2013 Cup of Nations Preview: Ethiopia

It always augments tournament aesthetic when a country’s mascot echoes playing style. Ethiopia are suitably dubbed the ‘Walya Antelopes’ after the walia ibex. The mascot is a tenacious goat whose reflexes facilitate sharp turns as the ibex stumbles along the rocky terrains of Ethiopian highlands. The same paradoxically clumsy yet sure-footed approach is what Sewnat Bishaw’s men import onto the football pitch. On one hoof, their disorganization and gung-ho demeanour open porous avenues that team rush to exploit. But on the other, Ethiopia  find themselves just as capable of counter-attacking play, engaging their physical qualities to pose serious threats to the lackadaisical. If you look closely, the Walya Antelope even sports the same patchy goatee sometimes found on striker Adane Girma. Ethiopia come to South Africa in hopes of reviving former glory. The 1962 continental champions will have to undergo a reconnaissance of sorts, as it will have been their first major tournament in 31 years. Nevertheless, the East Africans will clutch on to hushed optimism. The devilish winds of momentum blow at their backs as they have nicked encouraging results in qualification matches. To have earned their ticket for this winter’s Cup of Nations, Ethiopia had to shore up a 5-3 first-leg deficit against Sudan.  You could almost taste the anticipation in the thin air of Addis Ababa as Bishaw’s men unleashed a barrage of threatening attacks which - some swear - made Sudan goalkeeper Abdulatif Boy’s net clench in fear. The breakthrough finally arrived in the 61st minute, as the aforementioned Adane Girma hit the net. Talismanic striker Saladin Said quickly followed with a goal of his own, sending the congested stadium into ecstasy. The Ethiopians did varying versions of the Poznan and made full of use of their vocal chords as livestock all over the country quivered in their pens, fearing imminent celebrations.

Ethiopia are even exceeding expectations on the tricky road to Brazil. The Walya Antelopes have amassed four out of a possible six points by drawing against Bafana Bafana and beating an in-form Central African Republic. Central to their success is a resolute spine. It starts at the foot of the formation with their centre-back, and captain, Degu Debebe. Debebe stands at a short 1.83m, but is technically accomplished, which permits him licence on the ball. Shielding Debebe is Addis Hintsa. We’re massive fans of his seemingly languid stride, as he makes use of both feet to spray long and short passes around the pitch. The cervical vertebra of the Ethiopian spine consists of the Said-Girma partnership. The duo have tag-teamed to score five of Ethiopia’s last seven goals, and are a guaranteed handful for opposition centre-halves.

Coach: Sewnat Bishaw

Nothing but respect will be the sentiment towards coach Sewnat Bishaw irrespective of how Ethiopia fare in South Africa. Bishaw had shattered the curse which plagued Africa’s second-highest populated country for more than 30 years. The experienced coach is enjoying his second spell at the helm and he’ll be looking to extract the maximum from his squad come the 21st.

Leading scorer Said

Key Man: Saladin Said

Ethiopia’s target man is one of the few who makes his living in a foreign league, and it shows. Said, who earns his wage at Wadi Degla (Egypt), will be one of the better unknown players featured in the Cup of Nations. Look for him to use his pace and poacher’s instinct as he gets behind strikers and knocks a few in.

One to Watch: Degu Debebe

‘Degy’ – as his shirt will carry in the Cup of Nations, is definitely an eye-catcher. Debebe isn’t the tallest or strongest defender, but his years of experience compensate. The skipper does need to be wary of his positioning, but he is particularly strong in the tackle, and enjoys possession when on the ball. Tanzanian striker, Mbwana Samatta, who promised goals in a friendly encounter vs Ethiopia, said of Debebe: ‘There was a defender like John Terry. So tough’. Make of that what you will.

SFG Predicts…

Group exit.

8 Comments on 2013 Cup of Nations Preview: Ethiopia

  1. japo@gmail.com // January 11, 2013 at 1:10 pm // Reply

    SFG thank you for this analysis, but I think Ethiopia will make it out of the group stage. I think we are capable of beating Zambia after seeing their dismal performance at 3 friendlies. I know our boys lack experience unlike many of our African brothers but they have been very promising and they dont risk much like the Nigeria’s, Ghana’s Ivory Coasts and so on. 🙂 Keep up the good work SFG!

    • Thank you for your respectful comment!

      I do think Ethiopia are capable of producing a few upsets. I’m not sure it’d be vocationally safe for me to officially claim they’ll usurp the experience of Zambia and Nigeria. One strength (or weakness) Ethiopia possesses is that 20 of their players play in the domestic league. That could equip them with chemistry, or could be a measure of how low the level is.

      Anyways, we’re all rooting for the Walyas here- I’d gladly be proved wrong if it meant Zambia or Nigeria were knocked out at the expense of Ethiopia.

  2. Good article, i’d like to point out though that Elias is a centre back and that Butako plays as left back!

  3. No worries it’s a good article. Another player to watch out for is Alula Girma who plays right back, he could make some noise this tournament.

  4. Considering the controversy suspension and issues the EFA have faced in the past couple years this appearance is huge. But I expect them to exceed expectations or dissapoint thoroughly

  5. I have a feelng Ethiopia will upset Nigeria….

  6. At Addis Rumble we celebrate Ethiopia’s return to Africa’s finest football forum with a tour down memory lane through the photo archives. http://addisrumble.com/?p=2618

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