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Youthful exuberance proves key to African success


The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations finished last weekend. All of the players are back with their respective clubs, their focus now on club glory rather than on the international arena. It’s a good time to take a short look back at some of the statistics that came out of this enthralling tournament.
Perhaps the biggest story of this years Africa Cup of Nations was the failure of Ivory Coast’s “golden” generation to lift the trophy that had almost seemed their birthright. For many players this was likely to be their last continental competition and the stats certainly bear that out.
Of the players that took the field for each nation in South Africa, it was The Elephants who fielded the oldest set of players. The average age of an Ivorian in this competition was 29 years old. When you consider that Nigeria’s average age was 24 you can see that there’ll certainly be a large amount of rebuilding work to do for the Ivorians before the World Cup. It was the eventual winners Nigeria who fielded the youngest players during the tournament.

[iframe src=”http://infogr.am/AFCON-2013–Average-Ages” width=”550″ height=”605″]

The youngest player to play at the Africa Cup of Nations was Niger’s

who was born in October 1994. There were also seven players who were born in 1993 who played during the tournament, they were Ilídio José Panzo (Angola), Mukuka Mulenga (Zambia), Kenneth Omeruo (Nigeria), Salif Coulibaly (Mali), Emmanuel Mbola (Zambia), Behailu Assefa Gobeze (Ethiopia) and Alula Girma Mekonnen (Ethiopia).

The oldest player to play in this year’s competition was the ebullient Congolese keeper Robert Kidiaba who celebrated his 37th birthday on the 1st February this year. Kidiaba entertained the world with his famous bum-shuffle goal celebration but unfortunately for Claude Le Roy’s charges the celebration wasn’t seen too often as his side left the competition during the group stages. Morocco keeper Nadir Lamyaghri is only a few days younger than the DR Congo shot stopper and it’s likely that he’s also seen his last Africa Cup of Nations.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Africa

 

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Africa Cup of Nations 2013: The players


With the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 almost here I thought I’d take a look at the players who make up the sixteen squads taking part in the competition. Some of the graphics are interactive, so feel free to have a click around.

[iframe width=”680″ height=”2438″ src=”http://infogr.am/afcon2013-3294397″%5D

The above graphic was made with infogr.am and the data came from the ever reliable wikipedia.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Africa, International

 

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Zambia – Champions of Africa


Eighteen years after eighteen of Zambia’s footballers were killed off the coast of Libreville, Stippola Sunzu scored the eighteenth penalty of a marathon shootout to win his country their first ever Africa Cup of Nations.

During the shootout the Zambian players could be heard indulging in communal singing in support of their team-mates as they faced the dreaded walk to the penalty spot. It was this team-ethic that had seen Zambia storm towards the final. This sense of teamwork and fighting for one another stretched from the pitch all the way to the touchline as the wonderful Hervé Renard became a virtual 12th man during their battles to the final.

Renard has come a long way since his unsuccessful stint as manager of Cambridge United (it’s interesting to note at the time the Cambridge board wanted to replace him with Dion Dublin, a man who has become more famous for inventing his own musical instrument than his managerial abilities since), and has come even further since he ran his own business cleaning offices in Paris. His screams of “MAYUNKAAA!”, directed at eventual winner of the Golden Boot, via virtue of assists, Emmanual Mayunka became a running amusement amongst fans on twitter during the tournament.

His methods may have often seemed unconventional, during the final he could be heard shouting for his supposedly less illustrious team to “keep the ball on the floor”, whilst he also only used two of his three permitted substitutes despite an enregy sapping period of extra time. However, no one can dispute his decision making skills after this magnificent victory.

Incredibly in the minutes after the cup was awarded Renard managed to enhance his reputation further. Firstly by carrying injured fullback Joseph Musonda down the touchline to allow him to join in the celebrations with his ecstatic team-mates, Renard’s white shirt gleaming under the Stade d’Angondjé floodlights. Secondly, by giving his medal to Kalusha Bwalya, the head of the Zambian FA. Bwalya is considered Zambia’s greatest ever player and was a part of the ’93 squad that were tragically killed in the plane crash, but was luckily not on the plane as he was heading back to his club in Europe. If you’re after symbolism and stories, there are few games of football that will ever match this one.

The game was littered with moments of sportsmanship, from Didier Drogba consoling the tearful Musonda after he had to be substituted early on (Drogba remains a legend and a much loved figure in Africa despite his image in the UK) to Ivory Coast’s goalkeeper Boubacar Barry shaking the hand of fellow keeper Mwenee after conceding a penalty during the shootout. The final was a much needed tonic for football’s soul after a sour weekend of Suarez/Evra hand-shake shenanigans.

For all the talk of Ivory Coast’s golden generation of Didier Drogba, the Touré brothers, Solomon Kalou and Gervinho it was the ‘Copper generation’ of Zambia that truly deserved their victory. They had seen off African heavy-weights Senegal, Ghana and Ivory Coast to win the cup whilst the highest ranked side the Ivorians had met during the competition were Burkina Faso (ranked 14th in Africa).

Furthermore the Zambians contained a side with only three or four players who play outside of Africa, and only two who play in Europe (one in Switzerland and the other in Russia). For many this may be a surprise, but a quick glance through the history books shows that each winning squad from the last five Africa Cup of Nations (Egypt 3, Tunisia 1, Zambia 1) has been based primarily in Africa. You have to go back to Cameroon’s victory of 2002 to find a squad that was based mainly in Europe.

It will be interesting to see whether sides packed with European stars like Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast change their method because as the wise man once said:

All that glitters is not gold, sometimes, just sometimes, it’s copper.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in Africa, International

 

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Youthful exuberance provides key to Africa Cup of Nations success


The following table shows the average age of player that each of the competing nations fielded during the group stages of the Africa Cup of Nations 2012 in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea. As expected Cote D’Ivoire’s fading golden generation who are attempting to win their nation their first major trophy since 1992 is one of the oldest squads at the tournament.

It’s not just Cote D’Ivoire who headed into the tournament with their golden generation. The Zebras of Botswana, who qualified for their first ever tournament were led by their now retired 33-year old captain Dispy Selolwane. Whilst the Angloans came into the Cup of Nations fielding a squad containing three members of their World Cup 2006 squad and another who only missed that tournament due to injury. The Palancas Negras will have to rebuild in time for the next Cup of Nations in South Africa next January.

Average age of players who played for each nation during the group stages of Africa Cup of Nations 2012

Average age of players who played for each nation during the group stages of Africa Cup of Nations 2012. * denotes qualified for Quarter Final

Of the four most youthful sides at the Africa Cup of Nations, three qualified for the last eight. Only Niger, who fielded the youngest players at the finals failed to reach the quarter finals (though perhaps their youthfulness can be brought slightly into question due to previous scandals..

Youngest players to play in the Africa Cup of Nations 2012 Gabon/Equatorial Guinea group stages

Youngest players to play in the Africa Cup of Nations 2012 Gabon/Equatorial Guinea group stages

The table above shows a list of the ten youngest players who played during the group stages. It’s notable that a lot of them are already on the books of some sides in Europe. Poko is at Bordeaux, Alhassan plays in Italy with Genoa’s reserves whilst Madinga and Bangoura are in Spain with Celta Vigo and Rayo Vallecano respectively. Mohammed Abu is a Man City player and finds himself on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt this season. The other player with links to England is the youngest player at the tournament Bertrand Traoré who has been at Chelsea’s academy recently though there appears to be some amount of confusion as to whether he’s there on a permanent basis or not.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2012 in Africa

 

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Sudan’s domestic players show Africa the benefit of team-work


After what we’ve seen at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations it’s perhaps a little foolish to talk in terms of more shocks. Why should we continue to be shocked when our predictions are continually thrown back in our faces time after time?

Sudan became the latest side to upset the African apple cart when they qualified for the quarter finals last night. It was the first Africa cup of nations game that Sudan had won since the 1970 final (Jonathan Wilson covers this excellently in his article this morning), and it’s the first time since Uganda in 1978 that an east African nation is represented in the last eight.

Much has been made in pre-tournament reviews about the fact that every single member of the Sudanese squad is based within the country. This point was often made derogatorily towards the side in the build up to the tournament, but perhaps now that Sudan are through to the quarter finals we can view their domestic status with a little more positivity.

The Angolans (the side who the Falcons of Jediane pipped to second place) must be sick of the sight of Sudanese striker Mudathir El-Tahir. Not only did Mudathir score a brace against Burkina Faso in the final group game to qualify Sudan as runners-up over the Angolans, he also scored a brace for his club side Al-Hilal against Angola’s Recretavio Caála in the African Champions League (Al-Hilal won the tie 3-1 on aggregate).

Interestingly the other Angolan side in the Champions Legue last season, Inter Luanda, only just scraped Sudanese giants Al-Merreikh on penalties. With these results between the two nation’s clubs sides in mind it’s perhaps not entirely surprising that Sudan have managed to knock Angola out of the African Cup of Nations. After all, the Sudanese league is ranked fifth best in Africa (only behind Tunisia, Egypt, Nigeria and DR Congo) whilst the Angloan league is ranked joint 12th and the Angolan squad does contain a healthy dose of their own domestic talent in their squad. It’s undeniable that the experience gained from African players in top European leagues is invaluable to the development of a country’s football talent, however the power of team-work can never be underestimated.

In comparison to most other countries Sudan have had unparalleled opportunities to blend a team. In addition to competitions such as the CHAN mentioned in the Guardian article, Sudan came a very creditable 3rd in the most recent CECAFA Cup (a competition for East African nations), whilst the bulk of the Sudanese side come from only two clubs (the previously mentioned Al-Hilal and Al-Merreikh). In the match against Burkina Faso seven of the Sudan starting eleven were supplied from Al-Hilal, three from Al-Merreikh and a solitary member from Al-Ittihad. In comparison to this the Burkinabe squad contained players who played in fourteen different nations, the Angolans picked a set of players from eight different leagues.

Sudan now move onto the quarter finals where they face Zambia. The Chipolopolo are another side that draw many of their players from Africa (only Chisamba Lungu (Ural SverDlovsk, Russia) and Emmanuel Mayunka (Young Boys) play in European leagues). There could be an interesting sub-plot in this quarter final tie as Zambian winger Jonas Sakuwaha, like nine of the Sudanese squad, plays his football in Omdurman for Al-Merreikh. Sakuwaha has not yet played in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations but his tactical insight into many of his club team-mates could prove invaludable. It’s inevitable that Zambian coach Herve Renard will have a chat with him about Sudan as Renard chose to attend Angola vs Cote D’Ivorie.

Even Renard expected an Angolan victory.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Africa

 

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