Obviously, we hope the lads do well – but not too well considering the legions of scouts who will be out there – and that they return to Tyneside fit and injury-free. Here’s a look at the two teams that our African players will be representing.
Senegal – The Lions Of Teranga
The Senegal national football team are nicknamed “The Lions Of Teranga”. They first appeared in the World Cup in 2002 and made an immediate name for themselves by beating France 1-0 in the opening game of the tournament. They made it to the quarter finals that year eventually going out to Turkey. Subsequently, they failed to qualify in 2006 and 2010.
The team have featured more regularly in the ACoN since 1965, their most successful year being 2002 when they were runners-up. Senegal qualified for the finals of the ACON as top of their group, winning 5 of their 6 games between September 2010 and October 2011. This included a 9-0 aggregate demolition of Mauritius and notably beating Cameroon 1-0 at home and drawing 0-0 away.
In addition to Ba and Cisse, the current squad features a number of other players who ply their trade in the UK. Probably the best known of these is Armand Traore of QPR. The squad also has midfielders Guirane N’Daw of Birmingham City and Mohamed Diame of Wigan Athletic.
The United players currently have 24 caps between them. Cisse has represented his country 16 times scoring 10 goals, and Demba Ba has scored 4 in 11 appearances (according to “Transfermarkt”). United fans who want our strikers back home as quickly as possible will no doubt be unhappy to hear that Senegal are favourites to win Group A of the ACoN and are considered one of the front-runners to win the trophy. Whilst success would mean our players stay out there longer, I suppose this also means their morale would be sky high when they came back – particularly if they get a few goals on the way.
The Ivory Coast
The Côte d’Ivoire National Team are nicknamed Les Elephants. They have qualified for two World Cups – Germany in 2006 and South Africa in 2010. They failed to progress beyond the Group Stage in both competitions. In the ACoN they won the competition in 1992 and were runners-up in 2006.
As well as Cheick Tiote, the current squad also features a number of players who play in the UK. Kolo and Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Sol Bamba (Leicester City), Gervinho (Arsenal), Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou (both of Chelsea). Cheick Tiote has played for the Ivory Coast 24 times.
It doesn’t seem likely that Tiote will be coming home early either – the Ivory Coast team is filled with top talent from leading European clubs and expectations are high. They should win Group B of the competition and, similar to Senegal, are thought to be one of the front runners to lift the trophy.
Tiote is quoted as saying:
“We have great players, so we have to win something…every time there is an African tournament people tell us that we are favourites to win, but when you look at our trophy cabinet there is nothing there. Absolutely nothing. We have to win this Cup of Nations” That’s fine Cheick mate, but no hard tackles on Ba or Cisse eh?
Newcastle United Scouts Deployed!
Given our recent record of signing top-class African talent, it’s not surprising that scouts from Newcastle United will be present at the African cup and will no doubt be looking particularly at players at left-back and central defence!
Or is that just me and my wishful thinking?