Zambia (2012 champions)
Group B opponents: Democratic Republic of Congo, Cape Verde and Tunisia.
Chipolopolo make an emotional return to Central Africa where they won the trophy for the first time three years ago. At the time, Zambia were under the mentorship of French tactician Herve Renard but this time they go under local man in Honour Janza. This is the perfect platform for Janza to prove to his superiors at the Football Association that he has what it takes to make Zambia one of the most feared countries in continental football. Janza travelled to the games without a contract and a good showing at the showpiece might convince the FA otherwise.
Chipolopolo have been in training camp in South Africa and they were only expected in the tiny country yesterday. This is something which left many people worried if it would not have a negative impact ahead of their opening Group B fixture against neighbours Democratic Republic of Congo. Both sides meet at the Nuevo Estadio de Ebebiyin at 6pm. When announcing his final 23-man squad for the games, Janza said, “it has been a very competitive camp where every player was trying hard to make the grade but unfortunately we have only 23 places available. As such we had to part ways with four players. This is not our last African Nations Cup so we had to include youngsters in the squad because they’re the future of Zambian football. Under-20 stars Spencer Sautu (Green Eagles), Patrick Ngoma (Red Arrows) and Lubambo Musonda (FC Ulysses, Armenia) have been drafted into the squad.
Key players; Kennedy Mweene (Mamelodi Sundowns, RSA), captain Rainford Kalaba (TP Mazembe, DRC), Stopilla Sunzu (Shanghai Shenua, China), Mukuka Mulenga (Bloemfontein Celtic, RSA) and Emmanuel Mayuka (Southampton, England).
South Africa (1996 champions)
Group C opponents: Algeria, Ghana and Senegal
The mood in South Africa going to games is very high following an impressive run in the qualifiers which saw them finishing ahead of second-placed Congo, Nigeria and Sudan. Since Shakes Mashaba took charge of the team in September last year, Bafana Bafana are enjoying a new lease of life. He has brought a sense of belief in the players something which has seen them go 10 matches unbeaten in the build-up to the tournament. In the preparatory matches, Bafana Bafana have been unstoppable beating Zambia (1-0) and Mali (3-0). They also came from behind to draw 1-1 with Cameroon at the training base which was in the neighbouring Gabon. Mashaba shocked many people when he omitted some of the established stars like goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Teko Modise (Mamelodi Sundowns) and Thulani Serero (Ajax Amsterdam) out of his 23-man squad. According to Mashaba, he believes that he has the right balance in the squad and can challenge for the honours. “We know the boys are prepared to face any game irrespective of the opposition’s approach. We’re happy with the preparations especially in the matches against Cameroon and Mali,” said Mashaba as they headed for Equatorial Guinea. South Africa kick off their campaign with a tricky fixture against Africa’s number one side Algeria at the Estadio de Mongomo tomorrow night (kick off 9pm). It is the game against the North Africans which will show the preparedness of Bafana Bafana. Algeria have been hit by the injuries to some of the key players but that does not mean that Bafana Bafana can relax.
Key players; Sibusiso Vilakazi (Bidvest Wits), Andile Jali (KV Oostende, Belgium), Dean Furman (Doncaster Rovers, England), Tekelo Rantie (AFC Bournemouth, England), Mulomowandau Mathoho (Kaizer Chiefs).