2013 Africa Cup of Nations Finals – Monday 11 February 2013

2013 AFCON Final


Nigeria (1) 1 – 0 (0) Burkina Faso

National Stadium, Johannesburg


Looking at the players as the national anthems played, the Burkina Faso team looked more nervous than their West African neighbours Nigeria. Burkina Faso had Pitroipa in the team after his Semi-Final sending-off was overturned, whilst Alain Traoré was still not fit. For Nigeria, Victor Moses was passed fit, but Ikechukwu Uche replaced the injured Emmanuel Emenike. The pitch in Johannesburg whilst not as bad as that in Nelspruit, didn’t look as good as some of the other venues used in the tournament, and appeared to be still recovering from hosting a recent Red Hot Chili Peppers concert.

Nigeria started the more positively and had the first corner on six minutes, which was punched away continental style by Daouda Diakité in goal for Burkina Faso. Just a couple of minutes later, The Super Eagles were awarded a free-kick although it was a dive from Brown Ideye which had conned referee Haimoudi Djamel. The resultant free-kick found Efe Ambrose unmarked, but he headed wastefully off target. Nigeria were soon back on the attack and on nine minutes, Victor Moses won a corner for Nigeria. As the ball came in, Daouda Diakité left his line to gather but succeeded only in spilling it and was grateful to see Brown Ideye loft his attempt over the bar. Burkina Faso were looking nervous and hadn’t settled and it was not until the fifteen minute mark that they won their first corner after good work by Jonathan Pitroipa. However, the respite for The Stallions didn’t last long as on twenty minute, Moses, having swapped wings, crossed dangerously into the box which Daouda Diakité was grateful to gather at the second attempt. Gradually though Burkina Faso began to work their way into the game and had a good spell which produced two attempts on goal from Aristide Bancé. First on twenty four minutes, with his back to goal, he controlled a long ball on his chest, before swivelling and firing a shot over the Nigerian crossbar. Three minutes later Bancé had a better opportunity from a free-kick, but he dragged the effort badly wide. With half an hour gone, the game got a little scrappy with possession too easily given away by both sides and which saw the first booking of the Final when Florent Rouamba was cautioned for a foul on Moses on thirty three minutes. A second booking quickly followed on thirty eight minutes, when Ogenyi Onazi’s name went into the referee’s book. From the resulting free-kick, poor Nigerian marking allowed Bakary Koné a free header at the back post, but his effort was wide as he went for glory rather than heading the ball back into the danger area. On forty minutes the deadlock was broken; Brown Ideye won possession in midfield and flicked the ball onto Ikechukwu Uche who slipped it inside to Victor Moses. The Nigerian forward continued into the box and despite nearly losing possession fired off a shot which ricocheted out of the penalty box. Sunday Mba controlled the ball on his thigh as he went into the penalty area, flicked it over an advancing defender with his right foot before volleying home with his left, leaving Daouda Diakité rooted to the spot. An incredible piece of skill and a goal worthy of a Final. Burkina Faso though came straight back at Nigeria and Bancé again found himself in a good position on forty three minutes, but after good control, fired high and wide. Two added minutes were played and Nigeria created the last chance of the half, when Mba shot wastefully over the bar.

Nigeria went in at half-time ahead 1-0 and deserved their advantage. However, Burkina Faso knew that it was only a single goal deficit and had come from behind more than once in their 2013 AFCON journey.

Neither team made any changes for the start of the second-half and Nigeria were soon back in their stride, as Moses got down the right wing and flashed an attempt across the face of the Burkina Faso goal on forty eight minutes. The Chelsea player was causing problems on both flanks, and won Nigeria’s first corner of the second period on fifty two minutes. The first substitutions of the game came on fifty four minutes, when Ahmed Musa replaced Ikechukwu Uche. Whilst having put in an honest shift for Nigeria, the Villarreal striker had been unable to fill fully the gap left by the injured Spartak Moscow striker Emmanuel Emenike. On fifty four minutes Burkina Faso won their first corner of the second period, but it nearly proved costly as Nigeria broke quickly on the counter-attack and were grateful that Victor Moses couldn’t capitalise as his effort on goal was blocked. The next bit of significant action on fifty seven minutes fell to the referee as he booked Nigerian Kenneth Omeruo for a foul on Florent Rouamba. The Nigerians clearly thought that The Stallions player had made a meal of the challenge and as a result of his protests John Obi Mikel was also booked. When play did resume Bancé flicked a header goal-wards, but straight at Vincent Enyeama. Just after the hour mark there was a flurry of substitutions as both coaches looked to change the course of the game. On sixty five minutes Wilfried Sanou replaced the struggling Florent Rouamba, whilst a minute later, Nigeria brought on Juwon Oshaniwa for Elderson Echiejile. The substitutions did little for the rhythm of the game as it entered a scrappy phase midway through the second-half. After being on the field for five minutes The Super Eagles’ Juwon Oshaniwa was booked for a foul on Charles Kaboré. Despite it being in a good position wide out on the right, Burkina Faso wasted it with a poor delivery. With less than twenty minutes remaining Nigeria were looking to defend their lead and had to hold firm as The Stallions won three consecutive corners. They came to nothing and indeed Nigeria broke away on a quick counter. Moses played in Musa, but the forward tripped on the poor surface and the chance was gone. On seventy three minutes, Burkina Faso had their best opportunity of the game, when Wilfried Sanou had a shot destined for the far corner brilliantly tipped round the post by Vincent Enyeama. However, no corner was awarded and The Stallions best chance had gone. As the clock continued to tick down the tension mounted, although real chances were few and far between. With ten minutes remaining goal-scorer Mba had a long range effort on goal but it was high and wide. Then shortly after Burkina Faso had a free-kick in a promising position, but as with their all their dead-ball strikes in the Final it was another effort that was badly wasted, this time by Keba Paul Koulibaly. That was pretty much his last contribution as on eighty four minutes he was replaced by Moumouni Dagano. With just five minutes remaining Nigeria had two chances in a minute to seal victory, first Victor Moses was unable to take the chance presented after a defensive mistake and then from an Ahmed Musa cross, Brown Ideye was unable to apply the finishing touch. With eighty nine minutes on the clock, the goal-scoring hero Mba gave way for Joseph Yobo as Nigeria looked to close out the game and Burkina Faso had one last throw of the dice as Djakaridja Koné was replaced by Abdou Razack Traoré. Four minutes of added-time was played and Burkina Faso had got a late leveller against Nigeria in the earlier Group fixture, so hoped for a repeat. They had a half-chance two minutes into time added-on, as Brown Ideye was booked for handball and Burkina Faso were presented with a free-kick in a useful position. However, substitute Moumouni Dagano could only strike it fruitlessly into the crowd. The Stallions pumped one last long ball into the box as the four minutes were up; Vincent Enyeama confidently collected it and the referee blew for time. Nigeria were Champions of Africa for the third time.

The right team had won on the night and with a glorious goal that was worthy of winning a Final. Neither side had hit the heights of some of their earlier performances. Nigeria did enough to win the game and looked like they had more in reserve. Coach Stephen Keshi had caused a few raised eye-brows by going with some home-based players over ‘bigger’ European-based names in his squad selection, but this triumph handsomely answered those critics. For Burkina Faso to have even reached the Final was an incredible achievement, but at the last hurdle perhaps didn’t believe that they could win it. They looked nervous prior to kick-off and never showed the intensity and belief that was displayed for instance in the Ghana game. Perhaps the exertions of having gone to Extra-time in both the Quarter and Semi-Final had taken its toll? To have a chance their ‘big’ players had to spark for The Stallions, but on the night the highly rated Jonathan Pitroipa was on the whole anonymous. Not a classic Final, but one that will be remembered for a stunning strike from Warri Wolves’ Sunday Mba and a crucial save from Vincent Enyeama.

Congratulations The Super Eagles – 2013 AFCON Champions.

2013 Africa Cup of Nations Finals – Saturday 09 February 2013

2013 AFCON Final


Nigeria v Burkina Faso

National Stadium, Johannesburg


For both these teams, the qualification games they played in order to progress to the 2013 AFCON Finals must seem a lifetime away. Nigeria started their journey back in February 2012, when they played out a 0-0 with Rwanda in Kigali in the First-Leg of their First Round game. In June 2012 in the Second-Leg, goals from Ikechukwu Uche and Ahmed Musa saw The Super Eagles through 2-0 on aggregate. In September 2012, Nigeria travelled to Liberia, where the First-Leg game finished 2-2. The Second-Leg was a pretty comfortbale affair with Nigeria winning 6-1 with goals from Efe Ambrose, Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses (2), John Obi Mikel and Ikechukwu Uche. This 8-3 aggregate win saw Nigeria through to the Finals in South Africa.

Burkina Faso entered qualification at the Second Round stage, as having been in the 2012 AFCON Finals, they were given a bye to this point. In September 2012, The Stallions travelled to the Central African Republic (CAR). The First-Leg fixture was lost 1-0 and it looked even worse when in the Second-Leg, CAR took a 2-0 aggregate advantage after seven minutes. Goals from Alain Traoré and Moumouni Dagano before half-time brought the aggregate score level at 2-2, but CAR still held the advantage knowing that this would be enough to see them go through on away-goals. With ninety six minutes on the clock, Alain Traoré scored a second to send The Stallions through 3-2 on aggregate. The reality was that Burkina Faso were seconds from not even qualifying for the Finals.

At the Finals Nigeria were drawn in Group C with Burkina Faso, Zambia and Ethiopia. Burkina Faso topped the group on goal difference from Nigeria, with both teams finishing on five points. In the Quarter-Finals, Nigeria saw off favourites Ivory Coast 2-1 and secured their place in the Final after a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Mali. Burkina Faso have done it the hard way with an extra-time 1-0 win over Togo and then a dramatic 3-2 penalty shoot-out win against Ghana.

Nigeria are the bookies favourites going into the game and they have gained confidence as the tournament has progressed. Their forwards, Ahmed Musa, Ideye Aide Brown, Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses have all looked impressive with midfielder John Obi Mikel pulling the strings for The Super Eagles. However, the AFCON cares nothing for the favourites tag and as Zambia showed in 2012, anything is possible. Burkina Faso too have quality though in Jonathan Pitroipa, Aristide Bancé and Alain Traoré. The head says Nigeria, the heart says Burkina Faso.

2013 Africa Cup of Nations Finals – Thursday 07 February 2013


Mali (0) 1 – 4 (3) Nigeria

Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban

This was a pretty clinical display by Nigeria and a game that was over by half-time. The Super Eagles were able to exploit a Mali defence that looked very square and static. Nigeria went ahead on twenty five minutes, as Victor Moses twisted and turned out on the right-hand side. As the cross came in the four Mali defensive players stopped which allowed Echiéjilé to stoop low and head in. Just five minutes later the lead was doubled, as Emmanuel Emenike crossed from the right for Brown Ideye to slide in. Everything was going the way of the rampant Nigerian’s and on forty four minutes a Emenike free-kick was deflected by Momo Sissoko for an own-goal to make the score 3-0.

Into the second-half, Mali had a chance straight away to get back in the game but Seydou Keita dragged his effort from inside the box wide of the post. A final nail in the coffin arrived on the hour when Musa Ahmed was played in behind the Mali defence and he nut-megged the keeper for a 4-0 lead. Ahmed thought he had a second just three minutes later but it was ruled out for offside. As Nigeria eased off, Mali got a consolation goal on seventy five minutes through Cheick Diarra. Indeed it was the best period of the game for the Malians as Vincent Enyeama in the Nigerian goal made good saves from Cheick Diarra and Cheick Diabate. However, Nigeria were the better team and deserved the victory on the night.


Burkina Faso (0) 1 – 1 (1) Ghana AET

(Burkina Faso won 3-2 on penalties)

Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

In a week which has seen the release of the Europol document highlighting match fixing in football, there were decisions in this game that must have raised an eye-brow and might set the alarm-bells ringing at CAF and beyond. To say that Tunisian referee Slim Jedidi was incompetent would be an understatement. Virtually from the off, the referee got the major decisions wrong. Within the opening five minutes, Jonathan Pitroipa with ball at his feet went into the penalty box and was blatantly bundled over by Ghana’s John Boye; decision – no penalty. Then on thirteen minutes, a ball is lofted into the Burkina Faso box, where Mady Panandetiguiri of Burkina Faso jumps with Ghana’s Christian Atsu. Minimal contact is made, but after Atsu falls to the ground as a result of the 50/50 challenge, Ghana are inexplicably awarded a penalty. Mubarak Wakaso converts and as in the Cape Verde game The Black Stars are controversially ahead. To their credit The Stallions didn’t let it affect their game and as the half went on created chances with Jonathan Pitroipa and Prejuce Nakoulma prominent for Burkina Faso. Ghana too had chances with the best falling to Solomon Asante just before the break.

On the hour the game was level at 1-1, as Ghana lost possession, Charles Kaboré threaded the ball through for Aristides Bance to wrong-foot the keeper. In the remaining thirty minutes neither side could find a winner, so extra-time ensued. It proved to be a highly controversial period with referee Slim Jedidi back in the spotlight. With the first period of time almost up, following a ball into the box, Burkina Faso’s Prejuce Nakoulma was shoulder to shoulder with Ghana’s Kwadwo Asamoah, but managed to poke the ball past Dauda in the Ghanaian goal. There seemed nothing wrong with the goal yet the referee disallowed it. Further controversy followed when with four minutes remaining Jonathan Pitroipa was clearly hacked down in the box; not only is a dead-cert penalty not awarded, but Pitroipa is booked for diving and sent-off as it was his second yellow card. Slim Jedidi – more like Slim Shady. So penalties came to pass and The Stallions must have thought given how their luck had been that an exit on penalties would add to the cruelty. However, justice was done as Burkina Faso took the shoot-out 3-2. Vorsah and Clottey missed horribly for Ghana, with Agyemang-Badu having his effort saved by Diakite. Just twelve months ago Burkina Faso lost all three of their Group games at the 2012 AFCON Finals, now they are one game from taking the title.

2013 Africa Cup of Nations Finals – Wednesday 06 February 2013


Mali v Nigeria

Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban

Going into this tournament Mali were ranked third within CAF and Nigeria at ninth. Despite the higher ranking for Mali, the bookies favour Nigeria ahead of this fixture. In the previous six meetings between the countries, three have been drawn and Nigeria won the other three. Nigeria are one of the ‘giants’ of African football and have qualified for seventeen AFCON Finals (including 2013), whilst this is the eighth Finals for Mali. Although both teams finished as runners-up in their respective Groups this time round, the victory in the Quarter-Finals achieved by Nigeria over favourites Ivory Coast, was a more impressive and convincing win than that achieved by Mali, who came through on penalties against hosts South Africa. Mali coach Patrice Carteron has tried to play some management mind-games by stating that The Super Eagles are the favourites with players such as Victor Moses, Emmanuel Emenike, and John Obi Mikel. Mali showed character to come back from 1-0 against South Africa, so will not be overawed by Nigeria and have quality players of their own, in the shape of Seydou Keita and Cheick Diabaté. However, with Nigeria having put out AFCON favourites Ivory Coats, they may just have too much for Mali.


Burkina Faso v Ghana

Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

Burkina Faso were ranked in twenty third spot with Ghana in fourth for the CAF Ranking prior to the 2013 AFCON Finals. These two have played each other on four occasions. Ghana have won three to one victory for Burkina Faso. The last game between the countries took place in Angola at the 2010 AFCON Finals. In a Group B game, a goal from Andre Ayew on thirty minutes gave Ghana a 1-0 victory. The Black Stars went on to reach the Final, where they lost 1-0 to Egypt. This is Ghana’s nineteenth appearance at the Finals, with Burkina Faso having been in nine. In the Quarter-Finals, Ghana beat Cape Verde 2-0, but had more than their fair share of the ‘rub of the green’. Burkina Faso had to endure extra-time in overcoming Togo 1-0 with a goal from Jonathan Pitroipa. With Ivory Coasty out, the bookies have Ghana now installed as tournament favourites and despite their unconvincing victory over Cape Verde, it is difficult to see them not making it through to the Final.

2013 Africa Cup of Nations Finals – Wednesday 30 January 2013

AFCONaltGroup C:

Burkina Faso (0) 0 – 0 (0) Zambia

Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

The 2012 AFCON Champions Zambia’s reign came to an end with a whimper rather than a bang. The Chipolopolo knew going into the game that only a victory would guarantee their passage into the Quarter-Finals. However, on the Nelspruit pitch that looked to be more sand than grass, Zambia could only draw 0-0. The draw would have been enough, if Nigeria had the same result against Ethiopia. In truth, Zambia created very few chances and even once news filtered through from Rustenburg that Nigeria were ahead, there seemed little urgency from the AFCON holders. Burkina Faso secured top spot with the draw, but their biggest worry is the injury to Alain Traore, who left the field on a stretcher in the opening quarter of the game. A disappointing exit for Zambia, but a fantastic achievement by Burkina Faso, putting behind them the disastrous 2012 Finals performance when they lost all three Group games.


Ethiopia (0) 0 – 2 (0) Nigeria

Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg

In the end Nigeria came through to win the game and so clinch a place in the Quarter-Finals. However, with eleven minutes remaining the prospect of exiting the tournament by virtue of a worse disciplinary record than Zambia was a distinct possibility. Nigeria started the game well, but when they didn’t score, the nervousness of their fans seemed to translate to the players and Ethiopia came into the game. However, the Ethiopians were in long-ball mode and Nigeria easily dealt with the threat. Nigeria continued to dominate possession in the second-half, but it wasn’t until the seventy ninth minute that the breakthrough came. Alula Girma brought down Victor Moses and the Chelsea man got up to calmly score from the spot. Victory was confirmed on ninety minutes Moses was again the man who caused all the danger, when Ethiopia keeper brought him down and was subsequently dismissed. With the Ethiopians having used all their substitutes, midfielder Addis Hintsa donned the gloves to face the penalty. Moses again scored and The Super Eagles were on their way to the knock-out stage.



(1) Nigeria, (2) Zambia, (3) Ethiopia, (4) Burkina Faso


Final Standings:

(1) Burkina Faso, (2) Nigeria, (3) Zambia, (4) Ethiopia


Group D:

Algeria v Ivory Coast – Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg

Togo v Tunisia – Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

With Ivory Coast already through, the attention in these final Group games falls on the Togo v Tunisia fixture. A draw would be enough for Togo to go through, whilst Tunisia have to win to ensure progress. Ivory Coast should see off Algeria to finish with a 100% record, and are likely to be joined by Togo who will beat Tunisia.

2013 Africa Cup of Nations Finals – Saturday 26 January 2013

2013ACNGroup C: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

Zambia (0) 1 – 1 (0) Nigeria

As in the first round of games at the Mbombela Stadium, the pitch did not look in great condition. However, this was a game that will be remembered as the story of two penalties – one missed and one scored – and not the dry uneven and hard surface in Nelspruit. The first penalty was awarded on twenty five minutes, when Zambia defender Davies Nkausu fouled Ahmed Musa. It was a blatant penalty and the challenge was reckless; symptomatic of some very poor tackling witnessed in the 2013 AFCON tournament so far. The Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel stepped up, but his effort clipped the post and went wide. However, Mikel redeemed himself on fifty seven minutes when he out-muscled the Zambian midfield to provide a through ball for Emmanuel Emenike. The Spartak Moscow striker cut inside the defender and finished excellently into the bottom left corner. With the game entering the last five minutes, the second penalty of the day was awarded. This though in contrast to the one for Nigeria was controversial, as Ogenyi Onazi appeared to make little contact with the Southampton striker Emmanuel Mayuka. Stepping up to take the spot-kick was Zambian keeper Kennedy Mweene who coolly levelled the game, showing many an outfield player how a penalty should be taken. Both teams can still go through, but to be certain Zambia and Nigeria would need to win their remaining respective group games.


Burkina Faso (1) 4 – 0 (0) Ethiopia

A resounding victory for Burkina Faso as The Stallions went to the top of Group C and achieved it with ten men. However, games can turn on a single incident. In the case of Ethiopia they will look to the chance they created in the opening five minutes, when Shimelese Bekele slotted past Burkina Faso keeper Soulama only to see his shot come back off the post. On twenty minutes The Stallions had the ball in the Ethiopian net from Wilfried Sanou, but was ruled offside. However, on thirty four minutes Burkina Faso did go ahead when unmarked Alain Traoré collected in the box and superbly fired home on the half-volley. Burkina Faso held this lead into the break before what was to be a very interesting second-half. On the hour, from a long ball through, The Stallions keeper Soulama handled outside the area and was sent-off. Ethiopia were unable to make their numerical advantage tell and instead Burkina Faso increased their lead on seventy four minutes when Alain Traoré unleashed a left footed screamer from outside the box which flew past Tadelle in the Ethiopian goal. The Stallions were now rampant and on seventy nine minutes, Ethiopia lost possession in midfield and Pitroipa played in Djakaridja Kone who slid it past the advancing Tadelle. As the game went into time added-on, Burkina Faso grabbed a fourth goal as they broke on the right against a shell-shocked Ethiopian defence, and Pitroipa was able to easily finish unchallenged just outside the six yard box. Top spot for The Stallions and a Quarter-Final place in touching distance.


Group D: Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg

Ivory Coast v Tunisia/Algeria v Togo

The last of the second round of Group games, which first up, sees Ivory Coast against Tunisia, both of whom won their opening fixtures. A victory later today for either team would guarantee a place in the Quarter-Finals. Ivory Coast are the competition favourites and will hope to seal their place with a game to spare, although Tunisia have to be watched having shocked their North African neighbours Algeria in the opening round of games. Togo will feel they were unlucky to lose late on against Ivory Coast and will look to get points on the board against Algeria.

2013 Africa Cup of Nations Finals – Monday 21 January 2013

Group B: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth.

Ghana (1) 2 – 2 (0) 2 Congo DR

The first goals of the 2013 AFCON tournament duly arrived, but also perhaps unexpectedly resulted in another drawn game. Congo DR were not overawed by the stars or reputation of the Ghana side and had the first real chance of the game on twelve minutes. Lomana Tresor LuaLua smashed the ball goal-ward, but Ghanaian keeper Fatau Dauda managed to tip the effort onto the bar. This game was shaping up as a much more open affair than yesterday’s Group A encounters, with play going from end-to-end. One such break saw Asamoah Gyan put through on goal, but his finish was wastefully wide. However, with five minutes remaining before half-time, Ghana went ahead. In a lovely one-to-one move, Kwadwo Asamoah swapped passes before crossing for Ageymang-Badu who beat the defender to it, to finish and give The Black Stars a 1-0 half-time advantage. Ghana started the second-half brightly and on fifty minutes poor marking from a corner allowed Kwadwo Asamoah to make it 2-0. The Leopards though did not panic and on fifty three minutes had got a goal back. A lovely through ball from Cedric Makiadi found Mputu, who finished beautifully. Congo continued to press and on sixty eight minutes were awarded a penalty after Jerry Akaminko pulled Mobokini down by the shirt. Mobokini got up to take the penalty and sent the keeper the wrong way to complete the comeback and level the game at 2-2. With just over twenty minutes remaining, the game continued to ebb and flow with both sides having opportunities to win it. Ghana had two excellent chances but Congo keeper Kidiaba saved well from Gyan and then did well to readjust his position and push a free-kick over the bar. Not to be outdone, The Black Stars keeper Duada saved well from an effort by Youssouf Mulumbu. At the whistle it was a point each for the teams and at last a game that got those watching, on their feet.


Mali (0) 1 – (0) Niger

After the excitement of the early game, this encounter will be remembered as one which at times was very physical and for goalkeeping that was of a variable quality to say the least. In the first-half, Niger keeper Kassaly Daouda and Mali keeper Mamadou Samassa had looked less than convincing at dealing with crosses and corners. However, the underdogs Niger had the best opportunity of the opening forty five minutes, when Kofi Dankwa saw his shot well saved by Mali keeper Mamadou Samassa. With the teams going in at half-time at 0-0, the fear for anybody watching was that another goalless encounter was on the cards at the start of the 2013 AFCON tournament. However, the second-half did improve with Mali midfielder Seydou Keita becoming more influential as Mali looked for a winner. With six minutes remaining the breakthrough came when Niger keeper Daouda left his line to gather a cross but only succeeded in dropping it for Keita to gratefully strike home. Mali just about deserved it and secured the first win of the competition, in a game that was by no means a classic.


Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

Group C: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

Zambia v Ethiopia

The current AFCON Champions Zambia (Chipolopolo – The Copper Bullets) start the defence of their title today against Ethiopia. However, it not been an easy year for Zambia and their form coming into the tournament has been poor. They nearly didn’t make it to South Africa at all, as they only got through the qualifying round on penalties against Uganda after drawing 1-1 on aggregate. However, Zambia will point to the fact that no one fancied their chances in 2012, so are probably happy that this is the case again. Ethiopia (The Walya Antelopes) came through on away goals in both their qualifying rounds. They first saw off Benin (1-1 on aggregate) and then Sudan (5-5 on aggregate). Against Sudan, Ethiopia lost the 1st leg 5-3 but two second-half goals in the 2nd leg saw them qualify for South Africa. In their warm-up games, Ethiopia drew with Tunisia 1-1 and beat Tanzania 2-1. Ethiopia like Niger are rank outsiders for the tournament, so expect Zambia to sneak this one in a tight encounter.


Nigeria v Burkina Faso

Nigeria (The Super Eagles) returns to the AFCON Finals after missing out on the 2012 tournament. They qualified after beating Rwanda 2-0 on aggregate and then Liberia. The Super Eagles only drew 2-2 in Paynesville, but a 6-1 victory in Calabar delivered an emphatic 8-3 aggregate win. In their last outing Nigeria drew 0-0 with Cape Verde. However, they are one of the “big” names in African football and should overcome underdogs Burkina Faso. Les Etalons (The Stallions) qualified after beating the Central African Republic 3-2 on aggregate. They played in both the 2010 and 2012 Finals, but did not secure a win in either tournament. In their warm-up fixtures, The Stallions drew 0-0 with Niger and beat Swaziland 3-0. Despite these results it will probably be another unsuccessful and winless Group exit for the West African side.


Prediction: (1) Nigeria, (2) Zambia, (3) Ethiopia, (4) Burkina Faso

Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Monday 30 January 2012

Group B

Sudan (2) – (1) Burkina Faso [Estadio de Bata]

Ivory Coast (2) – (0) Angola [Nuevo Estadio de Malabo]

Plenty at stake in the final games today. Ivory Coast were definitely through and Burkina Faso were out. However, one from Angola and Sudan would also progress and the issue of top spot in the Group also needed resolving. Ivory Coast made wholesale changes for the game, presumably to rest their preferred starting line-up ahead of the Quarter-Final.

Both games were relatively quiet and without major incident in the opening thirty minutes with no goals. Then like the proverbial bus, along came two! In Malabo, Ivory Coast took the lead on 33 minutes. Bony won the ball in midfield and carried it forward before crossing into the Angolan six-yard box. Covering defender Miguel made a hash of his attempted clearance and gave Emmanuel Eboue the opportunity to poke home from close range. Meanwhile in Bata, Sudan went 1-0 ahead. The Burkina Faso back line was caught flat which allowed Mudather Eltaib a clear run on goal before coolly finishing past keeper Daouda Diakite. As half-time approached in each game, Ivory Coast continued to press and create chances against Angola, while Sudan and Burkina Faso was a more even affair after the goal. At the break with the scores as they stood, Ivory Coast would top the group and Angola would also go through as runners-up on goal difference over Sudan. In the second half, to progress from the Group, Sudan would have to score themselves to increase their lead, or hope that the Ivory Coast could add to their tally against Angola.

The opening fifteen minutes in both games proved to be cagey, with little threat to a change in the score-lines. Then on 65 minutes, a goal was scored in Malabo. A punt into the Angola half caused confusion and as Angolan keeper Wilson came to the edge of his area to collect the ball, defender Massunguna headed over him, leaving Wilfried Bony to tap the ball into an empty net. Not only did this double Ivory Coast’s lead, but meant that if the scores stayed that way, then Angola were heading out. With ten minutes remaining, Sudan strengthened their grip on the runners-up spot with a goal to double their lead. Keeper Akram kicked downfield and his opposite number in the Burkina Faso goal hesitated allowing Mudather Eltaib to nip in, round Diakite and score his and Sudan’s second. Angola and Burkina Faso reacted positively with the game slipping away, but were unable to score. However, both games had a number of minutes of time added-on. Whilst Angola couldn’t create any late drama, over in Bata Burkina Faso scored through Issiaka Ouedraogo. A long ball in the box, had Sudanese keeper recklessly and needlessly rushing out of his area, so making it an easy finish for Ouedraogo. However, Sudan held on and progressed to the Quarter-Finals on goal difference. Credit to Ivory Coast, who despite a much changed team, didn’t just go through the motions against Angola and played their part in providing the opportunity for Sudan to progress. Angola so close to qualifying missed out on goal difference and depart the competition with Burkina Faso.

Final Positions:

(1) Ivory Coast: 9 pts, (2) Sudan: 4 pts (GD: 0),  (3) Angola: 4 pts (GD: -1), (4) Burkina Faso: 0 pts.

Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Thursday 26 January 2012

Group B:

Sudan (2) – (2) Angola

For Angola (nicknamed, Palancas Negras – The Sable Antelopes), a win would guarantee progression to the Quarter-Finals. For Sudan (nicknamed, Falcons of Jediane) avoiding defeat would at least mean they had something to play for in their last game. However, Sudan got off to the worst possible start and conceded a goal on 4 minutes. Nagm Eldin was caught in possession by Manucho who carried the ball into the Sudanese box before firing home confidently. Despite such a terrible start, Sudan didn’t capitulate and showed as they did against the Ivory Coast, good organisational ability to get back into the game. They were rewarded for their efforts just after the half-hour mark to level the game at 1-1. Sudan worked the ball wide to Mudather El Taib, who crossed and Mohamed Ahmed Bashir got between two defenders to sent a flicked header into the net. Buoyed by the goal, Sudan finished the half strongly. As in the first-half, Sudan started badly again in the second period, giving away a penalty within five minutes of the restart. Hamid Nazar clumsily and unnecessarily brought down Djalma and Manucho coolly slotted home the penalty. Credit to Sudan though as they stuck to their task once more to keep Angola at bay. Then on 74 minutes Sudan struck. A long ball into the box found Angolan defender Vunguidica unsure of how to deal with it. His attempted chesting down of the ball merely put the ball into the path of Mohamed Ahmed Bashir, who as four Angolan players looked on, swept in sweetly for his and Sudan’s second goal. The final passage of the game saw both sides look for a winner. In truth, a draw was a fair result and means both these sides are still in with a chance of further progress in the competition.


Ivory Coast (2) – (0) Burkina Faso

As with the match earlier, one side knew that victory would assure a place in the Quarter-Finals; that side being the Ivory Coast (nicknamed, Les Éléphants – The Elephants). What stood between them and that place was the team from Burkina Faso (nicknamed, Les Etalons  – The Stallions). Despite their status as tournament favourites, Ivory Coast were less than convincing in their win over Sudan and knew that Burkina Faso could be tricky fixture. Both sides continued to display the traits from their opening fixtures. Ivory Coast again flattered to deceive, whilst despite good organisation in midfield and up-front coupled with plenty of possession, Burkina Faso again demonstrated poor defensive abilities. After 16 minutes from a throw-in, a cross into the box was flicked at and missed by Yaya Touré allowing Salomon Kalou to fire a sweet half-volley home from six yards out. The second and killer goal came on 82 minutes. A free-kick just inside The Stallions half was pumped into their box and there was no communication between the two Burkina Faso defenders as they both went for the ball. Bakary Koné got the telling touch and with it the dubious pleasure of scoring an own goal and condemning his team to an early exit from the tournament. The Elephants triumphed 2-0 and are through to the Quarter-Finals, but will somebody take that George Graham coaching manual away from their dressing room.

Final Group B fixtures: Monday 30 January – Sudan v Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast v Angola