Africa football legend Abedi Ayew Pele has said that it saddens him a great deal to see that big names such as Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa will be absent at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
The three-time Africa Player of the Year said such teams bring some excitement to the tournament and beating them to annex the trophy gives a side some sense of pride.
“It is sad, really sad because these are big-name football countries who bring excitement to the game throughout Africa,” Abedi told AFP.
“If you defeat Mauritania to win the Cup of Nations it will not be the same as defeating Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria or South Africa to win it.”
“Having said that, a trophy is a trophy. If you are able to lift the Cup of Nations it means you have worked hard for it and you have sacrificed so much,” he added.
The former Ghana captain is certain Gabon and Equatorial Guinea could spring up some surprises.
“There are going to be a lot of surprises in this tournament because the teams who have qualified are not going to central Africa for a holiday,” Abedi said.
“With the absence of some great countries, the small nations want to beat the big ones. Botswana and Niger will target the likes of Ivory Coast, Ghana and Senegal.”
The 28th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations kicks off on Saturday, January 21.