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Feature: CAN 2012 Draw And Ghana's Chances   
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Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it’ is a quote quiet familiar to us all. On the face of it, it does seem a good thing to have your wishes granted right?

But as to whether that wish serves your interest or not can only be determined on hindsight.

I am pretty sure Guinea’s Technical Director, Sheriff Souleymane knew what he was getting into when, ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN 2012) draw, it was reported that he prayed for a Guinea –Ghana pairing in order to make Ghana ‘suffer’.

Well, amid a display of rich culture and long speeches in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, where the draw took place, Sheriff Souleymane got his wish.

Guinea was paired alongside Ghana, Mali and Botswana in Group D.

I do not in any way pretend to be a clairvoyant nor a visionary, but what I intend to do is to conduct a summary analysis of the various CAN 2012 groupings with particular emphasis on Ghana’s chances.

At the end, we will have an idea whether Sheriff Souleymane bargained far more than Guinea’s legs could carry, make bold predictions and while we are at it, find nick names for the groups. Join me as we go down analysis road.

Group A: Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Senegal, Zambia (The “comme ci comme ça” Group)

If you are a neutral, you can’t help but empathise with co-hosts Equatorial Guinea. I am sure they weren’t naive to think that qualification from the group would be handed on a platter, but in Libya, Senegal and Zambia, the co-hosts have their hands really full.

Then again, Equatorial Guinea has demonstrated in the past that when they put their mind and effort to a cause, you shouldn’t doubt them.

Equatorial Guinea in a bid to impress at the CAN have hired renowned French tactician Henri Michel to supervise the campaign.

Indeed the country has succeeded in enrolling more than a dozen foreigners in the Nzalang Nacional line-up.

Some of them are Brazil-born Danilo Clementino, Andre and Atila Nelese; Daniel Ekedo and Kelvin Onosiughe of Nigeria; and Luciano Mutasi of Cameroon.

That’s how far the co-hosts have gone and they do have recent history to fuel their ambition.

Their female national team controversially won the 2008 African Women Championship when Equatorial Guinea hosted it for the first time.

So, you don’t want to be underrating their male team either. I am sure they wouldn’t roll over but Senegal’s fire power fuelled by several European based stars, Zambia’s experience and attacking style and the rising believe of the Libyans would be too much for the co-host to contain.

This group is thus not flat out an easy group neither is it the toughest, so it shall be nick named the “comme ci comme ça” Group.

Prediction: Senegal and Zambia to qualify as 1st and 2nd respectively

Group B: Ivory Coast, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Angola (The Bully Group)

A quick glance at the members in this group brings to mind one word ‘Bully’. Yes ‘bully’ because that is exactly what Ivory Coast is going to handle the other members.

I have already heard in certain quarters that it is a tough group. I beg to differ.

Show me tough when Ivory Coast supported by it stellar European cast; Didier Drogba, Yaya and Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue, Gervinho, Salomom Kalou, Didier Zokora, Cheik Tiote and co. squeeze the little life out of Angola, whose best placing has been as quarterfinalist and would also hope to consolidate their runners up position at the 2011 CHAN (African Nations Championship for locally based players).

The Stallions of Burkina Faso would offer some opposition but Stade Rennais’ exciting Jonathan Pitroipa, Marseille’s Charles Kabore and co. will hit a brick wall against the Ivoirians.

Sudan have made gains over the past two years, with a mainly local squad built around their two leading teams El-Merreick and Al Hilal, but will surely be dismissed by the Ivoirians. So the question is who qualifies alongside Ivory Coast?

I foresee the Stallions galloping into the quarters though Angola may have other Ideas.

Prediction: Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso to qualify as 1st and 2nd respectively

Group C: Gabon, Niger, Morocco, Tunisia (The Competitive Group)

Wow!! That must be how most Gabonese exclaimed. Being grouped with two former winners, Morocco and Tunisia, a first time participant like Niger, who qualified ahead of Egypt and South Africa, is quite a big gallon for the oil rich country.

Co-host Gabon, coached by Gernot Rohr would look to Striker Eric Mouloungui of French side Nice to inspire his team to at least qualify from the group stage.

The German coach may however need to back down on his strict approach and probably bring back former Hull City striker Daniel Cousin to strengthen the side.

When compared to a resurgent Moroccan side led by Adel Taarabt, and Arsenal’s Marouan Chamakh, Gabon may not be able to withstand the roar from the Atlas lions.

Tunisia may have struggled to qualify, but the 2004 champions and 2011 CHAN champions would seek to build on their progress and they have the motivational skills of Coach Sami Trabelsi to count on.

A very tough call if you asked me, but with home advantage, I think Gabon would push the North Africans all the way.

Prediction: Morocco and Gabon to qualify as 1st and 2nd respectively

Group D: Ghana, Botswana, Mali, Guinea (is Group D, the Group of Death?)

Ghana opens her account against first timers Botswana on January 24, 2012 before engaging Mali on January 28, 2012.

With all due respect to Botswana, who are currently reaping investments in their youth programs initiated by a certain Ben Koufie, they would be the whipping boys of the group.

The two qualification slots would therefore be fought between fellow West Africans Guinea, Mali and Ghana. The Black Stars of Ghana however start as the clear favourites here.

Having made steady progress from 2008 when it won bronze and silver at the last CAN 2010, the 2010 World Cup quarterfinalist would seek to end a 30 year wait to win the CAN once she finds her scoring boots.

Mali, a country blessed with immense talents like Seydou Keita, Momoudu Diarra and Modibo Maiga, are also in with a long shot if only they can maintain some form of consistency. The last meeting between Ghana and Mali ended 2-2 in Kumasi.

Guinea, finalist in 1976 and currently in good form, would also stretch the Black Stars like she did in the last meeting, when it took a Sulley Muntari screamer to separate the two sides in the CAN 2008 opener.

Prediction: Ghana and Guinea to qualify as 1st and 2nd respectively

At the end of the day, I foresee the battle for the group winner going all the way to the wire; to the last match between Ghana and Guinea on February 1, 2012 in Franceville and when the final whistle is blown, we will all know whether Sheriff Souleymane’s bargain was shrewd or otherwise.

Dare to predict? Let me know.
Source: [email protected]

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