x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Who to look out for in Angola this month

The National profiles the 16 teams taking part in this year's African Cup of Nations.

Angola Manager: Manuel Jose World Ranking: 95 Zonal Ranking: 20 Having qualified for their first World Cup in 2006 before reaching the quarter-finals in the African Nations two years later - their highest ever finish - Angola are a nation on the rise. The Black Antelopes may have the advantage of home support, but with Flavio - the only Angolan to score at a World Cup - having recently turned 30, the impetus will be on Real Valladolid's Manucho to fire them to success. Mali Manager: Stephen Keshi World Ranking: 47 Zonal Ranking: 7 With a powerful midfield that boasts Real Madrid's Mahamadou Diarra, Barcelona's Seydou Keita and Juventus's Mohamed Sissoko, the Eagles will be expected to excel this month. Undoubtedly underachievers, they failed to progress past the first round of the African Nations in 2006 and did not qualify for Ghana in 2008. Malawi Manager: Kinnah Phiri World Ranking: 99 Zonal Ranking: 23 Having only qualified for one previous African Nations, in 1984, the Malawian Flames are looking to make history this month by registering their first win in the continental competition. 21- year-old striker Chiukepo Msowoya netted six times on route to Angola and will shoulder their hopes for this tournament. Algeria Manager: Rabah Saadane World Ranking: 26 Zonal Ranking: 5 The Desert Foxes, having secured a spot at the 2010 World Cup with a heated play-off victory over Egypt, will face scrutiny from the football world this month. Key men Nadir Belhadj of Portsmouth and Wolfsburg midfielder Karim Ziani will be looking to emulate the team of 1990 and lift the coveted cup.

Ivory Coast Manager: Vahid Halilhodzic World Ranking: 16 Zonal Ranking: 2 With a squad that includes Chelsea's Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, as well as Yaya and Kolo Toure, it is hardly surprising that the Ivory Coast are favourites. Having lost to Egypt in the semi-finals at the 2008 tournament, Vahid Halilhodzic's side will be keen to use Angola as perfect preparation for South Africa this summer - another tournament where success would not come as a stark surprise. Burkina Faso Manager: Paulo Jorge Rebelo Duarte World Ranking: 49 Zonal Ranking: 9 Despite qualifying six times previously, Burkina Faso have only managed to progress past the group stages once, as the host nation in 1998 when they surprised everybody to finish fourth. The Stallions would have wished for an easier group and will need to rely on the goals of forward Moumouni Dagano, who has netted 21 times in 43 appearances. Ghana Manager: Milovan Rajevac World Ranking: 34 Zonal Ranking: 6 The Black Stars approached the 2008 tournament with high hopes. With Chelsea's Michael Essien dominating the midfield and the team enjoying the benefits of home support, many expected Ghana to comfortably win their fifth title in Accra. But, as has been the case every tournament since 1982, the Ghanaians stumbled, falling to Cameroon in the semi-finals. This year, again, expectations are high, but they will be without captain Stephen Appiah, Fulham defender John Pantsil and Sunderland's John Mensah, while Essien remains a doubt. Togo Manager: Hubert Velud World Ranking: 71 Zonal Ranking: 13 Togo's star man is undoubtedly Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor, but it is the veteran centre-half Dare Nibombe who could be the difference between ecstasy and elimination for Hubert Velud's side come the tournament's conclusion.

Egypt Manager: Hassan Shehata World Ranking: 24 Zonal Ranking: 4 Still hurting from last year's World Cup play-off defeat to Algeria, the Pharaohs will go into this month's tournament hungry for success. Winners in 2006 and 2008, Hassan Shehata's experienced Egyptian midfield boasts the likes of captain Ahmed Hassan and UAE-based Hosny Abd Rabo, while the strikeforce of Hossam Mido and Emad Moteab has struck 49 goals in 99 games collectively. Nigeria Manager: Shaibu Amodu World Ranking: 22 Zonal Ranking: 3 Once the torchbearers of African football, Nigeria have failed to evolve as they would have wished. Having qualified for the World Cup in 1994, 1998 and 2002, the Super Eagles missed out in 2006. Having secured their World Cup spot this summer, coach Shaibu Amodu has been warned he must at least reach the semi-finals this month if he is to lead the side at South Africa. Mozambique Manager: Mart Nooij World Ranking: 72 Zonal Ranking: 14 All eyes will be on coach Mart Nooij when Mozambique finish their group stage campaign against Nigeria. So impressive has the Dutchman's reign been, Nigeria have already spoken to him about the possibility of taking their hot-seat for the World Cup this summer. Star man is Panathinaikos' 21-year-old midfielder Simao. Benin Manager: Michel Dussuyer World Ranking: 59 Zonal Ranking: 11 When Benin scored an injury-time winner against Ghana in qualifying, it showed the rest of Africa that Benin are fast becoming a force to fear. Mohamed Aoudou, the 19-year-old match-winner, will likely lead the line as The Squirrels, partaking for only the third time in their history, look to pick up a maiden victory in the African Nations Cup.

Cameroon Manager: Paul Le Guen World Ranking: 11 Zonal Ranking: 1 Under Paul Le Guen, the Indomitable Lions have appeared a far more resolute side. With Carlos Kameni of Espanyol, Tottenham Hotspurs' Benoit Assou Ekotto and Lyon midfielder Jean Makoun adding a steely backbone to a side spearheaded by one of the best strikers in the world, Samuel Eto'o, expectations are understandably high. Gabon Manager: Alain Giresse World Ranking: 48 Zonal Ranking: 8 Gabon pushed Cameroon all the way in World Cup qualifying, eventually missing out only after a final day defeat to Togo. But the Black Panthers will take heart from their strong performances last year and be keen to keep the momentum going this month. Zambia Manager: Herve Renard World Ranking: 84 Zonal Ranking: 17 Five points from six games was enough to see Herve Renard secure his side a place in Angola this month, but he will expect a far improved performance when they get their campaign under way against Tunisia. The Copper Bullets, despite having qualified for seven of the past eight events, remain largely an unknown quantity. Tunisia Manager: Faouzi Benzarti World Ranking: 53 Zonal Ranking: 10 After the heartbreak of defeat to lowly Mozambique in World Cup qualifying, Tunisia moved swiftly to try and turn things around: Out went Humberto Coelho and in came Faouzi Benzarti. The Tunisian's first game in charge against Zambia will take on added importance as anything but three points will seriously hinder their hopes of progressing.