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.
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.