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2012 through to 2014 has and is going to be a very busy period for a number of countries within Confederation of African Football (CAF). First is the qualification rounds to the 2013 African Cup of Nations(ACN).
There will then be the 29th ACN final itself in South Africa. The winner from the South Africa finals will automatically be invited to play in the 2014 FIFA Confederation Cup Final in Brazil as CAFs sole representative.
Following this there is the small matter of World Cup qualification to Brazil 2014 with 5 CAF representatives going to be at Brazil 2014.
Topping all this off there is then the requirement for all CAF countries to ready themselves for the start of the qualification process to the ACN 2015 finals.
This mixed arrangement of events coming about because CAF did not want to be in a position where the final of their major show piece international tournament was clashing in the same year (2014) with the aforementioned finals in South America.
So from now on the ANC finals are going to run every 2 years on an odd number as opposed to the previous even based years.
This article tries to summarize the scale of activity CAF is dealing with over the next 2 years. It also provides an up to date position on where the various countries are at in the two main competitions running just now.
Finally it attempts to gauge just what the impact this might have on the African players employed in Europe and their respective clubs.
Qualification to the ACN started with a preliminary round in January 2012 with the 4 lowest ranked countries in CAF participating in 2 leg knock out ties.
The winners of these ties then joined the 26 teams from CAF who did not qualify for the previous ACN finals. These teams again played a 2 legged knock-out 1st round set of ties home and away in February and then June 2012.
The 14 winners of this first round then entered a second round of ties with the 16 qualifiers from the previous finals now joining the competition. A complicated seeding process kicked in at this stage to help assist in the separation of the 30 teams into two pots.
The first rule of this seeding being how well each team had done in the previous 3 ACN finals. Within this each team allocated seeding points on their eventual placement in each of the finals and points they achieved. Finally for total points achieved in each of the finals a coefficient was factored in favour of the most recent to furthest away of the three finals.
So now in September 12 we are geared up for 15 first leg mouth-watering ties between some of the top teams in CAF (Egypt being the big miss at the expense of CAR). Return legs to be played in October 12.
List of ties are: Ethiopa vs Sudan, Nigeria vs Liberia, Uganda vs Zambia, Zimbabwe vs Angola, Algeria vs Libya, Togo vs Gabon, Malawi vs Ghana, Mozambique vs Morroco, CAR vs Burkina Faso, Cape Verde vs Cameroon, Sierra Leone vs Tunisia, Ivory Coast vs Senegal, DR Congo vs Equatorial Guinea, Guinea vs Niger and Mali vs Botswana.
Regarding the seeding of the nations it might be for the next ACN there is a need for the current system to be reviewed given the current model has drawn up Ivory Coast vs Senegal two of CAF’s big wigs.
The 15 finalists will then join the Bafana Bafana (themselves qualifying on the back of being final hosts) in South Africa where there will be 4 groups of 4 in round 1.
Following this the standard quarter final, semi final and final knock out rounds will ensue with an event which is scheduled to start in Soccer City on 19th January 2013 also finishing there on the 10th of February 2013
For Brazil 2014 52 of the 53 CAF nations entered. Qualification started in November 2011 with a first round of 12 teams competing in a two legged knock out stage.
Teams selected for this initial round were recruited from the lowest 24 FIFA ranked countries in CAF. A standard 2 pot seeding system used in formatting the ties.
From this the 12 winners from round 1 joined the other 28 CAF countries with a four pot standard seeding system again based on FIFA ranking used to draw 10 groups of 4 countries. This stage of the qualification is ongoing and will conclude in September 2013.
Currently Ethiopia, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Congo, Nigeria, Egypt, Benin, Libya and Senegal lead their respective groups. All counties having completed 2 matches with 4 matches remaining at time of writing this article. At this stage it is worth noting that both Congo and Ethiopia came out of pot 4.
The winners of each of these 10 groups will then go into a standard FIFA ranked 2 pot system with 5 ties drawn and to be played October and November 2013; each team playing on a home and away basis with the usual regulations for such matches including away goals counting double in event of a draw employed.
Teams who need to get a move on in the remaining group stages who you would expect to be qualifying for the next stage in the CAF process being Cameroon, Burkina Faso, South Africa and Algeria.
Morocco drawing the short straw in what is a winner takes all group stage by being paired with Ivory Coast. So to get into the chosen 5 for Brazil it is clear countries are going to have to be able to last the pace, play to their maximum potential and carry a huge degree of luck.
Top African Players plying their trade in Europe
There are indeed a number of top players from CAF countries playing football in the main European leagues just now.
A very rough and draft (some players have possibly in the recent transfer window moved club since scribing this article) list of these include players such as:
Alex Song (Barca/ Cameroon), Steven Pienaar (Everton/ South Africa), CHEICK TIOTE (Newcastle/ Ivory Coast), MAHAMADOU DIARRA (Fulham/ Mali), SIAKA TIENE (Paris Saint-Germain/ Ivory Coast), AYMEN ABDENNOUR (Toulouse/ Tunisia), JONATHAN PITROIPA (Rennes/ Burkino Faso), MOHAMED ZIDAN (Baniyas (UAE)/ Egypt), MAME BIRAM DIOUF (Hanover 96/ Senegal), SULLEY MUNTARI (AC Milan) and BOUKARY DRAME (Chievo/ Senegal), SOFIANE FEGHOULI (Valencia/ Algeria), FORMOSE MENDY (Sporting Gijon/ Senegal), Yaya Toure (Man City/ Ivory Coast), KWADWO ASAMOAH (Juventus/ Ghana), Joel Obi (Inter and Nigeria), Peter Odemwingie (WBA/ Nigeria), Gervinho (Arsenal/Ivory Coast), Kevin-Prince Boateng (AC Milan/ Ghana), John Obi Mikel (Chelsea/ Nigeria), Adel Taarabt (QPR/ Morocco), Demba Ba (Newcastle United/Senegal), Papiss Cisse (Newcastle United/ Senegal), Samuel Eto’o (Anzhi/Cameroon), Andre Ayew (Marseille/ Ghana), Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Udinese/Ghana), Didier Ya Konan (Hannover 96/Ivory Coast), Moussa Sow (Fenerbache/ Senegal), Souleymane Diawara (Marseille/ Senegal), Efe Ambrose (Celtic/ Nigeria), and Alain Traore (Auxerre/ Burkino Faso).
The impact of the tough schedule faced over next couple of years for some if not most of these players will no doubt be felt in terms of their availability for clubs in their domestic fixtures.
Whether this unavailability is linked to playing internationals which clash with domestic fixtures and/ or more likely the impact of short and interim burn out from playing too many games and travelling large distances over short periods of time I am sure will have not been lost on the clubs. Contingencies will most certainly need to be planned for from now well into 2014.
Further articles will follow up on the qualification games and finals of CAF countries in the African nations, confederation and world cups as they take place over the next couple of years. It really is an exciting if probably best-avoided set of circumstances for CAF, players and affected countries/ clubs.
Good though for us neutrals who enjoy watching African football/ footballers.
Written by James Redfern
Follow him on Twitter @jaycraig1
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