2013 Africa Youth Championship: Preview (Part 1)

ALGERIA

The host nation named their 23-man squad two weeks before the tournament. Six European-based players have been called-up by Jean-Marc Nobilo. Algeria has been the supreme beneficiaries of the new FIFA mandate allowing junior bi-nationals to switch allegiance. Over twenty players have made the switch from France to Algeria, gutting the youth national set-up of its previous necessity.

Nevertheless some promising talents have been conscripted.

Players

Toumi: Montpellier’s prospect

Mokhtar Toumi is the sober head who’s been assigned the undesirable burden of captaining the squad. He’s shown maturity beyond his tender years in acting as the defensive cornerstone. At the other end of the pitch stands Bilal Ouali. Ouali towers over his opponents; the tips of his mohawk peaking at 6’1. His natural position lies just behind a target man a la Fellaini, as he uses his size to bully opposing defenders.

Supplementing Ouali and his exploits will be three impressive attacking players. Thomas Izerghouf of Rennes can spearhead the attack. Izerghouf has scored six goals and amassed three assists in the French CFA. Adjacent to the Breton are two impressive domestic players: Zinedine Ferhat and Zakaria Haddouche. The former has been especially impressive as Ferhat managed to break through Algeria’s most talented team: USM Alger. Ferhat has played over 20 matches for the historic club, showcasing his impressive power and dribbling ability.

Coach

Algerian FA President Mohamed Raouraoua pulled out all of the measures in insuring a quality performance from the U20s. He hired former Benin coach Jean-Marc Nobilo to head this team to Turkey this summer.

Nobilo was a mainstay in Le Havre’s youth development during the last decade. He’s worked with the likes of Jean-Alain Boumsong, Pascal Chimbonda, and Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik. He was known to be talented in developing potential. Nobilo has said his target for this tournament is the semi-final. The pressure will be on to deliver his objective.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Aiyoub Belabes (Quevilly), Sofiane Kacem (AC FAF), Nassim Torche (Lyon Duchere)

Defenders: Hichem Aoulmi (AC FAF), Ayoub Abdellaoui (AC FAF), Mokhtar Toumi (Montpellier), Redouane Cherifi (AC FAF), Mohamed Amine Madani (AC FAF), Mohamed El Amine Barka (AC FAF), Nazim Aklil (AC FAF), Abderrahmane Saighi (AC FAF)

Midfielders: Abderrahmane Bourdim (AC FAF), Mohamed Benkhemessa (AC FAF), Abderrahmane Ensaad (AC FAF), Djamel Belalem (AC FAF), Kenzi Zenadi (Sedan), Mohamed Benkablia (AC FAF)

Strikers: Bilel Ouali (Reims), Thomas Izerghouf (Rennes), Zakaria Haddouche (ASO Chlef, Zinedine Ferhat (USM Alger)

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EGYPT (by @kingfut)

Egypt U-20 coach Rabie Yassin named his 21-man squad last week for the U-20 Africa Cup of Nationsthat kicks-off in Algeria on March 16. The Young Pharaohs are likely to be one of the most experienced sides in the tournament with the likes of Saleh Gomaa, Rami Rabia and Ahmed Hassan ‘Koka’, who are all regulars with their respective clubs and already senior Egypt internationals under Bob Bradley.

The list only includes two European-based Pharaohs in PSV Eindhoven’s  Amir Adel (known as Alexander Jakobsen in Europe) and Koka, who coach Yassin confirms will only be available for the first two matches against Ghana and Algeria before returning to Rio Ave in Portugal. However, some highly rated European-based Pharaohs were left out of the squad for various reasons including Paris Saint-Germain and former France U-17 star Abdallah Yaisien and Hoffenheim’s Rhami-Jasin Ghandour, who previously captained Germany’s U-16 national team.

Players

Ahmed ‘Koka’ Hassan

The near two-metre tall striker Ahmed Hassan, who turned 20 last week, has been a revelation in Rio Ave’s attack since making his senior debut late in the season, scoring seven goals in his last nine games in all Portuguese competitions. Although the recent Egypt international will only be allowed to feature for the first two games, with Rio Ave naturally reluctant to release him for the African Youth Championship, Egypt will be looking towards Koka to reproduce his club form to help guide the Young Pharaohs past the ‘group of death’ and into the semi-finals; as a result, qualifying for the U-20 World Cup in Turkey this summer.

One of the main talents Egyptians will be excited to finally watch represent the Pharaohs at the tournament is Egyptian-Danish attacking midfielder Amir Adel, 18, better known as Alexander Jakobsen. The PSV youth star, who can also play as a winger on either flank, was labelled ‘Denmark’s Ronaldinho’ as a youngster. The Denmark-born trickster started his career at FC Copenhagen, where he scored 27 goals and assisted 41 in 37 games during the 2008-09 season.

Amir, son of former Al-Ahly and Egypt national team player Adel Ahmed told Al-Ahram on Wednesday: ”I was offered spots in the Danish and the Dutch national teams earlier but I preferred to play with Egypt.”

ENPPI midfielder Saleh Gomaa also played with the U-23 Egyptian team in last year’s Olympics Games and has since been a regular senior Egypt international.

Al-Ahly’s versatile defender Rami Rabia is also likely to feature in the talented Egyptian midfield, after recently thriving as a defensive midfielder for Al-Ahly since captain Hossam Ghaly picked up an ACL injury during the Club World Cup in Japan. Rabia has scored three goals in his last four games in all competitions for both club and country including the only goal for Bob Bradley’s Egypt in last week’s 3-1 friendly loss in Qatar, where he played at right-back, and also against Group A leaders ENPPI in the Egyptian Premier League on Sunday.

Coach

Coach Rabie Yassin said he started preparations for the competition four years ago and his team is determined to qualify for the World Cup in Turkey, but realizes it will be a tough task to reach the semi-finals.

“It will be really tough to meet three powerful opponents in the ‘group of death’ – hosts Algeria, three-time winner Ghana and former winner Benin who eliminated a strong Ghana side in the qualifiers,” Yassin told Al-Ahram on Wednesday.

“We won the trophy twice [1991 and 2003] and we will not be easy prey for our rivals despite our current difficult circumstances,” he added.

“I watched over 800 players. The squad cannot be better. We will depend on one striker, Omar Bassam of Ahly and support from good attacking midfielders Ahmed Samir (Dakhleya), Ahmed Refaat (ENPPI), Amir Adel and Saleh Gomaa,” Yassin said.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Mossad Awad (Ismaily), Mahmoud Hamdy (Zamalek), Hassan Mahmoud Arab Contractors).

Defenders: Sherif Adel ‘Dabo’, Ossama Ibrahim (ENPPI), Mahmoud Hamad (Ismaily), Ibrahim Hassan (Ahly), Yasser Ibrahim (Mansoura), Ibrahim El-Hadad (Wadi Degla).

Midfielders: Hossam Ghaly, Rami Rabia, Mahmoud Hassan ‘Trezeguet’ (Ahly), Saleh Gomaa, Ahmed Refaat, Mahmoud Abdel-Moneam (ENPPI), Mahmoud Metwaly, Mohamed Sherif  (Ismaily), Amir Adel ‘Alexander Jakobsen’ (PSV).

Strikers: Ahmed Hassan ‘Koka’ (Rio Ave), Omar Bassam (Ahly), Ahmed Samir (Dakhleya).

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BENIN AND DR CONGO

DR Congo U20

Both of these teams struggled with paperwork and visas which delayed their eventual arrival.

Benin landed in Oran on Wednesday after spending their preparation in Marseille. The mini Squirrels were immediately escorted to Ain Temouchent where they’ll play hosts Algeria in tournament opener.

Coach Ulrich Alohoutadé has called on 19 locals and 2 USA-based players to comprise his selection.

DR Congo also finally broke through the pesky red tape and got their belated visas. Coach Baudouin Lofombos leads the young Leopards into their first African Youth Championship. His star players include Mulenda Kalinga (Ajax Cape Town) and Eddy Ngoy Emomo (US Monastir).

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