JOHANNESBURG, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Factbox on African Nations Cup finalists and hosts South Africa ahead of this year’s tournament from Jan. 19 to Feb 10.
Previous appearances African Nations Cup finals: 7
Best performance: Winners in 1996; Runners-up in 1998
FIFA world ranking Dec 2012: 87
Coach: Gordon Igesund was appointed last June after the country’s poor start to the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. He was given six months to get ready for the Nations Cup and ordered to deliver at minimum a semi-final appearance if he wants to keep his job past next month. The 56-year-old is the most successful coach in South African domestic football with four league titles with four different clubs since 1997. As a player he had a spell in Austria.
Thulani Serero (Ajax Amsterdam). Age: 22. Pos: Midfielder Playmaker who moved to Ajax after being crowned South Africa’s best footballer in 2011. Working his way back after a groin injury suffered in September but coach Igesund says a Serero at 60 percent is still a potential match winner for his team since the retirement from international football of Steven Pienaar.
Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs). Age: 28 Pos: Winger Scorer of a cracking goal to open the 2010 World Cup finals, he is arguably the most popular footballer in South Africa with his smiling face and dreadlocked hairstyle adorning advertising hoardings across the major cities. His form has vacillated over the last two years as he has struggled physically to keep up with the demand of both club and country commitments.
Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk). Age: 25 Pos: Defender. Utility defender, likely to play at right back, who was virtually unknown in his home country until he emerged at Belgian club Racing Genk, with whom he won the league in 2011 and competed in the group phase of last season’s UEFA Champions League. He has trials as a teenager with Arsenal.
South Africa might have regressed since the disappointment of not making it past the first round of the 2010 World Cup when they hosted the finals but could ride a tide of emotive support if they get off to a good start and win over sceptical fans. They have been hampered by injury setbacks but Igesund is confident they can still go on and win the title as happened the last time the tournament was hosted in South Africa in 1996. (Compiled by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)