AFCON 2015:All you need to know

Avram GrantPorto playmaker Brahimi was Algeria’s top scorer in qualifying and will be a goal threat, while he is also likely to provide assistance thanks to his quick feet and eye for a pass.

Manchester City powerhouse Toure will be the driving force for the Elephants, who will also look to the skilful Roma forward Gervinho to shine as brightly as he did on the World Cup stage last summer.

The Ivorian ranks also contain striker Wilfried Bony, who has just become one of the most expensive African players in history after signing for Manchester City from Swansea for £28m. Fans will hope for pace, power and clinical finishing from Bony.

Borussia Dortmund striker Aubameyang scored twice and provided four assists as Gabon finished top of Group C in qualifying. With blistering pace, strong aerial ability and clinical finishing, he will be a potent threat.

One lesser-known name to watch out for is Fabrice Ondoa, the teenage goalkeeper of Cameroon. The 19-year-old plays for Barcelona B and only made his debut for the Indomitable Lions during the Nations Cup qualifiers. He conceded just one goal in six games.

DefenCe

There will be no successful defence of the trophy for Nigeria after the Super Eagles failed to book their place at the finals. It was a big shock – and some would say a massive loss for the tournament.

Record seven-time champions Egypt also missed out – for the third time in a row.

And for the first time in over a decade, two of Africa’s biggest names and greatest strikers will be missing from the tournament.

Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o and Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba retired from internationals after the 2014 World Cup.

Eto’o scored a record 18 goals at Nations Cup finals and hit 56 goals in total from 118 appearances for his country, while Drogba struck 65 in 104 matches for the Elephants.

Honour

South Africa midfielder Dean Furman says the team will be trying to win the trophy to honour their goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa, who was killed in October.

Meyiwa, the team captain, was shot after burglars entered his girlfriend’s house near Johannesburg.

Furman has now taken over the captaincy and will lead the team in Equatorial Guinea.

“Senzo was close to a lot of people, he was such a great character, always smiling, always lifting other people around him,” Furman told BBC Sport.

“When the news filtered through about the murder it was really just complete and utter shock. I remember talking to the boys, especially his team-mates at Orlando Pirates, and they were in utter devastation.”

“The first South Africa game after Senzo’s death was in his home town of Durban. It gave us a chance to pay our respects. We all went to the grave site and we visited Senzo’s family.”

“It is an incredible honour to be Bafana Bafana captain. Obviously it was in the worst circumstances but I’m hoping to continue in the footsteps that Senzo set us off in during the qualification campaign.

Record

Frenchman Claude Le Roy will coach at the Africa Cup of Nations for a record eighth time. This time the 66-year-old is in charge of Congo, the fifth country he has led at the finals.

He won the tournament with Cameroon in 1988, having finished runners-up with them two years previously, he came third with Ghana in 2008 and was a semi-finalist with Senegal in 1990.

Only once – in the last edition of the tournament, as coach of DR Congo – has he failed to reach the quarter-finals.

His chances of success this time are limited, as Le Roy himself acknowledges.

“We are the only team who does not have a single player who has taken part in the Cup of Nations before,” he said. “They were all children the last time, But we are lucky to be able to take part in the opening game.”

Congo face hosts Equatorial Guinea in the first match today, and will also face Burkina Faso and Gabon in Group A.

In Guinea, young supporters marched in the capital Conakry and erected barricades on the streets in protest after one of their favourite players, midfielder Sadio Diallo, was left out of the squad.

But their efforts went in vain as the midfielder, who plays for French club L’Orient on loan from Rennes, will not participate at the finals.

Crowds in Equatorial Guinea are likely to be small but expect many of the fans who do attend to wear colourful dress and painted faces, give vocal support and revel in what is, for many, the only chance they get to see their team have a chance at international glory.

BBC

 

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