ALGERIA

PROFILE
The Desert Foxes, as Algeria are called, are rated among the continent’s best. Apart from being regulars in the Africa Cup of Nations since their debut in 1968, they have also been to three Fifa World Cups, with their last appearance on the global stage on these shores two years ago. Pitted against England, USA and Slovenia, they failed to go beyond the first round. Despite finishing a credible fourth at Angola 2010, the north African side missed out on qualification for the Gabon/Equatorial Guinea Afcon finals that were staged earlier this year. Recent positive results by the Foxes suggest they are on the rise again

RANKING

CAF

Fifa

ROAD TO SOUTH AFRICA
Algeria was the last nation to book a berth to South Africa 2013 following their 2-0 win over Libya on the final day of qualifiers. The Desert Foxes endured a scary start to their campaign, having had to come from behind to edge out Gambia 2-1 in their first-round first-leg qualifier in February. Algeria then went on the rampage with a 4-1 demolition of Gambia at home and scored a crucial 1-0 away win at Libya

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FIXTURES
January 22: January 26: January 29: Tunisia vs Algeria Algeria vs Togo Algeria vs Ivory Coast (Royal Bafokeng, 8pm) (Royal Bafokeng, 8pm) (Royal Bafokeng, 7pm)

STAR PLAYER
MADJID BOUGHERRA (Club: Lekhwiya) Spent the better part of his club career with Glasgow Rangers, which he helped to the 2009 and 2010 Scottish Premier League titles. The 30-year-old also had a brief spell in England with Reading. He has since trekked to Asia in August last year, where he currently plies his trade with Lekhwiya in the Qatar Premier League. Bougherra, who was also in the Algerian team for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, has proven his versatility as is able to do the job in midfield or in defence

COACH
VAHID HALILHODZIC Joined Algeria in June last year after a successful spell with Ivory Coast, having qualified the Elephants for the 2010 Fifa World Cup and the Afcon finals in Angola the same year. It will be interesting to see what the permutations will be in Group D when the 60-year-old Yugoslavian-born mentor faces off against his former team on the last day of the group stages − Daniel Mothowagae

HONOURS
Afcon appearances: 14 Continental titles: Winner Afcon (1990)

TUNISIA
PROFILE
The Atlas Eagles have always been there and thereabouts in the continental showpiece. However, for their 14 appearances and semi-dominance of Esperance, Etoile du Sahel and CS Sfaxien in CAF club competitions, one Afcon competition win in 2004 when they were hosts represents a rather poor return. Their last trip to South Africa saw them lose at the final hurdle against an inspired Bafana team in 1996. They’ve had five first-round exits, including a disappointing performance at home in 1994. With a young but talented team, they should be expected to progress past the group stages.

RANKING

CAF

Fifa

ROAD TO SOUTH AFRICA
Being one of the seeded sides, The Atlas Eagles were given byes for the first two qualifying rounds. However, they were given a fright by Sierra Leone, a team that South African football fans know all too well. They drew 2-all in a tense qualifier in Freetown, with a Youssef Msakni 87th-minute equaliser gaining the all-important away goal. A goalless draw in the return leg in Monastir on October 13 secured them a berth in January’s showpiece.

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FIXTURES
January 22: January 26: January 29: Tunisia vs Algeria Tunisia vs Ivory Coast Tunisia vs Togo (Royal Bafokeng Stadium, 8pm) (Royal Bafokeng Stadium, 5pm) (Mbombela Stadium, 7pm)

STAR PLAYER
AYMEN MATHLOUTHI (Club: Etoile du Sahel) Tunisia has been blessed with great goalkeepers with the likes of Ali Boumnijel and Chokri El Ouaer, but this will be the tournament that will give Mathlouthi a chance to step out of his predecessor’s shadow. Like El Ouaer, Mathlouthi has a chance to captain his side to glory. He is rated as one of the best shot-stoppers on the continent and has been key to Etoile du Sahel’s consistent runs in CAF club competitions

COACH
SAMI TRABELSI A tough-as-nails defender in his playing days, the 44-year-old was appointed as the full-time manager in March last year. He is tasked with turning one of the underachievers of African football into consistent powerhouses. He was also part of the 1996 side captained by Chokri El Ouaer that lost to Bafana Bafana in the Afcon final. He will want to do as a coach what he could not manage as a player in his 52-cap playing career − Khanyiso Tshwaku

HONOURS
Afcon appearances: 14 Continental titles: Winners (2004) as hosts

MOROCCO
PROFILE
Morocco were also pitted against South Africa in a group during the 1998 Afcon tournament in Burkina Faso. But the Atlas Lions seem to have lost their bite since their second-place finish at the 2004 Afcon finals in Tunisia. They have never proceeded beyond the first round and with hosts South Africa, Angola and Cape Verde their opponents in Group A next year, Morocco’s credentials will further be tested as they are the reigning champions of the Arab Nations Cup. The 2015 Afcon hosts lost 1-0 to Togo midweek

RANKING

CAF

Fifa

ROAD TO SOUTH AFRICA
By virtue of their participation at the Africa Cup of Nations co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, Morocco were put straight into the second round where they met Mozambique. They were on the brink of missing out on the South African spectacle but overturned a 2-0 deficit in the first leg with a 4-0 win over Os Mambas. Goals from Abdelaziz Berrada, Houssine Kharja, Youssef El-Arabi and Nordin Amrabat handed Morocco the ticket to South Africa

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FIXTURES
January 19: January 23: January 27: Angola vs Morocco Morocco vs Cape Verde Morocco vs South Africa (Soccer City, 9pm) (Moses Mabhida, 8pm) (Moses Mabhida, 8pm)

STAR PLAYER
HOUSSINE KHARJA (Club: Al-Arabi) The French midfielder currently plays for Qatar Stars League side Al-Arabi. He has 72 caps and has scored 12 goals for the national team. This 30 year old began his career with Paris Saint-Germain’s youth side before joining Portuguese side Sporting Clube de Portugal in 2000, with whom he spent one season before moving to Ternana Calcio in 2001

COACH
RACHID TAOUSSI Was the assistant coach of the Morocco national team between 1995 and 2000 and only reached the top post two months ago. He replaced Eric Gerets, the Belgian-born mentor who was sacked following Morocco’s first-leg defeat in Maputo (2-0) in the final round of the qualifiers for the South African tournament. In 1997, he guided the Moroccan Under-20s to the title of the 1997 African Youth Championship, where they beat SA 1-0 in the final − Ntombi Moleme

HONOURS
Afcon appearances: 15 Continental titles: Winner Afcon (1976) RUDI LOUW, Graphics24

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