Sunday, January 29, 2012
Yesterday the two teams went into the game on the back of poor runs with Peterborough in 15th in the Championship and Portsmouth in 16th. By the end of the day they had swapped places.
Portsmouth's off the field problems have been well documented recently, nevertheless their fans got right behind them and it was a fairly decent number who turned out to support them.
That said we wouldn't have felt too sorry if they had gone back to the South Coast without any points and with McCann, Frecklington and Boyd coming back into the Posh team we were fairly optimistic that Posh could finally get another win on the board. Things didn't get off to a good start. A poor clearance from player of the month (those awards are always a curse) by Gabriel Zakuani bounced around six yard box before Erik Huskelepp put the ball into the back of the goal for Pompey.
Posh played themselves back into the game and there were some good passing moves and plenty of pressure. However, daft mistakes and bad luck as well as speculative shots and looking a bit lightweight in general compared to the Pompey defence meant they never put pressure on Portsmouth's goal. Portsmouth on the other hand didn't look like they fancied attacking much but when they did they looked lethal on the counter attack. Inevitably just before half time when we were thinking that Posh might get back into it and put another complexion on the game, or go in one down at the break and regroup Portsmouth hit them on the break and Jason Pearce put the visitors two up.
It was clear that Posh were going to change things around once the second half started and they didn't take long to put Mark Little on, who gave them more options out wide, but still they couldn't threaten the Pompey goal despite George Boyd playing well and pulling the strings in midfield. We had expected to see Emile Sinclair introduced, as he would have given them something different and a bit more threatening in the air up front. However, Darren Ferguson didn't agree and introduced Ryan Tunicliffe.
Peterborough have been well noted for their never say die attitude over the last couple of seasons and Paul Taylor and George Boyle really embodied this attitude. Well, they did until the 79th minute when another Portsmouth counter attacked again and Huskelepp got his second.
After that the long suffering Pompey fans were in ecstacy, a lot of the Posh fans looked like there was a fire drill and Posh were left chasing shadows.
A disappointing result, but a good day out at London Road.
The picture shows Erik Huskelepp putting Pompey 1-0 up.
Friday, January 20, 2012
Colours: Blue with white checked shirts / black shorts / black socks
Country population: 10,057,975
Guinea are one of my favourite teams in the Africa Cup of Nations, but somehow I don't think that they will get too far and they certainly don't have history on their side. Their best performance in the competition was when they reached the final in 1976, since then they have reached the Quarter Finals in 2004, 2006 and 2008. They have qualified for the World Cup Finals, however they have lifted the Cabral Cup Cup 5 times.
Star player: Ismael Bangoura
I have some very happy memories of seeing Bangoura play up front for Dynamo Kyiv and his goal celebration of jumping up and down like a kangaroo is always a joy to see. It was especially welcome when he scored the goal that sank Spartak Moscow in the UEFA Cup in 2008. They managed to get to the Semi final that year before going out to fellow Ukrainian's Shakhtar Donetsk. Bangoura scored one of the goals that sent them through in the Quarter Final against Paris Saint-Germain.
Bangoura started his career off at Athletico Coleah before moving on to the French League with a transfer to Corsican side Gazelec Ajaccio in 2004. He scored 15 goals in 44 league games before transferring to the bigger club Le Mans. He was then on the move to Dynamo Kyiv where between 2007 and 2008 he scored 28 goals in 46 games. He then went back to France and signed for Rennes and since 2010 he has been playing in Dubai for Al-Nasr, which probably suits his entourage who follow him around everywhere more than Kyiv did.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Colours: Green shirts with a yellow and red stripes / yellow shorts / red socks
Country population: 14,517,176
Mali have never qualified for the World Cup Finals, but they have faired better in the Africa Cup of Nations. In 1972 they reached the final losing to Congo 3-2. The next time that they qualified for the final stages came in 1994 when they reached the quarter finals, something that they have accomplished twice since. Last time out in 2010 they were responsible for one of the biggest come backs of all time when they scored 4 goals in the last 15 minutes to get a 4-4 draw with Angola
Star player: Mohamed Kalilou Traore
The attack minded midfielder started his career off at AS Real Bamako in 2006, but his career really took off when he was at NK Istra 1961. In 2008 he scored 9 goals in 27 games, which attracted bigger Croatian teams such as Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split. However, in 2010 he signed for Odense in Denmark and is again attracting attention from the bigger clubs.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Colours: Sky blue shirts with a white trim / black shorts / black socks
This is the first time that Botswana have qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations and they have never qualified for the World Cup. They have always been second best, but a particularly poor run of results saw them turn to Stanley Tshosane and results improved markedly with them becoming the first team to qualify for this tournament.
Star player: Jerome Ramalhakwanae
26 year old striker Ramatlhakwanae is currently without a club after leaving Brazilian giants Vasco de Gama. He signed from Santos, but was hindered by visa issues, he scored on his debut, but has since been released by the club.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Colours: All white with black trim
Country population: 24,233,431
Ghana are one of the favourites for the tournament having a wealth of talent at their disposal.
They have been playing football longer than a lot of the other African nations having formed their FA in 1957 when they were still known as the Gold Coast and under British administration. In 1960 they played a friendly against the all conquering Real Madrid and managed to get a very creditable 3-3 draw.
With regards to the Africa Cup of Nations Ghana are the second most successful team after Egypt having won the tournament in 1963, 1965, 1978 and 1982. Strangely though they did not qualify for the World Cup until 2006. However, they had qualified for 5 straight Olympics prior to this and in 1992 became the first African team to win a medal for football after getting a bronze in Barcelona. They did have a few dark years in the 1990s including in 1994 when parliament had to get involved, players Anthony Yeboah and Abedi Pele getting most of the blame. However, by the 21st century things were better and in 2010 they managed to get to the quarter finals and would have probably got to the Semi Final if it hadn't been for the hand of Suarez on the line keeping the ball out for Uruguay in the most blatant cheating since Maradona's 'hand of God'.
Star player: Suley Muntari
Suley Muntari is a key member of the squad and his experience and passing ability will probably help determine how well the Black Stars do. The midfielder would love to add to the FA Cup winners medal he won at Portsmouth and the Champions League medal he won with his current club Inter.
Colours: All white with red trim
Country population 11,245,284
Tunisia have qualified for 4 World Cup Finals, but have never got past the first round before. In 1978 they did become the first African team to win a game in the World Cup Finals by beating Mexico 3-1, they also held the reigning champions West Germany to a draw before getting the plane home. They were the only African team to be present both in the 2002 and 2006 World Cup Finals and came close to being there in 2010, but results went against them on the last day and Nigeria made it instead.
In 2004 they hosted the tournament for the third time and won the tournament, previously when they were hosts in 1965 they were runners up and in 1994 didn't get past the group stages.
Star player: Karim Haggui
The 6 foot 3 defender and captain of Tunisia currently plays in the Bundesliga for Hannover 96. In 2004 he was one of the youngest players in the squad that won the tournament and played in every game. He scored the decisive penalty that won the quarter final against Nigeria. In 2008 he was ever present again. Tunisia reached the quarter finals before losing to Cameroon after Haggui had gone off injured on 38 minutes.
Colours: All green with a red trim
The Atlas Lions are one of Africa's most successful teams, they won the trophy in 1976 and in 1896 became the first African team to win a World Cup group by finishing ahead of England, Poland and Portugal. They have appeared in the World Cup finals 4 times and in 2004 made it into the final of the Cup of Nations, but they couldn't manage to win the title.
They are managed by Belgian legend and master strategist Eric Gerets, so they should do well in the competition this time especially with the young exciting team that they have put together.
Star player: Adel Taarbat
The attacking midfielder was heralded as the new Zidane when he signed for Tottenham Hotspur in 2007, however things didn't really work out for him there and he probably didn't do himself any favours by saying that he should have signed for Arsenal instead. He was soon on his way to QPR where last season his fantastic performances helped Rangers win the Championship. His first proper season in the Premier League has not been a great success, as the player seems to have been unsettled by transfer rumours with PSG seeming the most likely suitors. He is a raw talent and as well as a chance to represent his country he might see the tournament as a good chance to puat himself in the sop window.
Colours: All orange
Known as Menas after the hausa gazelle that appears on the club badge Niger are traditionally one of the weaker African teams. Their best performance in the World Cup came in 1982 where they knocked out Somalia and Togo in qualification before losing out to Algeria. Their best result in qualification came in 1990 when they beat Mauritania 7-1.
Like the World Cup they have never qualified for Africa Cup of Nations before and their best results came previously in 2004 when they won all of their home teams in qualification. This time though they are in the finals thanks to a shock 1-0 win over reigning champions Egypt.
Star player: Ouuwo Moussa Maazou
Maazou is a centre forward who is currently on the books of CSKA Moscow, but is on loan at Belgian team Zulte Waregem. He started his career for Niger's army team ASFAN scoring 17 goals in 2006-2007 and 20 the following season. He then signed for Sporting Lokeren in Belgium and after scoring 6 goals in 9 games he was snapped up by Russian giants CSKA. He has never really made an impression at this ex-army club though and was loaned straight back to Lokeren. He did make a few appearances for CSKA when they were in the later stages of the UEFA Cup in 2010, but has spent most of his time on loan at Monaco, Bordeaux and now Waregem.
Colours: Yellow shirts / blue shorts / blue socks
Gabon are the joint hosts of the tournament and are one of the smaller countries in the finals. Their first football match was in L'Amite, a competition for French speaking countries in 1960 where they lost to Upper Volta (Burkina Faso).
They first entered the Cup of Nations in 1970 and their best performance came in 1996 where they reached the quarter finals, since then they have qualified twice before this time in 2000 and 2010.
Star player: Didier Ovono
Goalkeeper Didier Ovono won the Georgian League with Dinamo Tblisi before being transferred to French side Le Mans, where he has cemented his place as the club's number 1. He shot to fame in 2010 when Gabon beat Cameroon in their opening match of the Cup of Nations. He put in a spectacular performance and can be seen celebrating it in the picture above.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Colours: Red shirts with a yellow and black hoop / black shorts / red socks
Angola's first ever game was a 1-0 victory over Cuba in 1977 and their first appearance in the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations was in 1996. On that ocassion they finished bottom of the group and they had to wait until 2006 before they got a victory in the finals of the tournament beating Togo 1-0. Their best showing in the tournament was in 2008 when they reached the quarter finals where they lost to eventual winners Egypt. They managed to equal this performance at the next time of asking in 2010 when they were hosting the tournament. This time though they lost 1-0 to Ghana.
In 2006 Angola reached the final stages of the World Cup for the first and so far only time. On reaching the finals they asked Jose Mourinho for advice, as his wife is Angolan. Perhaps it wasn't the best choice though, as their first opponents were Portugal, who they lost 1-0 to. They drew their next two matches, but didn't qualify from the group.
Star player: Flavio Amado
Flavio is coming towards the end of his career at Lierse Sk in Belgium, but his character and goal scoring ability will be essential to the team. He has spent most of his career in Egypt with Al Ahly. Things didn't get off as planned though missing a penalty against bitter enemies Zamalek in a African Champions League match. However, he won the fans over and found his scoring boots before joining Lierse this season. He also poses an aerial threat despite being only 5 foot 8.
Colours: All white
Country population: 15,730,977
Les Etalons or the Stallions as they are known and Upper Volta as their country was once known will go into the tournament without much hope of doing much in it despite being ranked a very respectable 62nd by FIFA and having a number of players with experience in several countries inside and outside of Africa. They have never qualified for the World Cup and their best showing in the Africa Cup of Nations came in 1998 when they were hosts and finished fourth.
Star player: Ibrahim Gnanou
The talisman of Burkina Faso is the highest scorer for the country, Moumani Dagano, who has scored 23 goals in 51 games for his country. However, the key man in my opinion will be the young defender ibrahim Gnanou, who plays in Russia for Alania Vladikafkaz. He is officially a centre back, but is comfortable in any position in the back four and is a crucial player for the team.
Colours: All red
Sudan are the only East African team represented in the finals and they have a proud history in football. They have the oldest league in the continent in the Khartoum state league and were always dominant in the early years of the competition, culminating in victory in 1970. However, they haven't done well since and with the recent problems in the country it is not surprising that football has taken the back seat.
It is hard to name a star player, but the backbone of the team is made up of the reigning champions, Kahrtoum, and seems to centre around defensive midfielder Richard Gastin Lado
Colours: All orange
Country population: 20,617,068
The Ivory Coast will go into the competition as one of the favourites with a wealth of players who play in some of the world's biggest leagues including Emmanuel Eboue, Didier Zokara, Yaya Toure, Salomon Kalou, Didier Drogba and Gervinho. They haven't always been African heavyweights though, their sole victory in the Africa Cup of Nations coming in 1992 when they beat Ghana to lift the trophy on penalties. It took a record breaking 24 penalties to separate the teams, a record that the equalled one that the Ivorians had already set in their quarter final victory over Cameroon.
The coming of age for Cote d'Ivoire came in 2005 when they qualified for the world cup for the first time. since then as well as playing in 2006 World Cup Finals they also qualified again in 2010, however they haven't got out of the group stages on either occasion.
star player: Didier Drogba
With such a wealth of talent at their disposal it is difficult to choose one star player and the way Roberto Mancini has been moaning, he definitely thinks it should be Yaya Toure. However, Didier Drogba has been the Ivorian's most high profile player for the Elephans, as they are affectionately known, over the years and has scored 51 goals for his country as well as winning every trophy in the Premier League with Chelsea. Apart from being the country's leading scorer he is also the captain and despite his reputation in England he has been commended for his charity work in his own country. He was also credited with playing apart in helping bring an end to the troubles in the country when he called for calm after they qualified for the World Cup for the first time.
Colours: Yellow shirts with a green trim / black shorts / yellow and green socks
Country population: 12,935,000
Zambia are currently ranked 72 in the World, which falls a long way short of their highest ever ranking of 15, which they obtained in 1996. However, they have done well to recover from the position of 101, which they occupied this time last year. They have never qualified for a World Cup and their best finish in the Africa Cup of Nations was in 1994 when they reached the semi-finals emulating the team of 1974. I think that French trainer Herve Renard will probably have his work cut out for the team to get close to that this time.
the Zambian national team will also be remembered for one of the biggest disasters in world football when their plane crashed on the way to a World Cup qualifier in Senegal in 1993 which wiped out the team.
Star Player: James Chamanga
He might be a bit long in the tooth now, but James Chamanga who now plies his trade in China with Dalian Shide could be an inspiration to the other Zambian players. He comes with a lot of feathers in his cap. He scored his first goal for Zambia in the COSAFA Semi final against South Africa in 2005. Since then he has added 14 more to his tally for the national team and will be looking to at this tournament, which could well be his last major one. He also holds the record of scoring 5 goals in one match when in 2007 he netted 5 for Moroko Swallows in a 6-2 victory over Platinum Stars.
Colours: All white kits with green trim on shirts, shorts and socks
Country population: 13,7111,597
The Lions of Terarga are one of Africa's traditional powerhouses and will expect to get out of the group at the very least. They will face stiff competition later on when they meet some of the favourites, but with so many of the other powerhouses failing to qualify this time they may well fancy their chances.
Senegal's greatest moment arguably came in 2002 when they beat holders France in the opening game of the World Cup. Surprisingly though they have never one this trophy, although they have won the West African Amilcal Cabral trophy 8 times.
Star player: Demba Ba
Newcastle United forward Demba Ba is probably one of the most sort after players in English football at the moment and the form he is on at the moment should at the very least get Senegal out of this group. He arrives at the tournament having been made the Premier League's Player of the Month for December and amongst the 15 goals he has scored already for Newcastle this season are hat-tricks against Blackburn and Stoke. He will be eager to add to the 10 goals he has already scored for his country.
Colours: Red shirts,black shorts, green socks
Country Population: 5,670,688
It is a credit to the Libyan team that despite all of the political upheaval in the country the team is currently ranked 62 in the World, which is one of the highest positions that they have ever occupied.
The Libyan Football Association was formed in 1918, but the national team did not play a game until 1953. Their best performance in a major tournament came in 1982 when they were runners up. In 1966 they recorded a record breaking 21-0 victory over Muscat Oman
At one time this edition of the tournament was planned to be held in Libya, but that had to be changed for obvious reasons. However, they have got 2017 to look forward when they will be holding the tournament.
They could be dark horses, but with the hosts and Senegal in their group it could be hard for them to qualify and if they do I'm not sure how much further they can expect to go.
Star Player: Djamal Mahamat
The experience of 28 years old midfielder Djamal Mahamat is going to be crucial to Libya. He has a lot of experience in Europe and currently plays for last year's Europa League finalists Braga in Portugal. He was taken there when his manager, Leonardo Jardim took him with him to there from Beira Mar.
Colours: All red
Country population: 676,000
Equatorial Guinea are the joint hosts of the tournament with Gabon. It's probably safe to say that they wouldn't be in the finals if it wasn't for the fact that they were hosting the tournament, as they have never qualified before.
The first game that the nation played was in 1975 when they played against China and lost to them 6-2, the defeat obviously came as a blow as they didn't take part in a competitive game again until 19895 when they entered the UDEAC Cup. Their greatest victory to date is winning the 2006 CEMAC Cup.
They have tried to bolster their chances by recruiting as many players as possible with Guinean heritage from Spain. In fact 11 of the squad members were born in Spain and they would be able to put together a whole 'Spanish' team if only one of the goalkeepers had been born there.
Star player: Rodolfo Bodipo Diaz
34 year old Diaz can inject some experience into the team. He is one of the most experienced players and part of the Spanish contingent who make up the team. He is currently on the books of Deportivo La Coruna, but is out on loan to Elche this season. He is a striker and his best year came 2004-2005 where he fired in 16 goals for Deportivo Alaves.