The draw for the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 took place in Durban on Wednesday. Sixteen teams from across Africa, from Algeria in the north to South Africa in the south, Ghana in the west and Ethiopia in the east were placed in four groups of four. The tournament kicks off on the 19th January 2013, the first game will be between hosts South Africa and debutants to continental competition Cape Verde.
As with all major tournaments there’s always a rush to label one of the groups as a “Group of Death”, for AFCON 2013 it appears that Group D has been chosen to be awarded that particular moniker. I thought I’d do some basic analysis on the groups using the much derided (though broadly accurate) FIFA World Rankings. I’ve run two separate metrics on the groups. The first one is to find the average world rankings of the sides contained in the groups. The other is to calculate the average world rankings of each country’s opponents.
FIFA world rankings for AFCON 2013 competitors (as of October 2012)
The above table shows the current (as of October 2012) FIFA world rankings of every Africa Cup of Nations 2013 competitor. The four “seeds”, South Africa (hosts), Zambia (holders), Ghana and Ivory Coast are all in bold/italic. What’s interesting from the above is that African powerhouses Ghana aren’t the top ranked side in their group, instead it’s Mali. Perhaps more interestingly hosts South Africa aren’t the top ranked side in the group either. That honour for top ranked side goes to Cape Verde Islands.
Cape Verde will be competing in their first Africa Cup of Nations in their history. Whilst many are viewing the South Africa vs Cape Verde game as a home banker a quick look at the respective countries recent form will show you that Cape Verde have some notable scalps under their belt (if that isn’t too much of a mixed metaphor). with victories over Mali, Burkina Faso and Cameroon in recent months.
The rise of the Blue Sharks (yep, Cape Verde are nicknamed the Blue Sharks, so that’s another African football sobriquet for you to remember) isn’t particularly surprising. They can draw from a deep pool of talent from across Europe and have players playing in the Portuguese, French and Dutch top flight. Ze Luis, a 21-year old attacker, has already played at Old Trafford in the Champions League this season. They’re no mugs. Cameroon have already seen their teeth, South Africa won’t want to feel their bite in January.*
Cape Verde may find that 2013 is the year that they finally become a football nation in their own right rather than “where Nani comes from”, though I’m sure the fact that their defender Carlitos is Nani’s cousin may get a couple of mentions before the tournament kicks off. During the last Africa Cup of Nations in 2012 it was Equatorial Guinea who surprised many when their rag-tag bunch of lower league Spanish players made it to the last eight. I can certainly see Cape Verde making a similar impact to the Equatoguineans, and whilst Cape Verde may not be hosts like Equatorial Guinea were I think they have a lot more talent available to them.
Average FIFA world ranking of opponents in group stages
Togo (or Emmanuel Adebayor’s Togo as you’ll see most European outlets describe them as) have landed themselves with the toughest draw of all. The average FIFA world ranking of the sides they will face is 28. Despite the current incumbents of number 28 in the FIFA world rankings being Ireland, I still think this means they’ll have a tough job on their hands in January. It’s defending champions Zambia who face the weakest opposition in their group.
Average FIFA world ranking of countries in each group at Africa Cup of Nations 2013
As you can see from above it’s Group D that is way ahead of the others in terms of the average FIFA world ranking of the sides. Therefore it’s Group D that can perhaps best be described as the “Group of Death”.
* – it’s important to get the shark references out of the way before the Africa Cup of Nations begins in January 2013.