Return to CAN turns back Ethiopian clock

Ethiopia qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations the hard way

, advancing past Benin on the away goals rule after a goalless draw at home and a 1-1 result away, followed by another away goals victory over Sudan, whom they lost 5-3 to away and beat 2-0 at home.

Qualification is a very big thing for Ethiopia, as the last time the country managed that feat was way back in 1982, 30 years ago.

It has been a good year for the Black Lions. They began it ranked 133rd by Fifa and slipped to as low as 140 in March, but by November they had moved up to 102nd place, their highest ranking since 2006.

Their games included a 1-1 draw against Bafana Bafana in South Africa, which led to the dismissal of Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane after a string of unconvincing results.

Striker Saladin Said, who plays for Wadi Degla in the Egyptian Premier League, scored in that draw with South Africa and is certainly the Black Lions' dangerman.

Former Belgian international Walter Meeuws, who coached Said at Wadi Degla, says the striker could be one of the surprises at the Africa Cup of Nations.

“Said is a very skilful player, technically strong, good speed and a good positioning as striker. He reads very well the game and the last year he became stronger in both power and physical strength," Meeuws said.

Adane Girma, who began his career as a defender or defensive midfielder, has since changed to striker and become a consistent goal scorer for his club Saint George FC, the leading club in Ethiopia. In 2010/11 he shared the Ethiopian goal scoring title with Getaneh Kebede and was voted the best player in the Ethiopian Premier League.

 

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