Another bumper edition of Afcon

JOHANNESBURG - The Africa Cup of Nations kicks off today with a match featuring hosts Equatorial Guinea and Congo Brazzaville and will be followed later by the Burkina Faso versus Gabon encounter.

This edition promises to provide a bumper soccer tournament with most teams claiming a stake at the continent’s most prized competition.

This is one tournament which is difficult to predict. Not that most Africa Cup of Nations have gone according to the script. Not at all!

Nigeria won the last edition but sadly they will be missing in action but previously, Zambia had defied all odds in Libreville by winning the 2012 edition. That is how unpredictable this competition is.

But as has been the case, soccer pundits have been at it again and have been putting their money on traditional giants to go all the way.

Top of the list are perennial underachievers Cote d’Ivoire who head a tough Group D which comprises the entire West African nations of Mali, Cameroon and Guinea.

With an array of superstars who ply their trade in Europe’s big clubs, it is a big surprise why Ivory Coast have never realised their potential. Some argue the big stars play as individuals and don’t gel as a unit. Talk of big egos!

Cameroon should not be discarded either in that group as the Indomitable Lions are known to pull out surprises when one least expects it.

But while Ivory Coast and Cameroon head Group D, it is Group C which has had many critics talking. The Group of Death consist of Ghana, South Africa, Senegal and top-ranked side on the continent, Algeria.

Those good at predicting say, any of the two who survive in this group should be good contenders for a place in the finals.

Bafana Bafana have been quite impressive during their warm up games including the qualifiers in which they are yet to taste defeat under Shakes Mashaba but at times, tournaments are not as straight forward as that.

Algeria are a tough nut to crack so are the Black Stars and the Lions of Teranga (Senegal). These are traditional forces but watch out for the swashbuckling Bafana.

Group B have former champions Chipolopolo who always have the liking of playing in this part of the continent to watch. The Tunisians are also unpredictable although they seem to struggle away from their North African bastion.

Cape Verde are dark horses of this Group and the entire tournament as they draw most of their players from the Portuguese league.

The weakest group in the tournament seems to be Group A although nothing should be taken for granted in the game of football.

There have been lots of surprises in these tournaments and the last time Burkina Faso went all the way and only lost by a single goal to Nigeria in the final.

So fans should stand by for what promises to be another blockbuster of a tournament.

Morocco, who balked out of hosting this prestigious tournament, might leave to regret their myopic decision.

Afcon has always provided lots of entertainment and this particular edition should not be an exception.

We love this sport.

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