columnBy Fred Vubem Toh
They include defending champions, Zambia, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and host South Africa.
Though the notion of favourites no longer holds in football, certain countries are pre-disposed to have greater chances of lifting the trophy than others. Owing to their surprising victory at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, the status of the Chipolopolos of Zambia automatically changed from underdogs to favourites as they are the team everyone would want to beat.
More so, they are taking a stronger squad to South Africa than Equatorial Guinea to defend their title. Zambia comes to join the club of heavyweights with members like Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and to a lesser extent, South Africa. Cote d'Ivoire have been favourites since the last editions of the Africa Cup of Nations but never succeeded to lift the trophy. The Elephants, who won the trophy in 1992, were unfortunate finalist in 2012, eliminated by Zambia on penalty shoot-outs after maintaining an unbeaten record to the final.
The failure in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea 2012 was seen by football pundits as ill omen since the team did all what was necessary to obtained glory. The Black Stars of Ghana were also favourites in 2012 but had their dreams dashed to the wall at the semi final level. Nigeria is making a comeback to the continental scene after having been left out of the 2012 AFCON just like other heavyweights like Cameroon and Egypt. The two-time winner of the cup will be out to erase sad memories of their missing out on the 2012 AFCON by an impressive performance.
South Africa rose to the limelight in 1996 then sunk back into the oblivion and only joins the club of favourites because of the home-crowd effect which can spur them to victory. Their performances in pre-tournament friendly matches doubts on their ability to win the trophy. However, the visit of the South African president, Jacob Zuma could be a great psychological booster that could turn things around.