All eyes are on South Africa. The last time this happened, it was the 2010 World Cup. Ghana nearly made it (they lost in the quarter-finals), seeking a title not only for its country but for the continent.
This time, no one has to share the glory. There's only one crown. And only one African team can win it.
The Africa Cup of Nations commences on January 19th. For three weeks, African's national football teams will vie for the crown. Fans will put their bragging rights and team songs to best use. And the world will watch what has become known as a not-to-be-missed spectacle of sport and culture. As for us, we'll be keeping an extra close watch on the match-ups which include PUMA-sponsored teams South Africa (Group A), Ghana (Group B), and Burkina Faso (Group C), as well as Algeria, Ivory Coast, and Togo (Group D).
South Africa as host has the "home field" advantage but that doesn't mean wins will come easy. The boys of Bafana, Bafana will certainly look to the stands for extra support. We don't doubt that their fans will be painted from head to toe in yellow, green, and rainbows aplenty.
Knocked out in the final in the last AFCON, Ivory Coast is ready to strike back with standout players Yaya Touré and Emmanuel Eboué. Some call theirs an "aging" team while stalwart fans will tell you that their team is part of the "Golden Generation," with players seeking a title to round out celebrated careers. Call Les Éléphants what you want; either way it will be hard to hold them down.
Ghana has what some say Ivory Coast lacks: youth. The Black Stars enter the contest with a troupe of young players such as Asamoah Gyan. Looking to upset the masses are several underdogs of note: both Algeria and Togo are great teams but outsider's picks; and Burkina Faso - with rising star Jonathan Pitroïpa - stands an excellent shot at making it through the group stage.
If past AFCON tournaments have taught us anything it's this: expect the unexpected. If you had to choose a winner, who would it be? Unless you're too superstitious to say. In that case, we understand. We aren't saying a word. There's just too much football left to be played…