Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Tuesday 31 January 2012
Gabon (1) – (0) Tunisia [Stade de Franceville]
Niger (0) – (1) Morocco [Stade d’Angondjé]
In terms of qualification for the Quarter-Finals, that was already done and dusted prior to kick-off. Gabon and Tunisia were playing to establish who would top the Group, whilst Niger and Morocco were in opposition to avoid the ‘cuillère en bois’
Incredibly going into this game, there had not been one fixture which had ended 0-0. After 45 minutes in both games without a goal, the indications were that perhaps this was about to change. The two games provided quite a contrast. In Franceville, Gabon and Tunisia provided a half of genuine pace and passion. Daniel Cousin and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had ‘put themselves about’ and were causing the Tunisian defence some real problems. Meanwhile in Libreville, Niger and Morocco produced a pretty awful first-half. Niger did hit the bar just before the break when Moussa Maazou was unlucky with his strike, otherwise there was little to excite the crowd.
Thankfully there was a little more for spectators to get excited about in the second period of each game. Co-hosts Gabon completed a clean sweep winning all three games and finished on 9 points after a 1-0 victory over Tunisia. The winning goal came on 62 minutes with a rapid fire attack from Gabon. Starting inside the Gabonese half the ball was swept to Cousin, his first-time ball found Aubameyang, who took it on before shooting from just outside the Tunisian box. The ball found its way into the net but Rami Jeridi in goal for Tunisia was at fault, as the shot ricocheted and spun off his body. Gabon deserved their lead and also continued to press in the remainder of the game. There was still enough passion in this game as ninety minutes approached for a little fracas between the players. At the whistle went, both teams could celebrate, as they were both through and the challenge of the Quarter Finals awaited. In the game at Libreville, thankfully Morocco sparked into life in the second-half. Younes Belhanda was the catalyst for a better tempo as he was involved in all the positive work by Morocco. The goal came on 79 minutes, when Marouane Chamakh, who did appear offside, laid the ball through for Belhanda to finish. Morocco finished with a win, but didn’t live up to their pre-tournament promise, whilst Niger left empty handed.
(1) Gabon: 9 pts, (2) Tunisia: 6 pts, (3) Morocco: 3 pts, (4) Niger: 0 pts.