Friday, November 30, 2007

Cup of Nations: Yobo Believes, McCarthy Dropped

Some Cup of Nations news as we inch closer to the January 20th start date.

First off, Nigerian defender Joseph Yobo thinks Nigeria's going to win it all in Ghana 2008. He believes Nigeria will be crowned African champions.

The 26-year-old, who plays for Everton, said the timing is right for consistent third-place finishers Nigeria to go all the way in next year's finals.

"I have played in three Cup of Nations tournaments - in every minute of every game, and each time I have picked up the bronze medal (for third place)," Yobo said.

"In Ghana it is time for the team to go one better and I know we can do this."

Nigeria finished in third place at the 2002, 2004 and 2006 Nations Cup and have not won the tournament since 1994 when they beat Zambia 2-1 in the final.

"For some reason we always collapse in the semi finals and I don't know why.
We should definitely make the final next year, if we get there the team would do everything to win the trophy."

"All the players in the Nigerian team are in a good mood - Yakubu and Anichebe (fellow Everton players) are doing well - we all just want to make our country proud.

"Plus playing in Ghana will be great opportunity - because it is so close to Nigeria it will be like playing in a second home," Yobo added.

"We'll try and take advantage of this and the fact many of our fans will be there to support us."

Nigeria don't have it easy. The Ivory Coast, Mali and Benin share space in Group B and will be looking to advance to the knock out stages.

In other news, South Africa have dropped Blackburn striker Benni McCarthy for the 2008 Cup in Ghana. Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira refused to reveal why a striker he had battled to get back into a goal-shy Bafana Bafana squad was suddenly surplus to requirements. Strange, indeed.

Rumors swirled around the hotel where the squad was named as to why the joint-leading South African scorer with 29 goals had not made a squad to be captained by Blackburn team-mate, defender-cum-midfielder Aaron Mokoena.

Some observers suspected South Africa struck a deal with Blackburn manager Mark Hughes to leave McCarthy out as Premiership clubs brace for a mass exodus of stars for the tournament which starts January 20th.

When Parreira took over South Africa, his first serious challenge was to woo the temperamental McCarthy out of self-imposed international retirement since the 2006 Nations Cup in Egypt.

McCarthy, who burst into prominence by scoring nine goals at the 1998 Nations Cup in Burkina Faso to help South Africa finish second, claimed he was wrongly accused by national association officials for stirring a bonuses storm.

Parreira eventually got his way after a five-minute meeting in England and McCarthy scored on his return against Zambia in Cape Town two months ago to draw level at the top of the goals list with retired Shaun Bartlett.

South Africa, the first of the 16 finalists to name their squad, have been drawn with Angola, Senegal and Tunisia in Group D at the Nations Cup finals.

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