Friday, 13 January 2012

African Cup of Nations Preview: Group A

Welcome to Real Talk Football's African Cup of Nation's preview. Here you'll find all you need to know about each team in this years tournament which gets under way on the January 21st. 

For news, listings and all you need to know, make sure you follow me on Twitter.

Group A

Iban Iyanga
Equatorial Guinea

Best finish: First time qualifiers

Key Man: Iban Iyanga

Winger who plays for Las Palmas, in Spain’s Segunda Division, he is 24 years old and has 6 caps for the co-hosts.

Coach: Gilson Paulo

Took over as coach on the 3rd of January due to former coach Henri Michael quitting due to a protest at “third party” interference. Paulo had previously worked as Sports Director at the Vasco da Gama football academy.

Qualification process: Co-hosts

Previous appearances: 0

Vs. Libya – 21/01/12
Vs. Senegal – 25/01/12
Vs. Zambia – 29/01/12


Best finish: Runners-Up 1982

Key Man: Samir Aboud

National team goalkeeper and captain. The most successful player in Libyan football history, winning 18 different titles with Al-Ittahad, the 39 year old brings vast amounts of experience.

Coach: Marcos Paqueta

Brazilian coach, 53, has previous experience coaching in United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and in his native country. Managed the Saudi Arabia national team at World Cup 2006. With the Arab uprising, and new found patriotism, the national team are riding on the wave of emotion and new found optimism, and the football teams qualification has created its on piece of history. New kit, new flag, new colours, they'll hope to cause some history and be dark horses for the ACN title.

Qualification process: Top Two Runners-Up

Previous appearances:  2

Vs. Equatorial Guinea – 21/01/12
Vs. Zambia – 25/01/12
Vs. Senegal – 29/01/12


Best finish: Runners-Up 2002

Key Man: Moussa Sow

The Lille striker has been subject of a bid from Turkish side Fenerbahce which could hamper his preparation for the ACN tournament. The 26 year old will link up with fellow in-form striker Demba Ba, and could make up a feared front pairing.

Coach: Amara Traore

Been in charge since December 2009, he was a member of the historic 2002 squad which reached the World Cup quarter final, however he didn’t make a single appearance. His only other managerial experience was with second division Senegalese side ASC Linguere.

Qualification process: Group E Winner

Previous appearances: 11

Vs. Zambia – 21/01/12
Vs. Equatorial Guinea – 25/01/12
Vs. Libya – 29/01/12


Best finish: Runners-Up 1974, 1994

Key Man: Colin Mbusema

This name may be familiar to a few Portsmouth fans, he made 4 appearances for the south coast club between 2005-07. He’s been a numerous clubs from Turkey to Portugal, but has found his feet again in South African football, now plying his trade with Golden Arrows, and has hit 11 goals in 14 appearances. Renowned for his poor behaviour, Mbesuma has a chance to prove his worth on Africa’s biggest stage. He has 14 goals in 36 appearances.

Coach: Herve Renard

Former defender who spent his career playing in France. Now, 43, has previously managed in England with Cambridge United, and is taking up his second stint as Zambian head coach.

Qualification process: Group C Winner

Previous appearances: 14

Vs. Senegal – 21/01/12
Vs. Libya – 25/01/12
Vs. Equatorial Guinea – 29/01/12

Scroll down for part two!

African Cup of Nations Preview: Group B

Group B

Cote d’Ivoire

Best finish: Winners 1992

Key Man: Yaya Toure

Twenty years since Ivory Coast last won Africa’s biggest prize, Yaya Toure is at the peak of his career and can lead them to glory. His presence in the Manchester City midfield has already been felt during his absence, as he has become the main protagonist for the Citizens this season. He has 59 caps for the Elephants, and will form a solid partnership with Cheick Tiote in the middle of the park. Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Gervinho will provide the firepower.

Coach: Francois Zahoi

A former Ivory Coast international, he replaced Sven Goran Eriksson in 2010. The Elephants won all of their games in the qualification process, scoring 19 goals and only conceding 4 goals. The pre-tournament favourites, with an array of the best players in Africa, Ivory Coast have high expectations.

Qualification process: Group H Winner

Previous appearances: 18

Vs. Sudan – 22/01/12
Vs. Burkina Faso – 26/01/12
Vs. Angola – 30/01/12

Sudan national team

Best finish: Winners 1970

Key Man: Haitham Mustafa

This man embodies Sudanese football, represented the biggest club in the country; Al-Hilal, for over fifteen years. He’s the club captain, national team captain, and has 120 caps for Sudan. Mustafa is a play making central midfielder, with excellent vision, passing ability, who dictates the tempo of play. He has more than 14 titles with his club side, and is one of the top players in African football.

Coach: Mohammed Abdulla Ahmed

Ahmed led the only East African representative into the tournament as the top two runners-up. The “Falcons” finished level with Ghana in Group I, missing on topping the group on the head-to-head ruling. He was in charge of Sudan for the 2008 ACN, failing to pick up a single point or scoring a single goal. A vast improvement on that poor performance is a must.

Qualification process: Top Two Runners-Up

Haitham Mustafa on the left, Sudan legend

Previous appearances: 7

Vs. Ivory Coast – 22/01/12
Vs. Angola – 26/01/12
Vs. Burkina Faso – 30/01/12

Jonathan Pitroipa, right, Burkina Faso winger

Burkina Faso

Best finish: Fourth place 1998

Key Man: Jonathan Pitroipa

The speedy winger currently plays for Stade Rennais in France, after beginning his career in Germay and is arguably one of the most well known Burkinabe players. He has 23 caps, and has 3 goals.

Keep an eye on Lyon centre-back Bakary Kone who has put in some good first team performances this season, as well as midfielder Charles Kabore, who plays for Marseille.

A surprise inclusion to the squad is 16 year old midfielder Bertrand Troare who once had a trial with Chelsea Football Club. He made his International debut against co-hosts Equatorial Guinea last September.

Coach: Paolo Duarte

Former centre-back who spent the majority of his career playing in the top two tiers of Portuguese football. He was in charge of the club during the 2010 campaign that crashed out at the group stage in third place. In the qualification 12 goals from 4 games, and qualified with consummate ease.

Qualification process: Group F Winner

Previous appearances: 7

Vs. Angola – 22/01/12
Vs. Ivory Coast – 26/01/12
Vs. Sudan – 30/01/12

Manucho, Angola star striker


Best finish: Quarter-finals 2002, 2010

Key Man: Manucho

A name familiar with Manchester United fans, he was hailed as a promising young striker when he signed, but ultimately only one appearances and no impact at the club. The 28 year old has learned from his experiences, and is now on the books at Spanish side Rayo Valladolid, where he's still looking to settle.

For his national team, it’s a completely different story. He’s showcased his scoring prowess, with his excellent aerial ability and powerful shot. He has 16 goals in 33 international appearances.

Coach: Lito Vidigal

As a player, he was a defender and played in the lower leagues of Portuguese football, where he also began his managerial career. He was capped 29 times as a player and represented Angola at the 1998 African Cup of Nations.

Qualification process: Group J Winner

Previous appearances: 5

Vs. Burkina Faso – 22/01/12
Vs. Sudan – 26/01/12
Vs. Ivory Coast – 30/01/12

Remember to vote in the poll, and let me know who you think will win the African Cup of Nations. Also follow me on Twitter @RealTlkFootball

African Cup of Nations Preview: Group C

Group C

Bruno Ecuele Manga, Gabon's uncompromising centre-back

Best finish: Quarter-Finals 1996

Key Man: Bruno Ecuele Manga

The 6ft 1in centre-back is one of the most promising defenders in French football, currently playing for Ligue 1 side Lorient. He was signed in 2010 from Ligue 2 side Angers as a replacement for Arsenal bound Laurent Koscielny. A dominating and intimidating presence at the heart of the Gabon defence, he’s set for a key role in the side.

Coach: Gernot Rohr

The 58 year old German has more than twenty years managerial experience in French football, with a small stint in Tunisia and Switzerland, so it was a perfect fit for him to take charge of the French speaking nation since February 2010. The side are nicknamed “The Panthers”.

Qualification process: Co-hosts

Previous appearances: 4

Vs. Niger – 23/01/12
Vs. Morocco – 27/01/12
Vs. Tunisia – 31/01/12


Best finish: First time qualifiers

Key Man: Kassaly Daouda

The 28 year old goalkeeper will be in for a tough time at the tournament and will have to be on point from the opening game against co-hosts Gabon. He plays for Cameroonian side 11 time domestic league champions Coton Sport, and has over 50 International caps.

Coach: Harouna Doula Gabde

Highly disciplined manager, who is seen as a motivator who relies on hard work and discipline from his team. His side edged into qualification with a better head-to-head record than their rivals despite topping the group with the worst goal difference in the group.

Qualification process: Group G Winner

Previous appearances: 0

Vs. Gabon – 23/01/12
Vs. Tunisia – 27/01/12
Vs. Morocco – 31/01/12


Best finish: Winners 1976

Key Man: Marouane Chamakh

The Arsenal forward has had a poor twelve months at the North London, after initially impressing. He is shot of confidence, and cannot catch a break. With the sensational form of fellow striker Robin Van Persie, he has found himself a serial bench warmer. He says he’s willing to wait for his chance at Arsenal, but needs first team football. So this tournament is a perfect chance to rebuild some confidence and return to Arsenal in the same vein of form he had when he joined for Bordeaux in summer 2010. The 28 year old has 17 goals in 59 appearances for the “Lions”.

Coach: Eric Gerets

The well respected Gerets, 57, is well travelled, having coached all over Europe, including Championship winning spells in Holland and Turkey, as well as successful spells in Germany, and his native Belgium.

Qualification process: Group D Winner

Previous appearances: 13

Vs. Tunisia – 23/01/12
Vs. Gabon – 27/01/12
Vs. Niger – 31/01/12

Issam Jemaa, Tunisia's top goalscorer

Best finish: Winners 2004

Key Man: Sami Allagui

The pacey striker plays for Bundesliga side Mainz, and is expected to get the goals for the “Eagles of Carthage”. Paired up front with Tunisia’s all time top goal scorer Issam Jemaa, they could help reach the heights they reached in 2004.

Also watch out for impressive defenders Karim Haggui of Hannover, and Aymen Abdennour of Toulouse.

Coach: Sami Trabelsi

His first managerial job taking over in March 2011. What the 43 year lacks in managerial experience, he makes up for in professional experience. As a centre-back, he made over 50 appearances for Tunisia, and appeared at the 1998 World Cup.

Qualification process: Group K Runner-Up

Previous appearances: 14

Vs. Morocco – 23/01/12
Vs. Niger – 27/01/12
Vs. Gabon – 31/01/12

Remember to vote in the poll, and let me know who you think will win the African Cup of Nations.

African Cup of Nations Preview: Group D

Group D

Ghana right-back John Paintsil with his nations flag

Best finish: Winners 1963, 1965, 1978, 1982

Key Man: Asamoah Gyan

Who else but Baby Jet!? Ghana’s undoubted star man is one of the biggest characters on and off the field in African football. Gyan now plays in the UAE, where he has been on top form scoring 12 goals in 10 appearances.

The 26 year old has 27 goals in 54 appearances for Ghana, and proved himself as one of the most coveted strikers in the world, after his superb performances at World Cup 2010, and more recently at Wembley, scoring an excellent goal in the 1-1 draw with England. He could lead Ghana to glory again, along with the Ayew brothers, and an array of hard working technical players, the pre-tournament favourites tag is well deserved.

Coach: Goran Stevanovic

He took over from fellow Serb Milovan Rajevac in January last year, and navigated Ghana undefeated to the top of Group I. The 45 year old has previous experience managing in his native Serbia with one its most famous clubs; Partizan.

Qualification process: Group I Winner

Previous appearances: 17

Vs. Botswana – 24/01/12
Vs. Mali – 28/01/12
Vs. Guinea – 1/02/12

Botswana star Dipsey Selolwane

Best finish: First time qualifiers

Key Man: Dipsey Selolwane

Botswana’s all time top goal scorer with 15 goals from 35 appearances. The versatile 33 year old, can play central midfield, or as a striker where he is expected to start for the side nicknamed “The Zebra’s”.

Coach: Stanley Tshosane

The 54 year old was named CAF African Coach of the Year thanks to his achievements in getting relative minnows into the African Nations Cup. He has called no fear in his sides approach to the tournament, and is in the mood to cause an upset.

Qualification process: Group K Winner

Previous appearances: 0

Vs. Ghana – 24/01/12
Vs. Guinea – 28/01/12
Vs. Mali – 01/02/12

Mali players celebrate coming from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 with Angola

Best finish: Runners-Up 1972

Key Man: Modibo Maiga

The Sochaux forward has well and truly put himself in the shop window, after pining for a move to Premiership side Newcastle, which eventually fell through, will use this as a chance to showcase his talent with the option to make a summer transfer. The £7 million rated forward can play wide left or centre forward has 4 goals in 12 appearances for his club side this season.

Coach: Alan Giresse

Former French international footballer and member of the Euro 1984 wining side. He spent five years managing in France, before heading into international management with the Georgian national side, Gabon and then taking over the “Eagles” in 2010.

Qualification process: Group A Winner

Previous appearances: 6

Vs. Guinea – 24/01/12
Vs. Ghana – 28/01/12
Vs. Botswana – 01/02/12

Captain Pascal Feindouno set to show his abilities to find a new club

Best finish: Runners-Up 1976

Key Man: Pascal Feindouno

The 30 year old forward was in the headlines recently due to his club side Sion being deducted 36 points due signing six ineligible players due to a transfer embargo set on the club, which he was one of. He has subsequently been released, is a free agent and this is a chance to find himself a new club. He has 21 goals in 55 appearacnes, and is the national team captain.

Coach: Michel Dussuyer

His second stint in charge of the “National Elephants”, the 52 year old was a former goalkeeper who spent his whole career playing in France. He was the assistant manager of the Ivory Coast at the 2006 World Cup, and is a former manager of the Benin national team.

Qualification process: Group A Winner

Previous appearances: 6

Vs. Mali – 24/01/12
Vs. Botswana – 28/01/12
Vs. Ghana – 01/02/12

Remember to follow me on Twitter @RealTlkFootball and don't forget to vote in my poll, let me know who you think will win the tournament.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Mark Hughes appointed Queens Park Rangers manager

New boss Mark Hughes at Loftus Road yesterday
Yesterday Mark Hughes was named new manager of QPR. The West London club have had a turbulent return to the Premiership to say the least, with off field issues such as ownership issues, and race rows, have been an ever presence in the background at a club who had a reasonably good start to the season before going on an alarming slide going nine games without a win, last beating Stoke 3-2 away on the 19th of November. This saw Neil Warnock, a little surprisingly losing his job.

Warnock saw QPR not win for nine games

The egos in the dressing room haven’t caused the major problems as some pundits predicted, with the combustible characters at Loftus Road, including names such as Adel Taraabt, Jay Bothroyd and of course, not forgetting, Joey Barton have yet to caused any headlines in the national newspapers. Unfortunately, the notably poor on field performances have been the subject of much criticsm and caused Warnock his job.

Now, enter a similar person with a no nonsense approach to management, adding to the name of combustible names in that dressing room; Mark Hughes. The 48 year old former Barcelona, Manchester United and Chelsea striker has managed at many different scales, beginning his career as Wales’s national coach, then spending four good years at Ewood Park as Blackburn manager learning the ins and outs of Premiership football, then taking the coveted Manchester City role, somewhat controversially due to his ties with the red side of Manchester.

He signed a majority of the players who are still currently at the club, and fighting for the title. These include the current club captain Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Gareth Barry, Kolo Toure and Nigel De Jong.
He made some excellent signings as Blackburn boss as well, signing Christopher Samba for £400,00 from Herta Berlin, Benni McCarthy from Porto for just £2.5 million, David Bentley from Arsenal for £500,00 (who went on to be sold to Spurs for £15 million) and even brought in Ryan Nelsen on a free from DC United. Proof that he has an eye for a bargain, and knows who is and isn’t good enough to play in the Premiership.

Mark Hughes signs Vincent Kompany from Hamburg for £6m in 2008
Crucially for QPR fans, ignoring his odd tenure as Fulham boss, Hughes will add some discipline to the squad and hopefully some more stability. He is ultimately more tactically astute that Warnock, who was more of a motivator. He’s signed a three year contract, and those dreams of managing a “big club” have hopefully gone from his system, and he should look to create his own success.

Another plus, which I have to praise Hughes for, is that he has a proven he has a knack for making good purchases when there is a little amount of money available (at Blackburn) and with lots of funds available (at Man City). At QPR where there are a reasonable amount funds available, Christopher Samba and Alex are both names who have been linked, as a centre-back is the top priority. A striker is needed as well, with Andy Johnson linked, and possibly another central midfielder, as Alejandro Faurlin is out for the rest of the season.

QPR have a good range of players in the squad, the likes of Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Anton Ferdinand with lots of Premiership experience, with some raw potential in Adel Taraabt and Armand Traore, adding to a side who are good enough to stay up, it’s just up to Hughes to get the club back on the right track and steer them clear of relegation.

Real Talk Football Returns!

“Writer’s block: a condition primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some “blocked” writers have been unable to work for years on end, some abandoning their careers.”
Not to make excuses, but there was a lot on my plate for the last four months, and I finally find myself in a position to get writing again. I also suffered from this “Writer’s Block”. Of course, there were things to write about, however the motivation wasn't.

Football is in a different place at the moment, compared to the last time I posted on this blog, and everything seems to be moving so quick! We’re in the middle of a transfer window, which has gone excruciatingly slow. There are new managers, race rows are rife, teams are suffering from poorly managed pre-seasons (Barcelona) and legends are coming out of retirement to save their respective clubs. Real Talk Football is back to take a look, and try make sense of some of the biggest stories in football.

Finally, the main reason to my hiatus, for me, it was due to an alarming drop in the quality of my work. Falling below my own personal standards is something I won’t stand for, and will not allow it to happen again. So I had to step away and sort myself out.

Welcome back, Happy New Year to you all, I wish you all the best for 2012. Let’s get back to the beautiful stuff, you know, the football.