With the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations rapidly approaching, the race for qualification is heating up. 44 African nations were drawn into eleven groups, each containing 4 teams. The top team in each group will represent their nation in the 2012 Africa Cup beginning January 21.
So far five teams have qualified for this tournament.
As host countries, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea automatically qualified. Botswana secured their qualification in March, making this their first appearance in the Africa Cup. Powerhouses, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal have also qualified and should be tough competition for any opponent. Burkina Faso is the latest team to be added to the official tournament roster by qualifying on September 3.
Pitso Mosimane, coach of the South Africa national football team, will face challenges narrowing down players to include in Bafana Bafana’s first match of the season next Wednesday against Burkina Faso. Mosimane will name his team on Tuesday. Players will be selected on the basis of reputation and experience. The timing of hosting the first international friendly in early August presents complications for players who must return early to their home countries from vacationing abroad. Further complications include player movements and transfers. Mosimane hinted last week that he will select players Steven Pienaar and Kagisho Dikgacoi for the match against Burkina Faso. Mosimane will need to assemble the strongest team possible, because next week’s friendly is Bafana’s only confirmed fixture before a match against Niger which could qualify South Africa for next year’s finals in Equatorial Guinea/Gabon. Bongani Khumalo can also be expected to play in the upcoming match. A further concern for Mosimane is the mental state of players Tsepo Masilela and Kat-lego Mphela. Masilela’s deal with English Championship side Leicester City fell through, while Mphela failed trials at Glasgow Celtic over the weekend.
Next week’s match comes two days before the official start of Absa Premiership. Mosimane must decide whether to include players Andile Jali, Tlou Segolela and Moeneeb Josephs since they will be preparing for their club’s upcoming fixture.
Kwadwo Asamoah, a midfielder for Ghana’s Black Stars, admits he must improve his performance for the tough matches coming up over the next two years. The team has set a goal of winning the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. First, however, they must qualify for the tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The 2014 World Cup draw pits Ghana with Zambia, and Sudan. If the team is to excel, Asamoah is expected to play a key role. Recently, however, he has recieved some criticism over his performances as the playmaker for the Black Stars. Asamoah, who is currently based in Italy, says he must improve his performance when playing for Ghana, blaming his ineffectiveness on the difficult terrain in Africa.According to Asamoah, the way football is played in Europe and Africa is quite different. African football is also different with the pitches. “With my style of play I want to take off with the ball. In Africa it is always difficult to play that way. When I am with Ghana I want always to do my best and help Ghana,” Asamoah said.
Last season, Asamoah was one of the key players for Udinese who qualified for the Champions League.
A huge relief for Sihlangu as Botswana will be without most of their key players for Sundays international friendly match in South Africa. Botswana opted to arrive early in Pretoria in order to being their preparations at a High Performance Centre. Botswana are set to play without most of their foreign-based stars such as Dipsey Selolwane and Mogogi Gabonamong as they were not given permission to join up with the squad for the training camp. Botswana’s national coach Stanley Tshosane however says he is happy with his squad and he feels that his side is ready to take to the pitch even with numerous star absentees. Botswana was the first country to qualify from play to the 2010 African Nations Cup which is being co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. Botswana was able to outperform Tunisia and Togo to gain their qualification.
The BFA has already announced that they have set up a series of training camps and practices to allow the national team coach to test his players.
The Botswana Football Association (BFA) is set to receive a major boost in funding from FIFA, the world football governing body. The BFA President David Fani revealed this at the Association’s annual general assembly in Gaborone on Saturday. Mr. Fani told the assembly members that the BFA have received a grant totaling $300,000 USD from FIFA and that they plan to use this funding to improve regional football development. Fani said regional football continues to play a key role in the country’s soccer development; therefore it cannot be neglected. He said the BFA still faces some challenges in terms of sponsorship for some affiliates like the first division and regional leagues. Regarding national team issues he said the BFA is leaving no stone unturned in making sure that the team is adequately prepared for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea next year.
He said in a country like Botswana where there are still no adequate sport development structures, school sport played a critical part in development and talent identification hence the need to find an amicable solution for the impasse.