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Feb 2012
21:39 Comments (7)
African Cup of Nations 2012, by Rafa Benitez

Professional Football

Rafa Benítez

We are going to have a first look at the African Nations Cup which has been taking place in the last few weeks. Thanks to members of my staff, and in this case especially Pedro Campos, we have been able to have a look at many of the participating teams. Obviously this article is just an initial assessment which we will continue in the next phase of the competition, but it gives us the chance to have a brief look at some of the teams who are still in the competition.

Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are the hosts for the African Cup of Nations. The old Spanish colony is co-host with Gabon for the tournament which brings together the best teams on the continent and it has always had big players on show. Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are both countries that are not amongst the best on a football level. Currently, Gabon has 8,300 players and Equatorial Guinea has 2,290. The absence of South Africa, Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria and Egypt (Champions on the last three occasions) has paved the way for other favourites like Ghana, Ivory Coast or even Gabon who are doing well in the tournament.

This will be last time that the tournament will take place every two years (it has always been debatable that it should take place mid-season and in the years the Euros and the World Cup take place). To change the calendar, next year there will be another Africa Cup of Nations and it will take place in South Africa, a substitute for Libya due to the political conflict there. There will be two consecutive years of the tournament in this format.


- EGYPT 7 times (1957, 1959, 1986, 1988, 2006, 2008, 2010)
- GHANA 4 times (1963, 1965, 1978, 1982)
- CAMEROON 4 times (1984, 1988, 2000, 2002)


- France = 64
- Spain = 17
- England = 14
- Germany = 14
- Turkey = 13
- Belgium = 10
- Italy = 7
- Russia = 7
- Portugal = 6
- Switzerland = 5
- Holland = 4


- Libya 1-4-4-2 and change to 1-4-2-3-1
- Equatorial Guinea 1-3-5-2 changing to 1-4-2-3-1
- Ivory Coast 1-4-2-3-1 changing to 1-4-4-2
- Sudan 1-4-4-2 with a variation of 1-4-2-3-1
- Senegal 1-4-2-3-1 with a variation of 1-4-4-2
- Angola 1-4-5-1 with a variation of 1-4-2-3-1
- Burkina Faso 1-4-4-2 with a variation of 1-4-2-3-1
- Niger 1-4-4-2
- Gabon 1-4-2-3-1
- Morocco 1-4-2-3-1 with a variation of 1-4-4-2
- Tunisia 1-4-2-3-1 with a variation of 1-4-1-4-1
- Botswana 1-4-5-1
- Ghana 1-4-2-3-1
- Guinea-Conakry 1-4-1-4-1
- Mali 1-4-2-3-1 with a variation of 1-4-4-2
- Zambia 1-4-2-3-1 with a variation of 1-4-4-2

These are the teams that have qualified for the Quarter Finals and these are our observations so far:

IVORY COAST: System 1-4-2-3-1 with a variation of 1-4-4-2. They usually have more possession and are good technically in general, with good movements in opposition half (Drogba, Y Toure, Kalou, Gervinho..) Effective, can control the game, although not having their best tournament, but they have quality and a good squad. They manage to regain and play a high percentage in the opposition half. Good physically. They are stronger through the middle than on the wings.

Players of interest: Y Toure, Drogba, Kalou, Gervinho, and Eboue.
ZAMBIA: System 1-4-4-2. They surprised everyone by winning (WHICH MATCH????) Having less quality than Senegal, they learnt how to adapt to the competition. They have a compact block that can use counter attack and they use set pieces well. They do not keep the ball for long periods nor do they control the match with quality. But they can create numerical superiority in the centre. Their players are good as a team and rely on efficiency in the final third. They had problems in the second half defending set pieces.

Players of interest: Mayuka, Kalaba and Katongo.

SUDAN: System 1-4-4-2. Good work rate and reasonably organised defensively. They are disciplined, good team work and good on the counter attack. They are limited technically and have little capacity to react if they are losing. They have never won an African Nations Cup match since 1970.

Players of interest: El Tahir and Bashir.

TUNISIA: System 1-4-2-3-1. They are a team whose players are not used to keeping possession but do know how to control the match over 90 minutes. They are a team who are organised and tactically disciplined in important phases of the game. They have intelligent players who do well exploiting space behind defenders. They use few passes in counter attack and are very effective. They have a good team ethic.

Players of interest: Khelifa and Msakni.

GABON: System 1-4-2-3-1. It is a team that is good physically, quick, and a good understanding. They can exploit the spaces, especially with their mobile target striker Aubameyang, and their wide players. They impose a good tempo and intensity over the whole 90 minutes. Reasonable pressing which they try to do as high as possible. Sometimes their defensive line can appear disorganised causing them problems and also disorganised on defending set pieces.

Players who stand out: Aubameyang (striker) with Biyogo Poko and Ecuele Manga.
GHANA: System 1-4-2-3-1. They rely on good technique and keep possession although they don’t always comfortably control the game. They are physical and impose their tempo, especially in the first half. Their two wide players, especially Andre Ayew can penetrate, and they regain and play in the opposition half. They have players who are good at the technico-tactical level.

Players of interest: Andre Ayew, A Gyan and Badu.

MALI: System 1-4-2-3-1. They are an effective team in the final third, excellent play between lines, the wide players come inside and good movement from their second line (B Traore). Basically they are strong and solid in defence centrally, they can respond in important parts of the game and they have a good work rate and teamwork.

Players of interest: Modibo Maiga and Keita.

: System 1-3-5-2 with a variation 1-4-2-3-1. Disciplined team, high work rate, good attitude and excellent mentality. Reasonable in possession and general organisation. They can use counter attack well, in which they have good mobility between lines by Ivan Bolado, Balboa and Fidjeu. They lose intensity in the second half and on occasions do not cover well leaving distances between lines.

Players of interest: Juvenal, Ivan Bolado, Balboa and Rui Fernando

03/02/12 at 20:44:48 #1
Hello, without Egypt, everybody can win. My favourite is Ivory Coast.
04/02/12 at 12:44:00 #2
RAFA dont you think the level of motivation in some of these "lesser" teams (like Zambia) makes them dangerous? Like the LFC Istanbul team they play as a unit. The attack in numbers and defend in numbers. IE everyone takes defending or attacking as their personal reponsibility.
Cote Ivoire look menacing with Drogba comming to the end of his international career and personally motivating his whole team. Yes they are not spectacular but they are getting the needed results. They have the experienced PROs to get through the tough games CALMLY.


Hello, the motivation is a key part of the game for any team. At this point, all of them will try their best. The anxiety could be a problem but they have experience in big games. So, for me the quality will be the diference at the end. Ivory Coast has more than some of the other teams.
04/02/12 at 22:05:10 #3
As an African (born in Angola) it is pleasing seeing one of the best coaches in the world writing on our continental cup. Thank you very much for your analyse and good luck getting the possible Real Madrid Job in a near future.

05/02/12 at 02:01:49 #4
Samson Bongawonga
Excellent analysis from the team of Rafa's website. Ivory Coast would be favourites but anything can happen.
05/02/12 at 04:38:47 #5
Hi Rafa,

I have previously read "sucess=talent+luck, great success= a little more talent + a lot of luck"
Do you think luck plays a big part in a team winning in knock-out tournaments?

Thanks, Dee


Hello Dee, the luck is always important, but if you work harder you will win more games.
05/02/12 at 11:20:02 #6
Hi Rafa,

Do you think we are any closer to seeing an African team winning the world cup. Technically African players have always had good ability but always seemed to lack in tactical areas. But I have now seen more emphasis placed on the tactical side of things...What's your opinion?


Hello Simon, it is true, they are improving tactically and that will be the key for their success.Thanks.
13/02/12 at 00:26:44 #7
Patrick Damalin
I think this is the time for zambian's, even though the Ivorien were tactical dicipline.
This show how the Zambien team have come this far. All erupean club should watch out for E.KATONGO.