ADDIS ABABA, Jan 12 (Reuters) – “Minnows”, “rank outsiders” or, at best, a hardly flattering “unknown quantity”.
These are just a few of the comments flying around about Ethiopia’s prospects in next week’s African Cup of Nations in South Africa in the country’s first appearance in more than three decades.
Asked about his thoughts on the tournament on Friday, Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger told a news conference the Cup was an interesting platform.
“It is maybe the only international competition today where you do not know all the players,” said Wenger, who has signed a number of African players in the past including Togo’s Emmanuel Adebayor and Ivorian Kolo Toure.
Current Arsenal forward Gervinho will represent the Ivory Coast in South Africa.
“This time in South Africa you will have Ethiopia – if I ask you to name five Ethiopian players, I am sure you will have a problem,” Wenger added.
In response Ethiopia coach Sewnet Bishaw, whose side take to the field in Nelspruit on Jan. 21 against defending champions Zambia, said his largely home-based contingent would be out to to prove their qualification was no fluke.
“He (Wenger) is absolutely right. But that will help our team, that we are unknown in this tournament,” Sewnet told Reuters. “I am sure that will not be the case at the end of the tournament for everyone, including Arsene.
“Our confidence is sky high. We are looking at going as far as we can with the first aim being the quarter-finals.”
Ethiopia, who won the tournament in 1962 after finishing runners-up five years earlier, also lock horns with Burkina Faso and heavyweights Nigeria in their group.
They have had a promising runup to the tournament, drawing with Tunisia before a 2-1 victory over Tanzania in another friendly on Friday. (Editing by John Mehaffey)