Stats Zone quarter-final preview: deep forwards, midfield runners and the narrowest team

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?'s Michael Cox uses the FREE Africa Cup of Nations version of Stats Zone to analyse the latest action from the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations...

Zambia v Sudan (Sat 4 Feb, 4pm)
Sudan are one of the narrower sides in the competition, as shown by the diagrams from their 2-1 win over Burkina Faso in their final group game.

The narrowness can be observed in two distinct ways. First, with the exception of one corner, all their chances were created by a pass played from a central position, including goalkeeper Akram El Hadi Salim’s blatant hoof down the pitch for the second goal, finished nicely by Mudather El Tahir.

Second, they barely ever cross the ball. From the 12 crosses they attempted against Burkina Faso, six were from corners. In other words, they only attempt a cross from open play once every 15 minutes, so Zambia should primarily be concerned with keeping it tight down the middle of the pitch.

Ivory Coast v Equatorial Guinea (Sat 4 Feb, 7pm)
Equatorial Guinea’s Juvenal – full name Juvenal Edjogo-Owono Montalbán – is really a Spanish player. Born in the Catalonian city of Sabadell, he joined his hometown club at the age of 29 in 2008.

His style of play is typical for a player from that region. He’s an excellent passer, possibly a natural No.10, but spends much of the game coming deep to get the ball before spraying it across the pitch for team-mates.

He’s also stormed forward to have plenty of shots in his three matches so far, and is probably the biggest threat to the physical Ivorian midfield three of Cheick Tiote, Yaya Toure and Didier Zokora.

Gabon v Mali (Sun 5 Feb, 4pm)
Modibo Maiga plays an interesting role for Mali, who take on Gabon this weekend. The forward, who was heavily linked with Newcastle last summer but has remained at Sochaux, plays as a deep-lying forward but isn’t really based around creativity in the traditional sense – he plays more of a hold-up role, laying the ball off to midfield runners.

FEATURE Five to watch at ACoN 2012 (including Modibo Maiga)

The diagrams below show that a very high proportion of his passes are played backwards rather than forwards, although they can be highly effective – he created four chances with pull-backs in the 2-1 win over Botswana.

Ghana v Tunisia (Sun 5 Feb, 7pm)
As at the World Cup two years ago, Ghana seem set up to play on the counter-attack, and like to work the right-hand side of the pitch more than the left. On that side they have Andre Ayew, a true forward rather than the more functional player on the other wing (either box-to-box midfielder Sulley Muntari or full-back Samuel Inkoom are used on the left).

Furthermore, their right-sided central midfielder, Emmanel Agyemang-Badu, breaks forward much more than the left-sided holder, Anthony Annan, does. Badu’s Udinese teammate Kwadowah Asamoah, the central attacking midfielder, also likes to move across to the right.

FEATURE Five more to watch at ACoN 2012 (including Kwadwoh Asamoah)

In their previous game against Guinea, they only managed to create three chances in the game, but all came from the right. This means Tunisia’s left-back will be in for a big test. Ammar Jemal started Tunisia’s first game of the tournament there, but Khalil Chemmam was used in the win over Gabon. His dashboard reveals a fine performance, and he’ll need to replicate that on Sunday.

More ACoN analysis from Michael Cox:
Mon 30 Jan Botswana's goal peppered, Boussifi makes it count & Pitroipa's dribbling problem
Thu 26 Jan Ivory Coast fail to utilise Yaya as young Lass fails to show class
Fri 20 Jan How will Premier League strikers fare at the Africa Cup of Nations?