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SA ready to host Africa’s soccer giants

Written by Albert Pule

Sport, arts and culture

It’s all systems go for the third edition of the 2014 Orange African Nations Championship tournament. From 11 January to 1 February 2014, the eyes of African football fans will be on South Africa as 16 teams compete in the continental showpiece.

The tournament will see 16 teams in four groups made up of players playing in local leagues competing for the title of African champions.

Spokesperson for the Local Organising Committee (LOC) Sipho Sithole says the participating teams have inspected the host cities and they are happy with the preparations.

“All the teams have now conducted their host cities inspections and they are satisfied with the level of preparedness by the LOC.

“We are also happy with the host cities readiness in terms of team hotels, training venues, stadiums, and team transport.”

Sithole added that the LOC will raise the 16 flags of all the participating teams on 8 January and the host cities will follow by raising flags of the national teams playing in their backyard.

Cape Town will host matches for both Group A and B. South Africa, Nigeria, Mali and Mozambique will lock horns at the Cape Town Stadium in Group A matches. Group B will see a tussle between Zimbabwe, Morocco, Uganda and Burkina Faso at the Athlone Stadium.

Bloemfontein will host Group C matches with Ghana, Libya, Ethiopia and Congo battling it out for progression to the quarterfinals of the tournament. Polokwane will host the last group at Peter Mokaba Stadium. The group will be contested by Burundi, Gabon, Mauritania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sithole concluded that the LOC has been working closely with the host cities and Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) to provide transport to ferry fans to and from stadiums.

“We are finalising our negotiations with PRASA but we are quite confident that public transport for the fans to the stadiums will not be a problem. The host cities are also making provisions for the movement of fans to and from the stadiums.”

Preview of groups

Group A

South Africa: Hosting the tournament for the first time, the host nation will be expected to perform better with the backing of the home crowd. Drawing players from one of the best run leagues in Africa, South Africa’s chances of progressing to the next round will be very high.

Nigeria: The rivalry between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and Bafana Bafana will take centre stage as the two teams compete against each other. With some of the players who won the 2013 Orange African Cup of Nations playing in the local league, the Eagles will be a tough team to beat.

Mozambique: With most of its international stars plying their trade in the South African Premier Soccer League, Mozambique might be the whipping boys of the group.

Mali: The West African nation, just like Mozambique, have their players outside the country and are likely to be beaten by the more organised South Africa and Nigeria.

Group B

This will be a very interesting group, pitting countries from different parts of the continent against each other - Zimbabwe with their southern African flair and Morocco with their imposing North Africa style. The Ugandans will bring the central Africa type of football while Burkina Faso will bring the physical and dominant West African style of play.

Group C

Ghana, Libya, Ethiopia and Congo will contest this group and Ghana with their experience in continental competitions is likely to dominate the group with Ethiopia coming second. The Ethiopians will be high in confidence after making it to the final round of the 2014 Brazil World Cup qualification. Libya and Congo will occupy the last two spots in the group.

Group D

The Democratic Republic of Congo is likely to win this group boasting players from the competitive TP Mazembe. Burundi, Gabon and Mauritania will battle it out for the second spot in the group.