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Thursday 16 February 2012

Barclays Premier League welcomes back African stars

Twelve English-based players took part in African Cup of Nations over last month

Ivory Coast's Yaya Toure has been in magnificent form for Manchester City this season

The African Cup of Nations finished on Sunday, with Zambia winning the tournament for the first time after a penalty shootout victory over Ivory Coast.

The 12 players who left their Barclays Premier League clubs to participate in the competition have now returned to England to help their teams in the final few months of the season.

We take a look at how the 12 fared in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon:

ARSENAL

Gervinho (Ivory Coast)

  • Matches: Five (played 89, 90, 90, 90, 120 minutes); Goals: One
  • Highlight: Scored stunning semi-final winner
"His semi-final goal was a cracker and that's great news for his confidence"
- Wenger on Gervinho
  • What he said (on 19th January): "The Ivory Coast are like Arsenal. The Ivory Coast have not won a trophy since 1992. We've got good players and every time we approach a tournament, we say we are going to win it and then we miss out."
  • What they said (Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger): "His semi-final goal was a cracker. That's great news for his confidence. Sometimes he rushes his decisions but I was happy he kept calm and finished in a controlled way."

Marouane Chamakh (Morocco)

  • Matches: Two (78, 90 minutes)
  • Highlight: Denied by a stunning save in opener v Tunisia
  • What he said (on 18 January): "I think Wenger has confidence in me. It was that reason that I left Bordeaux to join Arsenal. I have a lot more to my game and I want to demonstrate my level."
  • What they said (Morocco coach Eric Gerets in January): "Players not playing regularly for their club sides will want to give something extra to show their good qualities to their coaches. In a way they are also playing for their places at club level."

CHELSEA

Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)

  • Matches: Six (90, 90, 11, 90, 90, 120 minutes); Goals: Three, but missed two penalties
  • Highlight: Scored twice in quarter-final win over Equatorial Guinea
  • What he said (in November): "Whenever you go to a competition you go to win. Only one will win the cup, I hope we are going to be the country."
  • What they said (Ivory coach Francois Zahoui post-final): "If the veterans still have the motivation they can still play an important role for the team. But these are decisions not to be made now."

Salomon Kalou (Ivory Coast)

  • Matches: Five (64, 65, 5, 90, 63 minutes); Goals: One
  • Highlight: Scoring with a cool finish against Burkina Faso
"We created chances but luck was not on our side. The penalty shootout is a lottery"
- Salomon Kalou
  • What he said (post-final): "We created chances but luck wasn't on our side. But that said, not to concede a goal in the whole competition is some feat. The penalty shootout is a lottery."
  • What they said (Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas in October): "Everyone wants more playing time, even within what we're doing. Everyone thinks they fall short because we have 26 players and we can only pick 11."

MANCHESTER CITY

Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast)

  • Matches: Six (90, 90, 90, 90, 90, 120 minutes)
  • Highlight: Being part of a defence that did not concede a single goal
  • What he said (on 20th January): "I am looking forward to winning the Barclays Premier League again. I won it with Arsenal and would be so glad to win it with Manchester City as well."
  • What they said (Man City manager Roberto Mancini in December): "Kolo is part of our plans for this year. Kolo is a good player, a good guy and if he plays or not - because we have a lot of good players - he is part of our plans."

Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)

  • Matches: Five (90, 81, 90, 90, 87 minutes); Goals: One
  • Highlight: Scoring an unstoppable free-kick in quarter-final victory
  • What he said: "This isn't the European Cup. Temperature, humidity, grounds and the atmosphere are all very different. To go all the way through is very hard."
  • What they said (Mancini at start of January): "I've tried to find another Yaya in the squad but there is no-one. He is an important player for us and without him it will be difficult."

NEWCASTLE UNITED

Demba Ba (Senegal)

  • Matches: Three (90, 58, 45 minutes)
  • Highlight: Hitting the frame of the goal in their opening match
"I'm very focused on the end of the season with Newcastle, we want to achieve something"
- Demba Ba
  • What he said (post-tournament): "I'm very focused on this end of season with Newcastle, we want to achieve something and I would like to see it happen."
  • What they said (Newcastle boss Alan Pardew in January): "His biggest asset is his personality. He's a winner. Whatever role I have given him, he has tried to do that to the best of his ability - he has played in two or three roles for me. His all-round play has been excellent."

Papiss Cisse (Senegal)

  • Matches: Three (23, 90, 45 minutes)
  • Highlight: Teed up Ba to hit the woodwork, but was otherwise quiet
  • What he said (after a goalscoring debut for Newcastle against Aston Villa): "I've experienced playing in front of some great crowds in the Bundesliga. But nothing quite like this. The best reward for the fans would be to help get them into Europe - they deserve it."
  • What they said (Pardew after Cisse's debut): "He has had a great start. It was boys' annual stuff - the goal, his all-round performance. Any Newcastle fan would have been nudging their mate saying, 'We have got a good 'un here, he looks all right'."

Cheik Tiote (Ivory Coast)

  • Matches: Four (80, 90, 90, 120 minutes)
  • Highlight: Helped set up the goal and was superb in opening win against Sudan
  • What he said (pre-tournament): "Every time there is an African tournament, people tell us that we are favourites to win. But when you look at our trophy cabinet there is nothing there... absolutely nothing."
  • What they said (Pardew in December): "We are always on our guard with Cheik because we realise that to us, he is very, very important and it would be very, very difficult for someone to take him away from us."

QUEENS PARK RANGERS

Armand Traore (Senegal)

  • Matches: None
  • Highlight: Not appearing in a disastrous campaign won't have harmed Traore
"I'm enjoying working with him, he's a bright kid and I think there's more to come"
- Hughes on Taarabt
  • What he said (pre-tournament): "I thought, 'I want to be part of this; there is something we can do there'. Everyone is my age, quite young and could be playing for Senegal for the next 10 years."
  • What they said (QPR manager Mark Hughes after signing another left-back, Taye Taiwo): "Armand and Taye are both accomplished and allow me to play them both in the same team. We could have a combination of both down the left-hand side."

Adel Taarabt (Morocco)

  • Matches: Two (45, 24 minutes)
  • Highlight: Saw a fine shot saved in defeat at hands of Tunisia
  • What he said (post-finals): "The last couple of months at QPR was disappointing for me because I didn't show what I know I can do. But now we have a new manager and it is a new start for me."
  • What they said (Mark Hughes last week): "I'm enjoying working with him. He's a very bright kid, he's good around the place, and I've been really, really impressed with him. I think there's more to come. With the right work and the right direction he could be more effective than he has been in the past."

WIGAN ATHLETIC

Mohamed Diame (Senegal)

  • Matches: Three (90, 66, 90 minutes)
  • Highlight: Decent display in 2-1 defeat against hosts Equatorial Guinea
  • What he said (about Wigan's Barclays Premier League survival last season): "We survived on the last day which required effort until the very last second of the season. We really hope not to have to go through something like that again."
  • What they said (Wigan boss Roberto Martinez at start of February): "Mohamed is like a new signing. We never expected him back until the end of February, so to get him for the next three games is a real bonus."

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Key Points

  • African Cup of Nations competition took place over January and February
  • Twelve players took part from League clubs
  • Six helped Ivory Coast reach the final, where they lost to Zambia on penalties