Preview: 2015 Africa Cup of Nations – Semi-finals
DR CONGO – IVORY COAST
Wednesday, 4th of February 2015, h. 20:00 CET, Estadio de Bata, Bata.
Referee: Néant Alioum (Cameroon).
A quite interesting NT with a significative Belgian influence, but there’s also an important Congolese influence in Belgium as well, because few important players have Congolese heritage (i.e. Lukaku, Benteke, Batshuayi).
The GK is the experienced Robert Kidiaba (38, TP Mazembe), who’s quite famous mostly for his celebrations, while
Cédric Mongongu (Evian TG, French first tier) and the very promising Chancel Mbemba Mangulu (20, RSC Anderlecht), who often plays as defensive midfielder, are the most notable defenders.
The midfield is maybe the best part of this squad with Cédric Makiadi (SV Werder Bremen), Youssouf Mulumbu (WBA), Hervé Kage (KRC Genk), Cedrick Mabwati (CA Osasuna, Spanish second tier), the attacking midfielder Neeskens Kebano (RSC Charleroi) and the winger Yannick Bolasie (Crystal Palace FC), who, a bit like Gervinho, can be devastating thanks to his speed, but sometimes he misses the final touch.
The most important striker is surely Dieumerci Mbokani (FC Dynamo Kyiv), while other options are Junior Kabananga (Cercle Grugge) and Jeremy Bokila (Terek Grozny), who has scored many goals in Holland (second tier) and Romania (first tier).
The Manager is the Congolese Florent Ibengé.
Probably Ivory Coast has been the best African NT for years, but they’ve won nothing since 1992 Africa Cup of Nations: they got two second places (2006 and 2012), and a fourth one (2008) in the highest continental competition, and they also qualified three times (2006, 2010 and 2014) for the WC Final Stage, but they never progressed from the Group Stage, twice because of very hard draws.
In this team there are several overpaid stars, but a great part of them is very committed to the National Team and they usually are always available for this team (THIS IS THE FOOTBALL WE LIKE).
Individually there’s a lot of talent and this squad is probably the strongest of the Competiton, but it has tactical weaknesses and often lacks of an effective teamwork.
Maybe there isn’t a GK on the same (high) level of his teammates, but this is a problem of several African teams: anyway Sylvain Gbohouo (26, Séwé Sport), who plays in the local League, is having a good Tournament and has defeated the experienced Boubacar “Copa” Barry (Lokeren, Belgium) and the young Sayouba Mandé (Stabaek, Norwegian first tier) in the ”battle” for the starting place.
The columns of the defence are Kolo Touré (33, Liverpool FC), that is getting older and sometimes isn’t too reliable, and the left back Siaka Tiene (Montpellier HSC), while Serge Aurier (22, PSG), Eric Bertrand Bailly (20, Villarreal CF) and Wilfried Kanon (21, ADO Den Haag) are probably already more tha prospects.
In the midfield Cheik Tiotè (Newcastle United), Ismaël Diomandé (Saint Etienne) and the winger Max Gradel (Saint Etienne) are all important, but the king is Yaya Touré (Manchester City FC), maybe the best player in this Competition.
The attack is anyway the strongest part of the team: Seydou Doumbia (AS Roma) and Wilfried Bony (Manchester City) have amazing goal-scoring-averages in strong Leagues, while Gervinho (AS Roma) can create plenty of dangerous opportunities thanks to his speed, but he isn’t a great finalizer: good strikers like Lacina Traoré (AS Monaco) and Solomon Kalou (Lille OSC) will probably spend a lot of time sitting on the bench.
Didier Drogba (36, Chelsea FC), who has always been strongly committed to his NT, retired from international football after 2014 WC, without winning anything of important with Ivory Coast: a triumph of the Elephants just after his retirement would be a little cruel for him.
The Manager is the French Hervé Renard, who has won this Competition in 2012 with Zambia, defeating Ivory Coast itself in the Final after penalty kicks.
EQUATORIAL GUINEA – GHANA
Referee: Eric Otogo-Castane (Gabon).
However, Morocco, that had been chosen to host the Competiton, asked CAF to delay the Competiton because of concerns regarding the spread of Ebola virus, but the Confederation of African Football refused and asked Morocco to confirm their availability to host the Tournament at the original date, but, according to CAF, the Moroccan Federation didn’t answer before the deadline they were given, so they were disqualified from the Competition.
Then Equatorial Guinea, who had already organized the Tournament in 2012, and so still has quite good infrastructures and facilities, was choosen as new host, despite being much closer than Morocco to the area where Ebola is most widespread.
The President of Equatorial Guinea, the controversial Teodoro Obiang, who has been in charge from 1979 (he is also the uncle of UC Sampdoria midfielder Pedro Obiang), has invested several money in football, hosting the competiton in 2012, paying players in order to make them represent Equatorial Guinea (especially the naturalized ones and those with double citizenships) and promising and eventually paying prizes to the squad whether they achieved a certain goal (i.e. defeating Spain in a friendly).
Equatorial Guinea is a bit different from other black African NTs, because there’s an evident Spanish (and a little bit Portuguese as well) influence in this squad, because this Country had been a Spanish colony, and so there are several players that were born and/or grown up in Spain, have Spanish parents or grandparents, and are playing there, so this team is a tactically a bit different, and play a more technical and less physical football than other African squads.
Thei main weakness of this squad is that several footballers play in Leagues whose level isn’t very high, such as in Malta (the defender Rui Da Gracia, Hibernians), India (the striker Ivan Bolado, FC Pune City, but he had also played at Racing Santander for few years), Hong Kong (the defensive midfielder Iván Zarandona, HK Rangers), Gibraltar (the midfielder Charly, College Europa) and Andorra (the midfielder Juvenal, Santa Coloma).
The starting GK sould be Felipe Ovono (Deportivo Mongomo, local League), while Sipo (AEK Larnaca, Cyprus) and the full-back Iban Iyanga (Iraklis Psachna F.C., Greek second tier) look the most notable defenders.
The (advanced) midfield is the best part of the team with a couple of great quality players: the winger Javier Balboa (Estoril, Portuguese first tier, a former Real Madrid, Racing Santander and Benfica player), and the winger/offensive midfielder/second striker Emilio Nsue (Middlesbrough, English second tier, a former RCD Mallorca and Real Sociedad player).
Ivan Bolado looks the most dangerous offensive weapon, instead.
Anyway there are few promising youngsters, mostly playing in the Youth teams of important Spanish clubs, such as the GK Aitor Embela (Malaga CF Juvenil), the defender Diosdado Mbele (Leones Vegetarianos FC, local League), the winger Rubén Belima (Real Madrid Castilla) and the forwards Kike Boula (Mallorca B) and Iván Salvador (Valencia B).
The Head Coach is the Argentinian Esteban Becker.
In the last years they have been a very physical team, like several other black African teams, but they’ve been also quite technical, and have had a quite decent teamwork: but things may have changed, because, for different reasons (i.e. discipline, injuries and international retirements), few important players like Kevin-Prince Boateng, Sulley Muntaryi, Kwadko Asamoah and Michael Essien won’t be in Equatorial Guinea.
In the goal Brimah Razak (CD Mirandés, Spanish second tier) has been preferred over Fatau Dauda (Ashanti Gold, Ghana), while in the defence, together with the experienced Jonathan Mensah (Evian), John Boye (Kayseri Erciyesspor, Turkish first tier) and Harrison Afful (Espérance Sportive de Tunis), there are the interesting youngsters Baba Rahman (FC Augsburg, full-back) and Daniel Amartey (FC Kobenhavn), who were born both in 1994.
Once a midfield with Michael Essien, Sulley Muntary, Kwadwo Asamoah and Kevin-Price Boateng was one of the best in the world, but today defensive midfielders like Afriyie Acquah (UC Sampdoaria), Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Udinese) and Mohammed Rabiu (Kuban Krasnodar) are not on the same level, but wingers and attacking midfielders like Mubarak Wakaso (Rubin Kazan), Christian Atsu (Everton FC, on loan from Chelsea FC) and Jordan Ayew (OM), André Ayew (FC Lorient, he’s often used as forward as well) and the youngster Frank Acheampong (21, RSC Anderlecht), are probably the best elements in the squad.
The starting central striker is always him, the Captain, Asamah Gyan, 29, who was already playing at 2006 WC, a very powerful but not too technical striker, while we would keep an eye on David Accam (DC United, MLS, USA), who has scored a lot of goal in Sweden.
The Head Coach is the experienced Israeli Avraam Grant, former manager of Israel, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Haifa, Chelsea, Portsmouth, West Ham United and Partizan Belgrade.