Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Sat 19 January 2008

African Cup of Nations Preview (Part 3)

Group C
When Cameroon do well in the African Nations Cup, they usually win it outright. When they don't do well, they fail miserably. That's the ying and the yang of the Indomitable Lions - forget middle ground: they're simply isn't any where Cameroon are concerned.

Wins in 1984, 1988, 2000 and 2002 are all very impressive, but their achievements in the African competition the rest of the time are practically non-existent. Just as well they always arrive in the African Cup of Nations with great potential, and 2008 will be no exception.

Qualifying proved the simplest of exercises for Cameroon, albeit in one of the weaker groups. They scored two, if not three goals against Rwanda, Liberia and Equatorial Guinea until qualification was assured before the last game, but it wasn't just the number of goals scored that was impressive - it was the sheer range of players that did it for them.

So Cameroon shouldn't have a problem finding goals in Group C of the Finals. What about their main opponents in the group and current champions, Egypt? Well though not as prolific, the Egyptians are more than a match for many teams although Botswana, Burundi and Mauritania all earned commendable draws against them in the qualifying round.

That aside, they earned their place in this year's African Cup of Nations by remaining unbeaten throughout, something that few other teams can boast. So will the record holders win it again this year? We don't think so. A quarter-final place is a racing certainty, but anything beyond that may be more unlikely given the strength of the opposition elsewhere.

The return of Sudan to the Finals is one that should be cheered loudly as the biggest country on the continent hasn't qualified since 1976. In a place where civil war has been prevalent for so many years, it's hardly surprising we've not seen too much of the Sudanese football team, but they enter the 2008 Cup of Nations on a real high.

That's because in qualifying for the tournament, they actually came top of their group above the 2004 champions, Tunisia. They even manage to beat the Tunisians in the final crunch game 3-2 having already taken care of Mauritius and the Seychelles. They'll be an exciting prospect to watch despite being one of the complete outsiders, but if any dark horse is going to cause an upset in this competition, it could be Sudan. It's just a shame they've got Cameroon and Egypt to get past, unfortunately...

The final team in Group C are Zambia. Another of the underdogs, they've not progressed past the first round in the last five tournaments, but that doesn't prevent them being well-followed and much-admired on the international football scene.

In 1993, a military plane carrying the Zambia team to a World Cup qualifying match in Senegal crashed into the sea shortly after take-off, killing eighteen players plus the crew of the aircraft. Once the country recovered from the shock of such a loss, attention turned to rebuilding the squad in the hope that one day they may achieve glory and provide a fitting tribute to all those who died.

The following year, Zambia reached the final of the African Cup of Nations, losing by a single goal to Nigeria and in 1996 they finished third overall. It was a remarkable achievement and one that the present day team long to match or surpass. Whether they win or lose this year, Zambia will be looked on with great admiration for as long as they remain in the competition.

Group C Matches:
Jan 22: Egypt v Cameroon (Kumasi)
Jan 22: Sudan v Zambia (Kumasi)
Jan 26: Cameroon v Zambia (Kumasi)
Jan 26: Egypt v Sudan (Kumasi)
Jan 30: Cameroon v Sudan (Tamale)
Jan 30: Egypt v Zambia (Kumasi)

In the final part of our preview: Angola, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia

The Full Archive

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