The 2014 African Nations Championship (CHAN) kicks off on the 11th of January in Cape Town, South Africa in what will be the third edition of the tournament. AllSports.com.gh brings you a preview of the teams competing in the tournament, with a group by group analysis.
We start with Group A, which contains hosts South Africa, who will be looking to please the home crowd by annexing the trophy. They'll battle it out with Mozambique, Mali and Nigeria for a place in the knockout round.
The hosts of the tournament, and pre-tournament favourites in the eyes of many. Preparations for the tournament have been far from ideal for coach Gordon Igesund, who endured a torrid time assembling his players. Ajax Cape Town, Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns were late in releasing their players to join the squad. Despite this, Igesund is confident of a good showing by his men at the tourney.
Interesting enough, the 23-man squad features no Orlando Pirates player. Captain Itumeleng Khune will lead the nation in its quest, with keeper Moeneeb Josephs receiving a recall to the team. Sundowns have contributed heavily to the squad, with Tebogo Langerman, Jabu Shongwe, Hlompho Kekana, Katlego Mashego, Bryce Moon and Edward Manqele all featuring.
The Bafana Bafana will look to call on the experience of Bernard Parker, who has previously had stints in Red Star Belgrade and FC Twente, before returning to his homeland in 2011.
They kick off the opening match of the tournament against Mozambique.
South Africa Squad
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Moeneeb Josephs (Bidvest Wits), Siyabonga Mpontshane (Platinum Stars)
Defenders: Thabo Nthete (Bloemfontein Celti), Tshepo Gumede (Platinum Stars), Tefo Mashamaite (Kaizer Chiefs), Buhle Mkhwanazi (Tuks), Kwanda Mngonyama (Bidvest Wits), Vuyo Simple (Platinum Stars), Bryce Moon (Mamelodi Sundowns), Tsepo Masilela (Kaizer Chiefs), Tebogo Langerman (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Midfielders: Ryan Chapman (Bidvest Wits), Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns), Jabulani Shongwe (Mamelodi Sundowns), Asavela Mbekile (Moroka Swallows), Sibusiso Vilakazi (Bidvest Wits), Lerato Chabangu (Moroka Swallows), Lindokuhle Mbatha (Platinum Stars), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs)
Forwards: Katlego Mashego (Mamelodi Sundowns), Bernard Parker (Kaizer Chiefs), Edward Manqele (Moroka Swalloows)
Mozambique come into the tournament as 'debutants' and will be looking to surprise everyone by making a good impression. Ahed of the tournament, they have lined-up two friendlies against DR COngo and Libya.
They will be looking to David Sonito Majante, who finished as the top scorer in the Mozambican league to fire them through. Sonito recently underwent a trials at Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa.
Coach Jao Chissano believes there is no pressure on his side to impress, as they face giants Nigeria, South Africa and Mail. “We are hoping that we can make some surprises in the Chan tournament. We don’t have any pressure” he said.
Goalkeepers: Pinto (Ferroviario Maputo), Victor (Desportivo de Nacala) Soarito (HCB Songo)
Defenders: João Mazive Dario Khan, Dito (Costa do Sol) , Chico II , Miro (Liga Muçulmana) Chico I (Ferroviario Maputo) Gabito (Maxaquene)
Midfielders: Josemar , Imo (Liga Muçulmana) Alvarito (Costa do Sol) , Diogo (Ferroviario Maputo) , Kito (Maxaquene) Nelito (Ferroviario da Beira) Lanito (Desportivo Maputo)
Forwards: Sonito (Liga Muçulmana ) Manuelito II (Costa do Sol) , Isac (Maxaquene) Maninho , Mario (Ferroviario da Beira) Belito (Ferroviario Nampula
Stephen Keshi is on a mission to do the 'double' by winning the CHAN at Nigeria's first time of asking. The coach led the senior national team to success in the nations cup last year, and will be looking to replicate this feat.
The Nigerians will go into this tournament as favourites on paper, but the odds may be stacked against Keshi's side as the general consensus is that he has named a weakened side for the tourney.
Yinka Adedeji and Gambo Mohammed have been ruled out of the tournament with hamstring injuries, whilst Sunday Mba has been omitted after leaving the training camp to chase a European deal.
Goalkeeper Chigozie Agbim will lead the team, and Keshi can call on the experience of players like Solomon Kwambe, Ejike Uzoenyi and Benjamin Francis, who have all represented Nigeria at the senior level.
They come up against Mali in their opening round fixture.
Goalkeepers : Chigozie Agbim (Enugu Rangers), Daniel Akpeyi (Heartland), Dele Alampasu (Abuja Football College)
Defenders : Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves), Solomon Kwambe (Sunshine Stars); Francis Benjamin (Heartland), Kunle Odunlami (Sunshine Stars), Ikechukwu Gabriel (Bayelsa United), Umar Zango (Kano Pillars), Bright Esieme (Enyimba), Erhun Obanor (Insurance FC)
Midfielders : Joshua Obaje (Warri Wolves), Ugonna Uzochukwu (Enugu Rangers), Rabiu Ali (Kano Pillars), Christian Pyagbara (Sharks), Ikenna Hilary (Sunshine Stars), Abdullahi Shehu (Kano Pillars)
Forwards : Gbolahan Salami (Shooting Stars), Ejike Uzoenyi (Enugu Rangers), Barnabas Imenger (Lobi Stars), Aliyu Ibrahim (Nasarawa United), Christian Obiozor (Enugu Rangers), Ifeanyi Ede (Enyimba)
Mali will make their second appearance at the CHAN tournament, and will look to make a good account of themselves, after an abysmal performance in their last outing. They exited the tournament, after registering just a solitary point and goal to finish bottom of their group. Djibril Drame will be hoping his charges qualify from the group stage, at least.
They qualified to the tournament after a 3-2 aggregate victory over Guinea. Their 23-man squad contains 9 players from the local champions Le Stade Malien.
The Malians recently played a friendly match with the local Black Stars, which ended in a goalless draw.
Goalkeepers: Soumaïla Diakité (Mali Stadium), Cheick Oumar Bathily (Djoliba) Berthé Germain (Eleven Creators).
Defenders: Ousmane Keita (Djoliba), Souleymane Konaté (Mali Stadium) Bourama Coulibaly (Mali Stadium) Issaka Samaké (Mali Stadium), Mahamadou Traoré (Djoliba), Idrissa Sangare (COB), Oumar Kone (Mali Stadium).
Midfielders: Cheick Mohamed Cherif Doumbia (Mali Stadium) Ibourahima Sidibé (Réal), Yaya Samaké (Nianan) Lassine Diarra (Djoliba), Idrissa Traoré NL (Djoliba), Hamidou Traoré (COB), Adama Traoré (COB) Abdoulaye Sissoko (Mali Stadium) Morimakan Koïta (Mali Stadium).
Forwards: Lassana Diarra (AS Bakaridjan), Hamidou Sinayoko (Djoliba), Lamine Diawara (Mali Stadium) and Mamadou Sidibé (SA Police)
Prediction: 1. South Africa 2. Nigeria 3. Mozambique 4. Mali