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African Cup of Nations 2012 preview - Group A

The 2012 African Cup of Nations has been eagerly anticipated throughout the continent as, for the first time since Egypt were crowned champions in 2006, there will be a new winner.

The more recent Nations Cup tournaments have been characterised by the dominance of the North African nations, most notably Egypt’s three successive titles between 2006 and 2010.

However, the failure of Egypt, as well as former champions Nigeria and Cameroon, to qualify for the 2012 edition of the tournament provides greater opportunity for some of Africa’s re-emerging sides to challenge for the coveted trophy.

We start our group-by-group preview of the sides featuring in the African Cup of Nations with a look at how the countries in Group A might fare.

Group A

Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Senegal, Zambia

Equatorial Guinea will be making their debut appearance in this competition having automatically qualified as co-hosts.

As co-hosts, and consequently being exempt from the qualification process, Equatorial Guinea’s form has been somewhat inconsistent in their friendly fixtures prior to the tournament.

Expectations will not be great for interim coach Casto Nopo’s side following Henri Michel’s departure, but with the support of their home fans Equatorial Guinea will be hopeful of upsetting the odds to qualify for the knockout rounds.

Marcos Paqueta’s Libya boast a proud defensive record having conceded just a solitary goal during the qualification phase.

The Mediterranean Knights cast aside the political instability and upheaval during their qualification fixtures to finish second to Zambia following a 0-0 away draw, during which Paquetá declared that his side were “not only playing for football success but for a new government and a new country”.

Libya aim for last eight - and beyond

Having finished 2011 unbeaten, Libya are expected to contend for the two qualification spots in Group A in the hope of a quarter-final berth.

Zambia will be optimistic of progression from the group stages having qualified top during the preliminary phase. Ironically, the Chipolopo’s sole defeat was a narrow 1-0 loss in Tripoli against group rivals Libya.

Zambia, will have to overlook their recent defeats to Nigeria and Angola as they look set to tussle with Libya for progression from the group, with many pundits deeming Senegal as the favourites to qualify as group winners.

Coach Herve Renard’s preparation has been hampered by the injury to striker James Chamanga. Consequently, Renard will look to his captain Christopher Katongo to inspire his side as they seek to progress past the group stages.

Widely regarded as the dark hoses of the tournament, Senegal are expected to qualify from Group A as winners.

Second highest scoring team

Amara Traore’s squad were the second highest-scoring team during the qualification phase, and it comes as little surprise with the Teranga Lions boasting attacking firepower in the form of Mamadou Niang, Lille’s Moussa Sow and Newcastle’s Demba Ba (pictured).

Moussa Sow has enjoyed a spectacular calendar year, finishing the 2010/11 season as Ligue 1’s top goalscorer, while scoring five for Senegal in qualification. Ba’s goalscoring form internationally has been unremarkable but he may draw confidence from his inspiring club form for Newcastle United, having scored 14 goals in just 17 games.

Traore’s side will be confident of progress from Group A and will be keen to finish as group winners to avoid a potential quarter final fixture with Group B’s Cote D’Ivoire, the tournament favourites.

But with the attacking prowess of a rejuvenated-looking Senegal side, the Teranga Lions are unlikely to be fearful of many other sides in the competition.

With Senegal the favourites to qualify as group winners, it appears the battle for second place will be contested between Libya and Zambia. However, home advantage means that Equatorial Guinea’s chances should not be discounted.

By Kofi Gyamera-Mensa

See our Group B, C and D previews:

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