Africa Cup of Nations 2012: Team guide for the finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon
The Africa Cup of Nations starts on Saturday as 16 teams go head-to-head for the title of kings of the continent. Here, Sportsmail offers you the guide to all the teams and who they face…
Hotshot: Moussa Sow will be part of the Senegal attack
Best Performance: Debut.
Key Player: Rodolfo Bodipo (striker)
Coach: Gilson Paulo (Brazil)
FIFA Ranking: No 150
Nickname: Nzalang Nacional.
The lowly-ranked co-hosts have no experience at a major tournament and are now without experienced former France coach Henri Michel, who resigned just weeks before the tournament. New coach Paulo has had little time to mold his team, which faces an early exit at home.
Best Performance: Runners-up, 1982
Key Player: Djamal Mahamat (midfielder)
Coach: Marcos Paqueta (Brazil)
FIFA Ranking: No 63
Nickname: Mediterranean Knights.
Emerged from civil war and chaos at home to reach the finals for the third time. Boosted by a strong team unity under Libya’s new flag, the side will aim to continue a fairytale rise. Keeper Samir Aboud was nominated for Africa’s 2011 player of the year award at 39.
Best Performance: Runners-up, 2002
Key Player: Demba Ba (striker)
Coach: Amara Traore (Senegal)
FIFA Ranking: No 44
Nickname: Teranga Lions
One of the teams capable of challenging Ivory Coast and Ghana for the title. Has strong forward line of Newcastle duo Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba, plus Lille's Moussa Sow. They have not realised their potential since making the final and World Cup quarter-finals 10 years ago.
Best Performance: Runners-up, 1974 and 1994
Key Player: Isaac Chansa (midfielder)
Coach: Herve Renard (France)
FIFA Ranking: No 79
Nickname: Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets)
Coach Herve Renard returned for a second spell in charge after Dario Bonetti qualified the team for the final tournament and was then replaced. Will badly miss injured forward Jacob Mulenga and midfielder Thomas Nyirenda. May not be able to challenge big teams without them.
Leading the line: Ivory Coast hitman Didier Drogba
Best Performance: Quarter-finals, 2008/2010
Key Players: Kali (defender)
Coach: Lito Vidigal (Angola)
FIFA Ranking: No 83
Nickname: Sable Antelopes
Relative newcomer to the finals, first qualifying in 1996. Quarter-finalists in the last two tournaments, the team has been consistent recently and qualified at the top of its group for 2012. Will get goals from Manucho and Flavio.
Best Performance: Semi-finals, 1998
Key Players: Alain Traore (midfielder)
Coach: Paulo Duarte (Portugal)
FIFA Ranking: No 62
Participation was in doubt after being accused of fielding an ineligible player in qualifying. But the team was cleared and hopes to reach quarter-finals behind Ivory Coast. Chelsea's 16-year-old player Bertrand Traore was a surprise call up.
Best Performance: Champions, 1992.
Key Player: Didier Drogba (striker)
Coach: Francois Zahoui (Ivory Coast)
FIFA Ranking: No 16
Littered with world-class players and the most impressive qualifiers with six wins in six. They have Africa’s 2011 player of the year in Yaya Toure and tipped for a second title. However, they have underperformed when there’s plenty of expectation.
Best Performance: Champion, 1970.
Key Player: Haitham Mustafa (midfielder)
Coach: Mohamed Abdallah (Sudan)
FIFA Ranking: No 113
Nickname: Falcons of Jediane
Host of the first Africa Cup of Nations in 1957, runner-up in 1959 and 1963 and champion in 1970. Recent record is not as impressive. Since Sudan lifted the trophy 42 years ago, has been to just four tournaments and hasn’t won a game. Higher hopes this time after solid qualifying run.
Wizard: Morocco forward Adel Taarabt
Best Performance: Quarter-finals, 1996
Key Player: Cedric Moubamba (midfielder)
Coach: Gernot Rohr (Germany)
FIFA Ranking: No 77
A selection of France-based players but, like co-hosts Equatorial Guinea, they have played little competitive football in the last two years and could be short of match practice. Faces a tough battle to reach the quarterfinals, which is the least the home fans expect.
Best Performance: Champion, 1976
Key Player: Adel Taarabt (midfielder)
Coach: Eric Gerets (Belgium)
FIFA Ranking: No 61
Nickname: Atlas Lions
Could be an outside shot for success with Houssine Kharja and Adel Taarabt calling the shots and clever Belgian coach Eric Gerets in charge. The form of Marouane Chamakh will be
crucial as the Arsenal forward has had little club action.
Best Performance: Debut
Key Players: Kassaly Daouda (goalkeeper)
Coach: Harouna Doula (Niger)
FIFA Ranking: No 97
Provided a huge shock to reach the final tournament for the first time, beating out South Africa and seven-time champion Egypt. Not expected to progress, but no-one gave Doula and his team a chance of even qualifying.
Best Performance: Champions, 2004
Key Players: Oussama Darragi (midfielder)
Coach: Sami Trabelsi (Tunisia)
FIFA Ranking: No. 59
Nickname: Carthage Eagles
Inconsistent qualifying campaign where it squeezed through as one of three second-place teams. Tunisia’s tournament will likely be defined by its opening game against North African rivals Morocco.
Main man: Seydou Keita of Mali
Best Performance: Debut
Key Players: Jerome Ramatlhakwane (striker)
Coach: Stanley Tshosane (Botswana)
FIFA Ranking: No 95
Won a group containing former champion Tunisia and 2006 World Cup finalist Togo to finally qualify after 20 years of trying. Has no stars, making the achievement more impressive. Voted Africa’s 2011 team of the year.
Best Performance: Champions, 1963, 65, 78, 82
Key Players: Asamoah Gyan (striker)
Coach: Goran Stevanovic (Serbia)
FIFA Ranking: No 29
Nickname: Black Stars
The most successful team at the tournament. They want to end a 30-year title drought despite missing Michael Essien and Kevin-Prince Boateng. Ghana finished third and second in the last two finals.
Best Performance: Runner-ups, 1976
Key Player: Ismael Bangoura (striker)
Coach: Michel Dussuyer (France)
FIFA Ranking: No 80
Nickname: Syli Nationale (National Elephants).
Guinea reached three straight quarterfinals between 2004-08. Although it missed out last time, the team performs well when at the tournament. Qualified unbeaten and ahead of Nigeria. Now 27, striker Ismael Bangoura played in 2006 and leads the charge with plenty more experience six years later.
Best Performance: Runner-ups, 1972
Key Player: Seydou Keita (midfielder)
Coach: Alain Giresse (France)
FIFA Ranking: No 67
Success depends on whether Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita can put aside a rocky history with the national federation and perform. A candidate alongside Senegal to challenge
Ivory Cost and Ghana, but they haven’t reached the knockout stages since 2004. Also now without striker Frederic Kanoute.
Africa Cup of Nations fixture guide
Jan 21: Bata, Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea vs. Libya, 18.30 GMT
Senegal vs. Zambia, 2100 GMT
Jan 25: Bata, Equatorial Guinea
Libya vs. Zambia, 1600 GMT
Equatorial Guinea vs. Senegal, 1900 GMT
Jan 29: Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea vs. Zambia, 1700 GMT
Bata, Equatorial Guinea
Libya vs. Senegal, 1700 GMT
Jan 22: Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
Ivory Coast vs. Sudan, 1600 GMT
Burkina Faso vs. Angola, 1900 GMT
Jan 26: Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
Sudan vs. Angola, 1600 GMT
Ivory Coast vs. Burkina Faso, 1900 GMT
Jan 30: Bata, Equatorial Guinea
Sudan vs. Burkina Faso, 1800 GMT
Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
Ivory Coast vs. Angola, 1800 GMT
Jan 23: Libreville, Gabon
Gabon vs. Niger, 1600 GMT
Morocco vs. Tunisia, 1900 GMT
Jan 27: Libreville, Gabon
Niger vs. Tunisia, 1600 GMT
Gabon vs. Morocco, 1900 GMT
Jan 31: Franceville, Gabon
Gabon vs. Tunisia, 1800 GMT
Niger vs. Morocco, 1800 GMT
Jan 24: Franceville, Gabon
Ghana vs. Botswana, 1600 GMT
Mali vs. Guinea, 1900 GMT
Jan 28: Franceville, Gabon
Botswana vs. Guinea, 1600 GMT
Ghana vs. Mali, 1900 GMT
Feb 1: Libreville, Gabon
Botswana vs. Mali, 1800 GMT
Ghana vs. Guinea, 1800 GMT
Feb 4, Match 25, Bata, Equatorial Guinea
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up, 1600 GMT
Match 26, Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up, 1900 GMT
Feb 5, Match 27, Libreville, Gabon
Group C winner vs. Group D runner-up, 1600 GMT
Match 28, Franceville, Gabon
Group D winner vs. Group C runner-up, 1900 GMT
Feb 8, Bata, Equatorial Guinea
Match 25 winner vs. Match 28 winner, 1600 GMT
Match 27 winner vs. Match 26 winner, 1900 GMT
Feb 11, Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, 1900 GMT
Feb 12, Libreville, Gabon, 1900 GMT