2013 Africa Cup of Nations Finals – Sunday 20 January 2013
Group A: National Stadium, Johannesburg.
South Africa (0) 0 – 0 (0) Cape Verde
The twenty ninth African Cup of Nations has started, but with a whimper rather than a bang. In drizzly conditions, hosts South Africa and their opponents Cape Verde served up a pretty uninspiring 0-0 draw. In the first-half South Africa didn’t create a decent effort on goal as they stuck to a long-ball game. The only real chance in the opening forty five minutes fell to the Cape Verde midfielder Platini on the quarter hour mark, but he scuffed his shot horribly wide after being put through on goal. Indeed, Cape Verde looked more comfortable on the ball than the hosts and Mendes and Heldon were creating problems for the South African defence. Despite ringing the changes in the second-half, the home team didn’t improve significantly much to the frustration of Coach Gordon Igesund. As in the opening half the only real chance was created by Cape Verde, when midway through the second-half, Heldon’s header was clawed away by Khune in the South African goal. That was pretty much it as the game petered out towards full-time. A disappointing opener, but things can only get better.
Angola (0) 0 – 0 (0) Morocco
With many of the crowd having gone from the National Stadium, either due to the weather or as a result of the uninspiring display from the hosts, it was left to Angola and Morocco to entertain those who remained. The opening quarter of an hour provided more entertainment than in the previous ninety as Moroccan keeper saved well from Mingo Bille’s shot in the opening minutes, which was followed by two decent chances for Morocco from Mounir El Hamdaoui and Oussama Assaidi. However, in the remainder of the half, little else was created as Angola contained the Moroccan threat going forward. Angola nearly made a perfect start in the second-half, when Moroccan keeper Lamyaghri dropped a cross, but substitute Guilherme Afonso put his effort wide. Guiherme made a difference to Angola going forward in the second period, but despite some patches of enterprising play, neither side could find a winner and Group A had its second 0-0 of the day.
Group B: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth.
Ghana v Congo DR
After the disappointment of the opening games yesterday, all eyes will turn to Ghana and Congo DR to get the tournament started. Ghana (The Black Stars) are amongst the favourites to win the competition, but that expectation can be a burden as it proved in the 2012 AFCON tournament when they exited in the Semi-Finals to Zambia. However, The Black Stars have looked accomplished in their warm-up games in January after beating Egypt (3-0) and Tunisia (4-2). Their opponents today as Congo DR (The Leopards), who football fans of a certain era will remember, were the first black African side to qualify for a World Cup Finals tournament. The country was then known as Zaire and they took part in the 1974 competition in West Germany. Going into this game all the talk has centred on whether Coach Claude LeRoy is still in charge of the side which will have done little to help preparations for this game. Given this, expect Ghana to score the first goals of the 2013 AFCON tournament and take the three points.
Mali v Niger
Mali (Les Aigles – The Eagles), come into the tournament high in the CAF Rankings, but less favoured by the bookmakers. Their cause hasn’t been helped by the fact that they haven’t played any warm-up games, as Mali were unable to get the release of their European players for the games. In qualifying The Eagles comfortably overcame Botswana 7-1 on aggregate. Their opponents today, Niger (Ménas – Gazelles) are the rank outsiders in this competition. However, they put out Guinea (2-1 on aggregate) in qualification, and in their warm-up games beat Togo 3-1 and drew 0-0 with Burkinso Faso. Mali should not underestimate Niger, as any overconfidence could see the Ménas take a point. The Eagles should win today, but Niger will make them work for it.
Prediction: (1) Ghana, (2) Mali, (3) Congo DR, (4) Niger