of the finest in World
and Continental Cup history. But it offers no actual match discriptions.
Mamadou Zongo, Patrick Mboma, Philippe Troussier, Bakayoko, Kalusha Bwalya,
Osei Kuffour, Mehdi Ben Slimane, Salou Bashirou, Zoubeir Beya, Henry Kasperczak,
Titi Camera, Younga-Mouhani, Adel Sellimi, Dennis Lota, John Moshoeu, Amankwah,
Ahmed El Kass, Moussa Saib, Lazizi, Mark Fish, Joel Tiehi, Donald Sie,
Chiquinho Conde, Tico-Tico, Quinzinho, Paulao