African Nations Cup tournament kicks off

19 January 2008 at 21:06 | 3445 views

By Abu B. Shaw, London.

All roads now lead to the African Nations Cup tournament, the biggest football competition in Africa, which commences on Sunday January 20 in the West African state of Ghana.

Sixteen African nations will slug it out in Ghana, during the three weeks football bonanza. Come February 10, the day when the grand finale is played, no sports analysts can truly predict which country will lift this coveted trophy.

The 26th edition of the African Nations Cup curtain raiser will take place Sunday in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, where the host entertains West African neighbours, the Republic of Guinea.

The Black Stars of Ghana(photo), four-time-winners of this tournament in 1982, are hot favourite if their stunning display during the 2006 World Cup in Germany is anything to go by.

Led by Michael Essien, Chelsea’s versatile bull dozer and Portsmouth’s midfield dynamo, Sullay Muntari, the Black Stars are aware of the uphill task they face against Syli Nationale led by Ismail Bangura of Ukraine’s Dynamo Kiev. Guinea’s giant defender Bobo Balbe is also a man to watch in Group A. Namibia and Morocco, also in Group A, will slug it out in Accra on Monday.

In Group B, another cracking thriller is scheduled for Monday in Sekondi between two African soccer heavyweights, the Elephants of Ivory Coast and Nigeria’s Super Eagles. Chelsea’s Ivorian captain Didier Drogba will lead the onslaught against Nigeria while Newcastle’s deadly striker Obafemi Martins will be Nigeria’s main marksman. Mali and Benin, also in Group B, will play in Sekondi on Monday.

In Group C, cup holders Pharaohs of Egypt and the Indobitable Lions of Cameroon led by Barcelona’s deadly striker Samuel Eto will clash in Kumasi on Tuesday. Also in the reckoning in Group C are much improved Sudan and Zambia who also play their opening match in Kumasi on Tuesday

In Group D, are the Lions of Tunisia who take on the Lions of Senegal in Tamale, while Bafana Bafana of South Africa will encounter Angola on Wednesday in Tamale.

Many teams in Europe particularly in England and France have felt the pinch as the African Nations Cup gathers momentum. In England, around 41 African players have left their respective clubs for Ghana to boost their motherland.

The first edition of the African Nations Cup took place in 1957. Keep tuned for African Nations Cup updates from London.