The African Cup of Nations is Africa's premier footballing tournament. In this edition of the tournament, we have a very interesting mix of nations that will be participating.
Instead of having some of Africa's best footballing nations in the tournament, including Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa, nations such as Niger, Sudan and Botswana have all earned a spot in the tournament.
Here are my rankings for each side in this African Cup of Nations.
How they qualified: Host nation
Key Players: Achille Pensy, Juvenal and Bodipo
They have a FIFA ranking above 150 and they have very little footballing heritage, but Equatorial Guinea will now have a chance to play in their first major international tournament this year.
Unfortunately for the Nzalang Nacional, they will not be able to compete in this tournament. They have not been strong internationally and even with an influx of Spanish players, they won't go far in this tournament.
Even though their group is not too difficult, it is nearly impossible to see them in the quarterfinals.
How they qualified: Second in Group I
Key Players: Haitham Mustafa, Haitham Tombal and Bakri Almadina
Considering all of the turmoil that Sudan has gone through over the last decade, it is a bit of a surprise to see them in this tournament, especially considering how underdeveloped football still is in East Africa.
South Sudan are in the same boat as Equatorial Guinea, considering that they have a FIFA ranking above 100, but they were able to qualify for the tournament due to a strong performance in Group I.
However, Sudan will have a very difficult time in their group, which consists of Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Angola, all three of which are strong.
Sudan did qualify for the 2008 tournament, and they were humiliated that year. It is also hard to see them getting a win in this tournament.
How they qualified: First in Group K
Key Players: Mompati Thuma, Jerome Ramatlhakwane and Modiri Marumo
Botswana are by no means a footballing power, yet they were able to qualify for their first African Cup of Nations thanks to a strong qualification campaign in Group K.
Unfortunately for Botswana fans, their players had already planned to go on strike due to their planned bonuses getting rejected. However, the players will not get their bonuses due to an already financially-strapped FA deciding to act against the players.
Botswana have Ghana, Guinea and Mali all in their group. Even though Botswana have emerged as a stronger side, it is a leap to think they will reach the quarterfinals.
How they qualified: First in Group G
Key Players: Kassaly Daouda, Ouwo Moussa Maazou and William N'Gounou
A first-time qualifier for the African Cup of Nations, Niger got in following South Africa's confusion over the tie-breaking system for a first-place finisher.
However, Niger still played well in qualification and do not find themselves in a group that is much harder than their qualification group.
Even with co-host nation Gabon, Tunisia and Morocco, it is unlikely that Niger will be able to advance into the knockout stage.
How they qualified: First in Group B
Key Players: Fodé Mansaré, Naby Yattara and Mamadou Bah
Guinea have qualified for their 10th African Cup of Nations after a strong qualifying campaign, but they will have a difficult group to match up with.
In their group, Guinea have Ghana, Mali and Botswana. Even though Guinea will take points, it's hard seeing them reach the quarterfinals again like they did the last three times they qualified.
How they qualified: Second in Group C
Key Players: Ahmed Sa'ad, Younes al Shibani and Samir Aboud
After having the Libyan Civil War and the death of Muammar Gaddafi grip their nation in 2011, the Libyan national football team will look to help the nation recover from their civil war in this African Cup of Nations.
Libya was able to qualify for the tournament after a strong qualifying campaign, especially after the civil war began.
The civil war has put Libya into an interesting position for this tournament. After all, this is the third African Cup of Nations that they have qualified for in their history.
Libya have a solid team that is playing for a strong cause: national unity. Don't be surprised if Libya reaches the quarterfinals.
How they qualified: First in Group F
Key Players: Charles Kaboré, Moumouni Dagano and Daouda Diakité
Burkina Faso nearly missed out on this African Cup of Nations due to a player that supposedly was ineligible yet was able to play in several qualifying matches. However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has ruled in favor of Burkina Faso, and they will be able to participate in this tournament.
Burkina Faso had a strong qualifying campaign, but they have already caused a big shock in the tournament by putting a 16-year-old on their roster, Chelsea's own Bertrand Traore.
Burkina Faso will need to play their best if they are to overcome both Angola and the Cote d'Ivoire. If they can get at least a win against one of these sides, it will probably allow them to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 1998.
How they qualified: Host nation
Key Players: Didier Ovono, Bruno Ecuele Manga and Eric Mouloungui
After qualifying for the last African Cup of Nations, Gabon will look to have more success in a tournament that they are co-hosting for the first time with Equatorial Guinea.
Gabon do have a squad that has some players that play in France and have also played well for the national team.
With both Morocco and Tunisia in their group, it will be hard for Gabon to advance. Yet knowing that they will have an advantage being at home throughout this tournament, they will probably fall out in the first round.
How they qualified: First in Group C
Key Players: Emmanuel Mayuka, Rainford Kalaba and Kennedy Mweene
A mainstay in the African Cup of Nations, Zambia will look to continue their solid form in this year's competition.
Zambian football has undergone some tough times in recent years with a decline in form. They have started to play better in recent months and were able to win a difficult group in order to qualify.
Zambia should advance into the quarterfinals again but the group they face is tricky. They will need to play their best football in order to make sure they don't get upset.
How they qualified: First in Group A
Key Players: Cheick Diabaté, Seydou Keita and Soumbeïla Diakité
After another strong qualifying effort, Mali find themselves with a good chance of advancing into the quarterfinals.
This is Mali's third straight African Cup of Nations, and the squad has lots of talent. However, they will need to utilize that talent correctly if they are to have the success that they had during last decade.
This is the third straight African Cup of Nations that Mali has qualified for.
How they qualified: First in Group F
Key Players: Flávio, Manucho and Carlos
Following a quarterfinal berth in the last two African Cup of Nations, Angola will look to go further in this tournament in what will be their sixth African Cup of Nations.
Angola will have a challenging group with both Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire being major competitors to reach the quarterfinal.
However, considering the deep amount of experience that is on Angola's side, they should probably advance to the next round.
How they qualified: Group K runner-up
Key Players: Issam Jemâa, Karim Haggui and Sami Allagui
A longtime African power, Tunisia will go into this African Cup of Nations as one of the most mysterious sides in the tournament due to a large amount of players that play in Tunisia along with a weak qualifying record.
This is mainly due to a awful start to their qualifying campaign, but expect Tunisia to be a strong attacking side in the tournament with the talented strikers they have.
Considering their group (which they should advance from), they should at least advance to the quarterfinals. Just don't expect them to go much further from their, though.
How they qualified: First in Group D
Key Players: Marouane Chamakh, Houssine Kharja and Nadir Lamyaghri
Morocco have long been one of Africa's giants and after failing to qualify for the 2010 African Cup of Nations, they return this year with a renewed sense of optimism.
Under new manager Eric Gatens, Morocco started to actually play with some unity (something that they traditionally have lacked) and were able to overcome a bumpy start to secure qualification.
Morocco are one of the top sides in their group, and they should be able to at least reach the quarterfinals.
How they qualified: First in Group E
Key Players: Demba Ba, Moussa Sow and Omar Daf
They are one of the top young international teams in the world. A decade removed from their "Golden Generation," this Senegal side will certainly be among the top sides in this year's tournament.
During qualifying, Senegal scored the second-most goals of any nation (16) and were able to prevent Cameroon from making this tournament, which is by no means an easy task.
Considering a relatively easy group and a quarterfinal match that shouldn't be that hard, Senegal should, at the very least, reach the semifinals in this tournament. The quality that exists on this side will be tough to stop.
How they qualified: First in Group H
Key Players: Boubacar Barry, Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba
They have long been considered to be Africa's best international footballing nation, and Cote d'Ivoire will head into this year's African Cup of Nations hoping to win the tournament for only the second time in their history.
Cote d'Ivoire have some of Africa's biggest stars on their side, and they know this could be the final chance for them to win this tournament with most of them playing together.
Assuming that they play as expected, expect to see Cote d'Ivoire in the final. However, considering their recent slip-ups in the competition, don't be surprised to see them beat in a critical match.
How they qualified: First in Group I
Key Players: Asamoah Gyan, John Mensah and Andre Ayew
After two runs into the knockout stage during the last two World Cups and a fantastic squad that features players from some of the best clubs in the world, Ghana will look to win their first African Cup of Nations in 30 years.
Of course, this young team will have their challenges, but after not conceding a goal during qualifying (and only drawing once), they certainly will be a hard side to stop.
It also doesn't hurt Ghana to have an easy group. The only question that remains for the Black Stars is how far they will go once they reach the quarterfinals. However, I feel that after a 30-year stretch without winning it and a fantastic squad, Ghana should win this year's African Cup of Nations.
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