The helter-skelter nature of qualifying for CAN 2013 in South Africa, as the tournament is moving from even to odd years, means this weekend will see fifteen head-to-head second-leg play-offs, some of which look fit to grace the later stages of the tournament itself. Ligue 1 fans might like to pay attention to these to see what state their clubs could be in come January.
Please note – due to the CAN website not having team details, and the individual associations not necessarily showing up-to-date squads, the following has been taken from Wikipedia details of current squad / recent call-ups, and L’Equipe’s listing of national affiliation by player (some amendments made where obviously wrong). This may not, I realise, be a foolproof system, but it is the best we have. Also, this only looks at Ligue 1 players – several from Ligue 2 may also be involved. Please chip in with other details / links as appropriate in the comments below.
Teams most at risk from CAN-knack are Sochaux (12 eligible players, 8 already capped), Evian (10 eligible players, 7 already capped) and Montpellier (8 eligible players, all capped). CAN countries best represented in Ligue 1 are Mali (13, all capped), Senegal (23, 10 capped), and Cameroon (12, 9 capped). See dashboard for club / country details.
The biggest game, regardless of the Ligue 1 involvement, will undoubtedly be Senegal v Ivory Coast (10 players in Ligue 1, 4 in current squad – not including Kalou, per Wiki). The 10 capped Senegalese players are all at different clubs, but Rennes, Sochaux and St Etienne all have 3 players eligible for the country, so will be watching this with interest to see if Senegal can recover from the 4-2 defeat in the first leg.
Other games that could feature Ligue 1 players on both sides are:
- Togo v Gabon, where Reims have an interest with Agassa and Ayite both in the squad for Togo, and St Etienne (Aubemayang) and Lorient (Ecuele Manga) for Gabon;
- Cameroon v Cape Verde, where, although Cameroon’s representation far outweighs Cape Verde with 2, Lille look sure to lose someone, as Chedjou and Mendes are both involved – possibly FFW’s own Lille fan Andrew Gibney will be cheering for Cameroon; and
- Burkina Faso v Central African Republic, although the latter’s one representative, Reims’ Balamandji, does not appear to be part of the squad. This last game looks pretty tight, and with all the Burkina Faso representatives in Ligue 1 likely to make the squad, several clubs could lose key players (Alain Traore for Lorient, Pitroipa for Rennes) if they progress.
In the other games, Mali have a fairly comfortable cushion over Botswana so Ajaccio could be in particular difficulties with three current national team members on their books (Diawara, Diarra, Sissoko), and Bordeaux and Sochaux both have two. Morocco have some work to do against Mozambique, but here Montpellier will be in nail-biting mode with Belhanda and Ait-Fana involved, and to a lesser extent defender Al-Kaoutari (no starts this season but given the defensive staffing issues at Mosson, might be needed).
Algeria managed the only away win of the first legs, so again Ajaccio could be in trouble, with Mostefa and Medjani both in the team, and although the other Algerian representatives are well spread out in Ligue 1, one potential absence that could be key would be Sochaux losing Boudebouz to the tournament.
The play-offs will take place this weekend, nicely filling the gap between the various other internationals taking place Thursday/Friday and Monday/Tuesday, so hopefully any nerves about what impact the CAN will have this year will be outweighed by relief that there will be some cracking games to watch.