Yes, this is Euroballs and not Africaballs, CAFBalls or whatever, but for a month or so, we'll be sat in front of the TV watching the Africa Cup of Nations. It's generally entertaining fare and gives us a look at players we wouldn't otherwise get to see. We also love the nicknames.
Trivialising things is something we do well and suffice to say that 2011 was quite a year for Africa. Revolutions in the north, it's biggest country divorcing from itself, it's biggest economy seeking draconian media laws and uprisings in the south against self-styled Sun Kings. And this is before Zimbabwe kicks off it's traditional pre-election brutality. Again with the trivialising and possibly distasteful analogy, it was quite a year for football as well. A changing of the guard, if you will. Egypt's revolution exposed huge rifts in the squad and the three-time reigning champions failed to qualify. Neither did big-hitters Cameroon and South Africa while Nigeria were banned by their own government from participation and Togo were late inclusions in qualification after the amoral ban by CAF for failing to fulfil fixtures at the last edition of the tournament on the trifling grounds that they'd been shot up in Cabinda. All of which leaves Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and Ghana as stand-out favourites. It's a co-hosted affair with the tiny, mineral-rich Equatorial Guinea making their first appearance at the finals and big neighbours Gabon sharing duties and taking two of the 16 spots on offer with Botswana and Niger also appearing for the first time.
We start our previews in the alphabetically-ordered fashion by having a look at Group A.
Nickname: Nzalang Nacional. Bit of a mouthful, not especially inspiring. Same number of syllables as the name of the country (FACT!) which makes neither particularly chantable on the terraces.
Brazilian coach Gilson Paulo names seven naturalised players in his squad. Danilo Emanuel is Brazilian while Lawrence Doe is from Liberia and Thierry Fidjeu is Cameroonian by birth. Former Spain u18 international Ivan Zarandona does not make the cut though. Co-hosts, this is their first appearance at the finals.
Goalkeepers: Danilo Emanuel (America, Brazil), Felipe Ovono (Sony de Ela Nguema), Achil Pensi Muokembe (The Panthers)
Defenders: Lawrence Sokota Doe (Al Shabab, Oman), Jose Bokung (Deportivo de Mongomo), Rui Fernando da Gracia Gomes (Logrones, Spain), David Álvarez (Langreo, Spain), Armando Sipoto Buale (Badajoz, Spain), Raúl Ivan Fabiani Bosio (C. D. Alcoyano, Spain)
Midfielders: Ben Esono Konate (The Panthers), Daniel Vazquez Evuy (Villaviciosa, Spain), Rolan de la Cruz Biyogo (Fortaleza, Colombia), Juvenal Edjogo Owono (Sabadell, Spain), Narcisse Ekanga Amia (TP Mazembe, DR Congo), Raúl Juan Máximo Eyama (Deportivo de Mongomo), Jose Javier Balboa Osa (SC Beira-Mar, Portugal), Fousseiny Kamissoko (Al Shabab, Oman)
Forwards: Ellong Douwala Viera (Sony de Ela Nguema), Rodolfo Bodipo (Deportivo de A Coruna, Spain), Ivan Bolado Palacios (Cartagena, Spain), Iban 'Randy' Iyanga (Union Deportiva Las Palmas, Spain), Thierry Fidjeu Tazemeta (Konyaspor, Turkey), Daniel-Bladimir Ekedo (San Roque de Lepe, Spain)
Nickname: Mediterranean Knights. A new nickname for a reborn nation, even if it does sound like a seedy porn star, a crap Wham single or a themed fancy dress party aboard a cruise liner. If they really wanted a new image for the nation, we'd have suggested 'FUCK YOU GADAFFI'.
Despite the upheaval in the country, Libya were quietly impressive in qualifying, going unbeaten, but finishing second behind Zambia. Veteran striker Osama Al Fazaani pulled out citing personal reasons, but Ahmed Zuway and Younes Al Shibani return after missing the Pan-Arab Games. Braga's Djamal Abdallah is the star man.
Goalkeepers: Samir Aboud (Al Ittihad), Joumaa Gtit (Al Ahly), Mohamed Nachnouch (Al Ittihad)
Defenders: Mohamed Al Moghrabi (Olympique Khourigba, Morocco), Mohamed Mounir (FK Jagodina, Serbia), Younes Al Chibani (Olympique Khourigba, Morocco), Ali Salama (Olympique Beja, Tunisia), Oussama Achtiba (Al Najma, Lebanon), Ahmed Al Alwani (Al Madina), Rabii Al Lafi (Club Africain, Tunisia), Abdelaziz Belrich (Al Ittihad)
Midfielders: Jamal Abdallah (FC Braga, Portugal), Mohamed Al Snani (US Monastir, Tunisia), Marwan Al Mabrouk (Al Ittihad), Aboubakr Al Abidi (Al Nasr), Moataz Ben Amer (Al Ahly Benghazi), Walid Al Khatrouchi (Al Ittihad), Abdallah Al Cherif (Al Madina), Oussama Abdelsalam (Al Akhdhar), Faicel Al Badri (Al Hilal)
Forwards: Ahmed Saad (Club Africain, Tunisia), Ahmed Al Zwei (CA Bizertin, Tunisia), Ihab Al Boussifi (Al Ittihad)
Nickname: Lions of Teranga. Not just any old lions, oh no, but lions of Teranga. Which are different and better than normal lions.
One of the favourites for the tournament, Senegal name a strong side packed with familiar names. Demba Ba, Moussa Sow and Papiss Demba Cissé make for a formidable strike force and while it looks light in midfield, there's plenty of versatility in the players named. Armand Traoré switches allegiance from France for whom he was a youth international.
Goalkeepers: Khadim Ndiaye (ASC Linguere), Bouna Coundoul (New York Red Bulls, USA), Pape Latyr Ndiaye (Ouakam)
Defenders: Kader Mangane (Rennes, France), Souleymane Diawara (Marseille, France), Lamine Sané (Bordeaux, France), Jacques Faty (Sivasspor, Turkey), Moustapha Bayal Sall (St Etienne, France), Pape Malickou Diakhaté (Granada, Spain), Cheikh Mbengue (Toulouse, France), Armand Traoré (QPR, England), Omar Daf (Brest, France)
Midfielders: Rémi Gomis (Valenciennes, France) , Mouhamed Diamé ( Wigan, England), Guirane N'Daw (Birmingham City, England), Ndiaye Dème Ndiaye (Arles-Avignon, France)
Forwards: Issiar Dia ( Fenerbahce, Turkey), Moussa Sow (Lille, France), Papiss Demba Cissé (Freiburg, Germany), Souleymane Camara (Montpelier, France), Mamadou Niang (Al Sadd, Qatar), Demba Ba (Newcastle United, England), Dame N'Doye (FC Copenhagen, Denmark).
Nickname: Copper Bullets. Sounds like a euphemism in Viz's matchless Profanisaurus for turds.
James Chamanga was an injury doubt, but has recovered sufficiently to boost Zambia's attacking options. Young Boys' forward Emmanuel Mayuka is the star man. Gabon has unhappy memories for Zambia. It was there in 1993 that the brilliant national team was wiped out in a plane crash.
Goalkeepers: Kennedy Mweene (Free State Stars, South Africa), Kalililo Kakonje (TP Mazembe, DR Congo), Joshua Titima (Power Dynamos)
Defenders: Francis Kasonde, Hichani Himonde, Stopilla Sunzu (all TP Mazembe, DR Congo), Nyambe Mulenga (Zesco United), Davies Nkausu (SuperSport United, South Africa), Joseph Musonda (Golden Arrows, South Africa), Kampamba Chintu (BidVests Wits, South Africa)
Midfielders: Nathan Sinkala (Green Buffaloes), Rainford Kalaba (TP Mazembe DR Congo), Noah Chivuta (Free State Stars, South Africa), Isaac Chansa (Orlando Pirates, South Africa), Clifford Mulenga (Bloemfontein Celtics, South Africa), Chisamba Lungu (Ural Oblast, Russia), Jonas Sakuwaha (El Merreikh, Sudan), Felix Katongo (Green Buffaloes), Christopher Katongo (Henan Jienye, China)
Forwards: Evans Kangwa (Nkana), Collins Mbesuma (Golden Arrows, South Africa), Emmanuel Mayuka (Young Boys, Switzerland) and James Chamanga (Dalian Shide, China)
Going through from this group: Senegal top by plenty, Equatorial Guinea last by plenty. Probably Zambia to edge out Libya for the second spot.