2013 African Cup of Nations: Preliminary Round Qualification

Before a ball was kicked in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations Finals in Gabon & Equatorial Guinea, qualification for the 2013 Finals in South Africa had begun. On 15 January 2012 at the Estádio Nacional 12 de Julho, São Tomé and Príncipe played Lesotho in the Preliminary Round, 1st Leg and won 1-0 through a third minute penalty scored by Jair Nunes do Espírito Santo. A week later the 2nd Leg took place at the Setsoto Stadium in Maseru where a 0-0 saw São Tomé progress to the First Round. In the other Preliminary Round game, Seychelles advanced after Swaziland withdrew for financial reasons.

With the tournament being switched to take place in the ‘odd’ years, it meant qualification for the 2013 Finals had to be a shortened process. Therefore instead of the usual Group stage to illicit the finalists, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) went for qualification on a knockout basis, with the following format.

Preliminary Round

  • Four lowest ranked teams.
  • 1st Leg: 15/01/12 – 2nd Leg: 22/01/12
  • Two teams progress to First Round (São Tomé and Príncipe & Seychelles)


First Round

  • Twenty six team who failed to qualify for 2012 Finals and the two Prelimanry Round winners.
  • 1st Leg: 29/02/12 – 2nd Leg: 15/06/12
  • Fourteen teams progress to Second Round


Second Round

  • Sixteen teams who competed in 2012 Finals and fourteen winners from First Round.
  • 1st Leg: 7-9/09/12 – 2nd Leg: 12-14/10/12
  • Fifteen winners join hosts South Africa in 2013 Finals.


Both legs of the First Round games between Egypt and Central African Republic will be played in June 2012 due to the Port Said Stadium disaster earlier this year. The results in the First Round 1st Leg games were as follows:

Burundi 2-1 Zimbabwe
Chad 3-2 Malawi
Congo 3-1 Uganda
Ethiopia 0-0 Benin
Gambia 1-2 Algeria
Guinea-Bissau 0-1 Cameroon
Kenya 2-1 Togo
Liberia 1-0 Namibia
Madagascar 0-4 Cape Verde
Rwanda 0-0 Nigeria
São Tomé and Príncipe 2-1 Sierra Leone
Seychelles 0-4 Congo DR
Tanzania 1-1 Mozambique


Apart from 4-0 wins for Cape Verde and Congo DR the remaining ties look to be still up for grabs. Many of the lower ranked teams more than held their own, with São Tomé and Príncipe (CAF ranking 45) winning 2-1 against Sierra Leone (13), the standout result. Also causing upsets were Burundi (41) who beat Zimbabwe (23), Chad (40) who emerged 3-2 victors over Malawi (22) and Congo (36) with a 3-1 win over Uganda (20). Of the ‘big-guns’, Algeria (3) emerged 2-1 winners in Gambia (30), so will expect to qualify with the home leg to come. Nigeria (8) had to settle for a 0-0 in Rwanda (26), whilst Cameroon (15) should make it through with a 1-0 lead and the home leg to come against Guinea-Bissau (44).

So as with the 2012 Finals, the 2013 qualification games are already throwing up some shocks. It makes the 2nd Legs in June 2012 something to look forward to. Who needs the European Championships?


Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Tuesday 24 January 2012

Group D:

Ghana (1) – (0) Botswana

Given Ghana’s 2nd place in the CAF rankings, it is no surprise they are amongst the favourites in this years tournament. In the opening game of Group D they were up against a Botswana team nineteen places below them in ranking terms and making their first appearance in an Africa Cup of Nations Finals. In the opening forty five minutes Ghana comfortably controlled proceedings, although Botswana worked hard to restrict the Ghanaian opportunities on goal. The dominance of Ghana did lead to a goal before the break, one that certainly won’t be a contender for ‘goal of the tournament’! It came on 25 minutes from a corner, which was flicked on by Asamoah Gyan, the contact seemed to confuse the Botswana defence and allowed John Mensah to bundle the ball in via his knees. In the second-half, Botswana showed more of their attacking purpose and on 66 minutes from a through ball, goal scorer Mensah was dismissed as he brought down Jerome Ramatlhakwane.  Despite Ghanaian protests, the reality was that the referee made the right decision. With a man advantage, Botswana continued to press but failed to create a real chance in the last twenty minutes. Relief then for Ghana at their win, but Botswana were by no means outclassed.


Mali (1) – (0) Guinea

In the second game of the day at Stade de Franceville, another tight encounter was expected, and so it proved to be. As with the game that proceeded it, it was settled by a single goal. In the first half Guinea certainly created the better chances, with three good efforts in the opening twenty five minutes. Soumaila Diakite made two excellent saves, the first coming in the opening minute and then again in the eighteenth minute, as he just fingered-tipped away a towering header from Ismael Bangoura. Guinea were then caught out at the back on 30 minutes. From a Mali raid down the right the ball was cut back and broke to the edge of the box. Bakaye Traore let fly and a deflection took the ball beyond the despairing dive of Naby Yattara. Guinea were almost level within minutes as Ismael Bangour broke into the Mali box but his shot was smothered by Diakite as he raced off his line. Guinea continued to dominate after the break, but couldn’t find an equaliser. Feindouno was presented with two good chances in the second half. The first was blazed wide and the second, in the closing minutes of the game was saved by Diakite, to cap off for him an outstanding display.

That game saw the end of the first round of group games and perhaps surprisingly ensured that there wasn’t a single draw in the opening eight games.

Group D resumes on Saturday 28 January, with Botswana v Guinea and Ghana v Mali.

Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Monday 23 January 2012

Group C:

Gabon (2) – (0) Niger

Fellow Tournament co-hosts Gabon got there campaign up and running at Stade d’Angondjé in Libreville with a comfortable 2 – 0 win over a nervous looking Niger team. Gabon were always in command of this game, but it was not until the half-hour mark that the breakthrough was made. Niger had chances to clear their lines before the ball broke to Stephane Nguema, who from the right, put over a deep cross that Niger keeper Kassaly Daouda always looked like he was struggling to reach. With the ball heading seemingly out of play, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang headed in unchallenged from a very tight angle. Will half-time approaching Gabon struck again. The danger on this occasion came from the left wing as Moussouno’s cross was headed on target by the dangerous Aubameyang. Niger keeper Daouda brilliantly saved this close range effort, but the rebound was easily put way by Stephane Nguema to send Gabon in at half-time with a deserved 2 – 0 lead. The second-half saw Gabon continue to dominate the game and create chances, but Niger held out. Both co-hosts start with a win to keep the home fans happy.


Morocco (1) – (2) Tunisia

This North African ‘derby’ saw Tunisia emerge winners, although Morocco will feel they should have at least got a draw. In a fairly open first forty five minutes, Tunisia were thankful that their keeper Mathlouthi was in such good form. Morocco created the better chances and it was somewhat against the run of play that Tunisia went ahead. On 33 minutes, a floated free-kick from Khaled Korbi found its way into the net, with the Moroccan keeper seemingly distracted and therefore late diving as Tunisian forward Saber Khelifa tried to flick-on the free-kick. Morocco continued to create chances, but were unable to beat Mathlouthi in the Tunisian goal. For the second-half Morocco coach Eric Gerets’ brought on Adel Taraabt for Oussama Assaidi to seek an early equaliser. The change saw Morocco continue to create chances but Mathlouthi continue to keep the Moroccans at bay. With Tunisia happy to play on the break they scored a second goal on 75 minutes. Substitute Youssef Msakni received the ball outside the Moroccan penalty area and in a twisting run past three defenders slotted home to double the Tunisian lead. With just four minutes remaining Morocco gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Houcine Kharjah scored. It came from a corner which was not fully cleared, with the ball eventually being knocked back into the box by Ahmed Kantari for the Moroccan captain Kharjah to stab home. With five minutes of time added on, Morocco searched desperately for an equaliser, but it never came. Marouane Chamakh has had a difficult season to date at The Emirates and it continued here tonight. It’s a cliché, but you have to take your chances, and tonight Morocco were wasteful.

Group C resumes on Friday 27 January, with Niger v Tunisia and Gabon v Morocco.

Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Sunday 22 January 2012

Group B:

Ivory Coast (1) – (0) Sudan

After the surprise results on Saturday, was there another shock on the cards as tournament favourites Ivory Coast took on Sudan at the Nuevo Estadio de Malabo? From the outset underdogs Sudan were happy to let Ivory Coast have possession and in the opening thirty minutes contained their opponents fairly comfortably. However, with 39 minutes on the watch, the Chelsea pair of Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba combined to put The Elephants ahead. Kalou crossed deep into the Sudan six yard box and Drogba got behind the defender to clinically head home. Sudan responded quickly and  Ivory Coast were able to hold onto their lead at half-time, thanks to a fantastic save from keeper Boubacar just before the break. Sudan continued to frustrate the Ivory Coast in the second half, although there were chances which Gervinho couldn’t capitalise on for The Elephants. Ivory Coast got the victory, but it was by no means convincing. Sudan showed what an organised team they were and will be difficult to beat.


Burkina Faso (1) – (2) Angola

On paper this looked a fairly even game given their respective CAF rankings, with Burkina Faso 14th and Angola 19th and the first-half reflected this as the teams went in at 0-0 at the break. The game was all about the second-half and three quality strikes. Angola opened the scoring on 48 minutes, when Burkina Faso were suicidal in defence. Bakary Kone inexplicitity played ‘keepy-up’ in his own penalty area, but gave the ball away allowing Mateus to collect cut inside and then fire across the keeper. The lead however was wiped out on 57 minutes by a curling free-kick by Alain Traore, with Angolan keeper Fernandes rooted to the spot. Having got themselves back in the game, less than ten minutes later, more poor defensive work by Burkina Faso gave the initiative back to Angola. Manucho gained possession and cut across the line of defence before unleashing a left footed strike which found the net, with keeper Daouda Diakite possibly slow in reacting to the strike. Angola held on and took the three points. So four games played in the tournament and not a draw as yet – so much for cagey opening games.

Group  resumes on Thursday 26 January, with Sudan v Angola and Ivory Coast v Burkina Faso.

Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Saturday 21 January 2012

Group A:

Equatorial Guinea (1) – (0) Libya

Co-hosts Equatorial Guinea got the best possible start to the tournament with a single goal victory over Libya. In pure ranking terms this could be considered to be a surprise result given that Libya are ranked 63rd in the FIFA rankings against that of 151st for Equatorial Guinea. However, given Libya qualified against a background of Civil War and that they were forced to play all their home games in Egypt, the fact that they have even made it to the Finals is an achievement in itself. In an open first half, the home team thought they had taken the lead after 16 minutes, Libyan keeper Samir Aboud made a complete mess of Ivan Bolado’s shot which slipped under his body and crawled over the line, but the goal was ruled out for offside. The second half was a cagier affair, but just when it seemed that both sides would take away a point, Javier Balboa was just onside when he coolly curled home, three minutes from time to secure the victory for Equatorial Guinea and send the fans inside the Estadio de Bata into raptures.


Senegal (1) – (2) Zambia

The second game in Group A also caused something of an upset, when one of the tournament favourites Senegal lost 2-1 to Zambia. The Senegalese found themselves 2-0 down in the opening twenty minutes. Emmanuel Mayuka, who plays for Young Boys in Switzerland, opened the scoring for Zambia after 12 minutes. From a free-kick the ball was headed across the Senegalese penalty area and an unmarked Mayuka from six yards out made no mistake with his header. Zambia’s lead was doubled just seven minutes later by Tout Puissant Mazembe forward Rainford Kalaba, who beat the offside trap before rounding the keeper and slotting home. Senegal responded with a number of second half substitutions, one of which gave Newcastle fans a sight of the Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cissse partnership. Dame N’Doye another of the substitutes got Senegal back into the game on 74 minutes, when he controlled a cross on his chest, cut inside his man before beating the Zambian keeper at his near post. However, Senegal couldn’t force a second goal and Zambia held firm to clinch a famous victory.

 Group A resumes on Wednesday 25 January, with Libya v Zambia and Equatorial Guinea v Senegal.

2012 (Orange) Africa Cup of Nations [ACN] – Introduction

On Saturday 21 January 2012 the Africa Cup of Nations begins with the opening game between Equatorial Guinea and Libya in the 28th tournament to be held and will close with the Final on Sunday 12th February 2012 at the Stade de l’Amitié in Gabon. This 2012 competition is being co-hosted in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

The tournament features 16 team split into four groups and they are as follows:

 Group A: Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Senegal, Zambia.

Group B: Ivory Coast, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Angola.

Group C: Gabon, Niger, Morocco, Tunisia.

Group D: Ghana, Botswana, Mali, Guinea.

Two go through from each group, with a knock-out phase to follow. To some looking at the list of participants, there will be ‘raised eyebrows’ at some of the teams that didn’t qualify. Of the top ten international sides in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) rankings, six failed to qualify. These include Algeria (who could only finish third in the Qualifying Group won by Morocco), the winners of the last three ACN tournaments, Egypt, 2010 World Cup host South Africa as well as Nigeria and Cameroon, who both finished runners-up in their respective Qualifying Groups. However, fourteen of the sixteen teams in the 2012 tournament are from the top twenty two in the CAF rankings. Only Sudan (ranked thirtieth) and Equitorial Guinea (forty first) sit outside this group. This will be the first Finals appearance for Botswana, Equatorial Guinea and Niger.

Over the years with a greater influx of African players into the European game, the profile and interest of the ACN tournament has spread amongst the media and football fans alike. In the 2012 tournament, 65% of the players ply their trade away from their home nations, with French clubs providing 62 players. Sudan is the only team this year with all 23 squad members playing in their own domestic competition. The following players from British clubs will be representing their respective countries:

Ghana: John Pantsil (Leicester City)

Ivory Coast: Kolo Touré (Manchester City), Sol Bamba (Leicester City), Yaya Touré (Manchester City), Cheick Tioté (Newcastle United), Didier Drogba (Chelsea), Salomon Kalou (Chelsea), Gervinho (Arsenal).

Morocco: Badr El Kaddouri (Celtic), Adel Taarabt (QPR), Marouane Chamakh (Arsenal).

Senegal: Armand Traoré (QPR), Mohamed Diamé (Wigan Athletic), Guirane N’Daw (Birmingham City), Demba Ba  (Newcastle United), Papiss Demba Cisse (Newcastle United).

In terms of the bookies, favourites to win the competition are Ivory Coast, with Ghana, Senegal, Morocco and Tunisia prominent in the betting. As for outsiders, co-hosts Equatorial Guinea are considered a long-shot.