According to the ‘gods’ of African football, this is how Africa’s 16 strongest teams will be grouped in the fight for glory at Gabon and Equatorial Guinea come January, 2012.
Group A: Equatorial Guinea, Lybia , Senegal, Zambia
Group B: Ivory Coast, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Angola
Group C: Gabon, Niger, Morroco, Tunisia
Group D: Ghana, Botswana, Mali, Guinea
Before I take a look at the other teams making Group D, lets look at the strengths of Ghana. The Black Stars were among 4 undefeated teams in the qualifiers – Ghana, Senegal, Guinea and Ivory Coast. Ghana and Lybia were the best defensive teams with just one goal conceded in 6 qualifying games.
MALI – ONE POINT ASSURED
Mali is probably going to pose the biggest threat to Ghana. Head-to-Head, Ghana are better than Mali. Over the last decade, Ghana has played Mali 3 times. Two of these games were drawn while Ghana has won once. In total, Ghana has beaten Mali by 5-3. During the qualifiers, they scored 8 goals and conceded as many as 6 which reveals a clear defensive problem. Ghana should not lose against Mali if the black Stars can exploit this weakness in defense. Malian players to watch include Bordeaux striker Cheick Tidiane Diabaté, who scored 4 of their 8 goals during the qualifiers.
BOTSWANA – A SURPRISE AWAITS THE COMPLACENT
It is easy to fall to the temptation of writing off Botswana as whipping boys of Group D. But before you put on your ‘underrating glasses’, be informed that they lost once in 8 qualifiers. This loss came only after they had qualified to the 2012 Nations Cup finals. Respectable African teams like Tunisia and Togo could not stand in their way to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Of the 8 qualifying games, Botswana scored 7 goals and conceded only 3. Vasco Da Gama’s 25 year old Jerome Ramatlhakwane scored 5 of these goals. In short, Botswana is Ramatlhakwane! Once he is clipped, they are done.
GUINEA – A POSSIBLE GROUP DECIDER
I have a strong feeling that Guinea is going to play the role of ‘Group Decider’. Undefeated during the qualifiers, teams must either draw or overcome Guinea to book their place in the quarter finals. What makes Guinea so dangerous is that they have so many goal scorers. However, Al Nascr SC striker Ismaël Bangoura and Arles-Arvignon defender, Bobo Baldé, are among the most dangerous of players in this difficult to beat Guinean side.
Group D is Ghana’s to take if Mali’s weakness in defense is exploited, Botswana’s Ramatlhakwane is crowded out and a superior team spirit is taken to the Guinea game.