Feature: 2013 AFCON: The battle of the technical brains
As African soccer fans gear up for the seventh African Cup of Nations in the 21st century , I take a look at the curriculum vitae of the sixteen coaches who will explore the most efficient tactics and formations to make sure their team wins the grandest football title in Africa.
This will be the sixth time that veteran French manager, Claude Le Roy is found in the dugout of an African nation in the continent’s flagship competition.
First of all, let me register my condolence to the family of former Israel national team manager Emanuel Sheffer who died on Friday 28 December, 2012 at the age of 88.
He was the first and only manager to lead Israel to its only FIFA World cup appearance in Mexico in 1970. May his soul rest in peace.
Now back to the principal agenda, Claude Le Roy will be leading DR Congo to the finals of the 2013 AFCON in his second spell with The Leopards.
He replaced fellow Frenchman Robert Nouzaret.
Le Roy is seen as one of the expatriate coaches in Africa with a bag full of experience having managed Cameroon to the 1986
AFCON final only to lose on penalty shootouts to Egypt after a scoreless draw.
Two years later, Le Roy reached the finals of the AFCON again with Cameroon and this time around Cameroon beat Nigeria 1-0.
Le Roy went to the 1992 AFCON but this time as coach of host nation, Senegal and ironically it is his former team, Cameroon who will eliminate the Terranga Lions in the quarter final and the same country he will later lead to the 1998 FIFA World cup in France.
Le Roy took charge of DR Congo in 2004 and qualified them for the 2006 showdown in Egypt but once again his previous knowledge of Cameroon meant nothing as the Indomitable Lions beat DR Congo 2-0 in Group stage.
However, the two sides advanced from Group B but the quarterfinal stage was the endpoint for DR Congo.
The 2008 AFCON hosted by Ghana was Le Roy’s last tournament where he helped Ghana to reach the semi final but lost to Cameroon for the third time in his own capacity as a coach so far as the AFCON proper is concerned.
The Leopards of DR Congo are drawn in the same Group B as Ghana, Mali and Niger.
Ghana could somehow capitalize on Claude Le Roy’s inability to beat his former team in the AFCON when the two sides come face to face in the Group B opener on 20 January, 2013 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Herve Renard who was deputy to Claude Le Roy at Chinese club Shanghai Cosco and English side Cambridge United and national team of Ghana is very much aware of the quantum of opposition that awaits his Zambian side as they intend to defend their 2012 title.
They have become the second champions in history to defend their title within a period of one year due to change of format of the competition with Ethiopia being the first to do so after they unsuccessfully defended their 1962 title in 1963 in Ghana.
Kwesi Appiah, former captain of Ghana has the mandate to lead the Black Stars as the main boss in a hunt for first trophy in 31 years.
He has been assistant coach to Serbs Milovan Rajevac and Goran Stevanovich in the 2010 AFCON and 2012 AFCON respectively where his contribution as a deputy coach saw Ghana reach the final and semi final stages respectively.
His first major title as a coach was when he won the 2011 All-Africa Games with the Ghana U-23 in Maputo,Mozambique.
His 26-man squad which would be whittled down to 23 created reactions from the football fraternity in Ghana following the exclusion of some old faces like Sulley Muntari, Jordan Ayew, Samuel Inkoom and others.
Kwesi Appiah is hopeful Ghana will win the AFCON 2013.
South Africa, the host nation has put faith in Gordon Igesund who has no experience in international coaching to win their second AFCON title.
However, Igesund made name for himself having become the only manager to win four (4) South Africa Premier Soccer League titles with four different clubs.
Pitso Mosimane was relieved of his duties , Steve Komphela took over as caretaker for two matches and now is Igesund’s turn to transform his club success to help the Bafana Bafana to end their 17 year drought.
Uruguayan Gustavo Ferrin was named Angola’s coach after the sacking of Lito Vidigal after the Palancas Negras poorly performed at the 2012 AFCON.
This is Gustavo’s first job as a coach of a senior national team after he mostly coached national youth teams such as the Uruguay U-17, Uruguay U-20, Peru U-20.
I believe he virtually do not know the African football as this marks his first stint and if he succeeds it’s going to be “coup de chapeau” to him.
Rachid Taousssi was assistant coach to Henri Michel of the Lions of Atlas of Morocco between 1995 and 2000.
French manager Henri Michel and Rachid Taoussi led Tunisia to the 1996 AFCON final where they lost to South Africa at the Soccer City and Tunisia reached the quarterfinals in the 1998 AFCON in Burkina Faso only to be edged out on penalty shootouts by the hosts, Burkina Faso.
Taoussi, 53, won the 2011 CAF Confederation cup and 2012 CAF Super Cup with Moroccan club MAS Fez after which he was named coach of Morocco on 22 September, 2012 replacing the sacked Eric Gerets.
Can he lead them to victory?. We shall get to know in less than 3 weeks.
The coach to keep an eagle eye on in South Africa is Lucio Antunes of Cape Verde who is the brainchild of the Cape Verdeans first qualification for the Africa cup of Nations after astonishingly eliminating four times winners Cameroon.
He had no previous international managing experience. I thought the shark wouldn’t survive out of water but it really survived and conquered the lion.
What a qualification!. With Lucio Antunes embarking on a journey to Spain for Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho to school him, that sends a signal to the whole of Africa of Cape Verdes intention.
If Malaga’s Eliseu Pereira, Manchester United’s Nani , Porto’s Sylvestre Varela, former France international Patrick Vieira, Swedish Henrik Larsson, Dutchman David Mendes and others had played for their country of origin(Cape Verde), I do not think Cape Verde would be among unheralded nations in Africa today.
French coach Alain Giresse managed Mali to third place in the 2012 AFCON after beating Ghana 2-0 in their second meeting at tournament with Ghana winning the first during a group play by a similar scoreline.
However Giresse and Mali will part ways afterwards and fellow Frenchman Patrice Carteron now leads Mali to the spectacle in South Africa.
This is Carteron’s first time as a national team manager after managing clubs such as AS Cannes and Dijon FCO in France.
He could not save Dijon FCO from relegation in the French Ligue 1 in the 2011/12 season.
We could only wait to see what he brings on board for Mali.
German Gernot Rohr leads the Menas of Niger to their second successive Nations Cup finals. Rohr was coach of Gabon in the last edition of the AFCON where Gabon lost to Mali on penalty shootouts in the quarter finals.
Stephen Keshi is one of the African coaches who present greater technical knowhow of the game and would be more than desperate to be the first man to win the Nations cup both as a player and manager after the late Egypt’s Mahmoud El Gohary who won the Nations cup in 1959 as a player and in 1998 as a manager both with Egypt.
Keshi was part of the 1994 AFCON winning squad of Nigeria. He became famous in Togo after he led the Sparrow Hawks to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World cup for the first time in Togo’s history though he did not send them to Germany for the World cup proper.
Keshi had played in five Nations cup tournament and is in line to appear at the tournament for the second time as a coach making his total appearances in the tournament seven.
Les Etalons of Burkina Faso have put hope in Belgian manager Paul Put to win their first Nations cup match for them which they last did in 1998 when they hosted the event.
Burkina Faso beat Guinea 1-0 in their last Group B match; goal scored by Kambou and since then Burkina Faso has failed to win a Nations Cup match.
Put had stints with Belgian clubs Geel, Lokeren and Lierse before been named Burkina coach in 2012.
As Ghana chases her 5th AFCON title in 31 years in the 2013 AFCON, Ethiopia would rather be seen again in Africa’s biggest football gathering in South Africa after 31 years of disappearance.
It was 60-year old coach Sewnet Bishaw who marshaled their comeback in his second spell with the Walya Antelopes.
Former AJ Auxerre and AS Monaco player Sabri Lamouchi would be Ivory Coast’s new hero if he is able to bring the best out of this golden generation of Ivory Coast football team which is labeled with players with big egos to land the 2013 AFCON.
Lamouchi is a novice who has been given the chance by Les Elephants to do what Francois Zahoui could not do in 2012 AFCON.
I can see how determined he is having went for some schooling under one of the best coaches in the world, Jose Mourinho.
Sami Trabelsi is leading the Carthage Eagles to South Africa. He was once their former assistant coach.
He played for Tunisia in the 1996,1998 and 2000 AFCONs and the 1998 World cup.
He was the same man that brought them to the 2012 AFCON in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea where they lost to Ghana in the quarter finals with goalie Aymen Mathlouthi being very charitable to Andre Ayew of Ghana by that goalkeeping malaise and Ayew slotted in the winner for Ghana at 101th minute.
Former Ivory coast Bosnian coach Vahid Halihodzic will be in the dugout for Algeria.
He has managed clubs like Raja Casablanca, Lille OSC, Paris Saint Germain, Trabzonspor, Dinamo Zagreb. He led Cote D’Ivoire to the 2010 AFCON and qualified them for the 2010 World cup.
Didier Six who was part of the 1984 Euro winning France squad alongside Michel Platini, Jean Tigana, Alain Giresse and several others, leads The Sparrow Hawks of Togo to AFCON 2013.
He has very little insight of the Nations Cup if I may evaluate him but let’s keep counting down for the finals of the 2013 Coupe d’Afrique des Nations to see who wins it.
BY GARIBA RAUBIL