Friday, 22 January 2010

Africa Nations Roundup

On the field the Africa Cup of Nations has produced the usual mix of upsets, excitement, goals and poor goalkeeping. With the World Cup only 5 months away extra attention has been focused on the 5 African qualifiers participating. The first round of fixtures was not encouraging for Africa’s hopes of hailing its first world champion come July. With Ghana’s game against Togo cancelled Algeria, Nigeria and Cameroon all fell to defeat whilst the highly fancied Ivory Coast stumbled to a 0-0 draw with Burkina Faso. All five have since done enough to qualify for the quarter-finals along with hosts Angola, holders Egypt and Zambia.

Group A

Undoubtedly the game of the tournament came on the first evening when Angola buoyed by a vociferous home crowd raced into a 4-0 lead against Mali. With 11 minutes remaining the hosts looked as if they were cruising but a remarkable comeback inspired by 2 goals from Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita gave Mali a 4-4 draw. As gutted as the Angolans were they were surely not as depressed as one English student who bet his entire student loan of £4,500 on Angola to win with 12 minutes remaining at odds of 1/100. He has now dropped out of uni, due to a lack of finance or a lack of brains I’m not sure.

Minnows Malawi stunned Algeria with a 3-0 thrashing in the first game. However, they could not maintain their blistering start and after defeats to Angola (2-0) and Mali (3-1) they bowed out. Algeria’s 1-0 victory over Mali meant that a draw in their final game against Angola would see both sides through. Surprise, surprise it finished 0-0. Mali launched an official protest, not surprisingly it fell on deaf ears.

Group B

Togo’s withdrawal left only 3 games in Group B. The Ivory Coast for all their striking talent, lead by Didier Drogba, couldn’t find a way past Burkina Faso in a 0-0 draw but made amends with a 3-1 victory over a severely depleted Ghana to finish top. Ghana also qualified after an edgy 1-0 win over the Burkinans.

Group C

Holders Egypt have been by far the most impressive side so far. The only side to qualify with three wins they strolled past Nigeria (3-1), Mozambique (2-0) and Benin (2-0). Despite missing star man Mohamed Aboutrika the Egyptians are on course for a third consecutive title. It remains a great mystery why Egypt always perform well in the ACN yet have failed to even qualify for the World Cup in 20 years. Nigeria recovered from the defeat against Egypt to beat Benin (1-0) and Mozambique (3-0) but have looked very unconvincing. Unrest in the Nigerian camp is a common occurrence but they always have one big performance per tournament and could well progress to the semis. However, their overdependence on John Obi Mikel as a playmaker will continue to cause problems looking forward to the World Cup. Mikel was once seen as creative goal-scoring midfielder but years of playing in the holding role at Chelsea and the influence of Jose Mourinho early in his career has instead turned Mikel into a poor imitation of Claude Makalele.

Group D
The most competitive of all the groups left only one point dividing all 4 teams. Cameroon and Zambia eventually prevailed but only on goals scored ahead of Gabon on 4points whilst 20004 champions Tunisia finished bottom despite going undefeated on 3 points. Gabon shocked the Cameroonians in the opening game with a 1-0 victory thanks to ex-Rangers striker Daniel Cousin but the four-time winners recovered with a 3-2 win over Zambia and Celtic midfielder Landry N’Guemo sealed their progress with the equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Tunisia. Gabon had seemed set to progress after they followed up their impressive win over Cameroon with a 0-0 draw against Tunisia but a disappointing 2-1 defeat to the Zambians meant they missed out by the narrowest of margins.

Angola v Ghana
Ivory Coast v Algeria
Zambia v Nigeria
Egypt v Cameroon

No comments:

Post a Comment