Nii Lamptey: The Curse of Pele is the authorised biography of Ghanaian footballer Nii Lamptey, a one-time bright young talent who was hailed as ‘the next Pele’ by Pele himself.

By age 16, Lamptey had won the Belgian title with RSC Anderlecht and the World Championship with Ghana’s Under-16s. One year later, he won a bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. After joining Dutch masters PSV Eindhoven on loan in 1993 and scoring 10 times in 22 games that season, Lamptey appeared to have the world at his feet. Spells at Aston Villa and Coventry City followed, but he failed to fulfil Pele’s bold prophecy.

Instead, his career became a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when too much pressure is applied to young players. Injuries, lack of schooling, domestic violence, bad agents and a tragic and turbulent personal life pushed Lamptey to the brink of suicide, but thankfully he recovered.

In this ‘warts and all’ account he finally lifts the lid on his incredible story.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. June 2023. Hardcover: 256 pages)


Buy the book here: Nii Lamptey

2022 World Cup – Saturday 03 December 2022

The last of the group games took place yesterday and given what was as stake there was drama to be had. Group H saw Portugal top with 6 points, Ghana second with three and South Korea and Uruguay with just a solitary point.


Group H:

Ghana 0 (0) – (2) 2 Uruguay (Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah)

Uruguay scorer: de Arrascaeta (26’, 32’)


South Korea 2 (0) – (0) 1 Portugal (Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan)

South Korea scorers: Kim Young-Gwon (27′), Hwang Hee-Chan (90’+1). Portugal scorer: Ricardo Horta (5′)


Focus was on the Ghana vs. Uruguay game (where both teams could progress with a win) and memories of the 2010 encounter in South Africa loomed large. Back then Ghana were denied by a handball on the line by Luiz Suarez which saw the subsequent penalty from Andre Ayew missed. What irked many at the time was not just the unsporting act of the handball, but the way Suarez celebrated the miss as he stood in the tunnel. As 12 years ago Ayew missed a penalty in the game, and as back then Uruguay won the game. The difference here was that the 2-0 win was not enough to see Uruguay through as South Korea’s last gasp winner against Portugal meant they progressed on goals scored. Ghana may have lost, but I’m sure the South Americans exit will have brought a crumb of comfort. Karma truly can be a wonderful thing and the sight at the whistle of the distraught Suarez will have brought a smile to many fans faces around the world.


Group G:

Cameroon 1 (0) – (0) Brazil (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail)

Cameroon scorer: Aboubakar (90’+2’)


Serbia 2 (2) – (2) 3 Switzerland (Stadium 974, Doha)

Serbia scorers: Mitrovic (26′), Vlahovic (35′). Switzerland scorers: Shaqiri (20′), Embolo (44′), Freuler (48′)


Group G was already settled in terms of Brazil being confirmed into the last sixteen and as a result they rested a number of first-choice players against Cameroon. The African side knew that they had to win to have any chance of progressing. The standout performances came from Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli who could have had a hat-trick but for the excellence of the Cameroon ‘keeper Devis Epassy. Despite all the chances they created they just couldn’t find a goal and in time added-on they were hit with a sucker punch as Cameroon skipper Aboubakar headed home and was promptly sent-off for a second yellow card after taking his shirt off in celebrating the winner. Despite the win, the Indomitable Lions were out.

In their game against Serbia, the Swiss knew that a draw would be enough to see them through. It all looked to be going to plan when Shaqiri put them ahead after twenty minutes. However, Serbia’s record goalscorer Mitrovic levelled with a stunning header and the comeback was complete ten minutes before the break as Vlahovic made it 2-1. At this point, Serbia were going through with the Swiss missing out. Once again though the game twisted, with Embolo equalising a minute before the break to put the Rossocrociati (Red Crosses) into the vital runners-up spot. They made sure of progression just three minutes into the second half, with a brilliant team goal finished by Nottingham Forest’s midfielder Remo Freuler. Serbia could find no way back but leave the competition having more than contributed to an entertaining group.


And so the group stages are over, and the knockout phase begins, with the last sixteen games (I can bring myself to call it the round of sixteen!) as follows:

Netherlands v USA (Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan)

Argentina v Australia (Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan)

France v Poland (Al Thumama Stadium, Doha)

England v Senegal (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor)

Japan v Croatia (Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah)

Brazil v South Korea (Stadium 974, Doha)

Morocco v Spain (Stadium 974, Doha)

Portugal v Switzerland (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail)

2022 World Cup – Tuesday 29 November 2022

Group G: Cameroon 3 (1) – (2) 3 Serbia (Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah)

Cameroon scorers: Castelletto (29′), Aboubakar (63′), Choupo-Moting (66′). Serbia scorers: Pavlovic (45’+1’), S Milinkovic-Savic (45’+3’), Mitrovic (53′)


Group H: South Korea 2 (0) – (2) 3 Ghana (Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan)

South Korea scorers: Cho (58′, 61′). Ghana scorers: Salisu (24′), Kudus (34′, 68′)


Group G: Brazil 1 (0) – (0) 0 Switzerland (Stadium 974, Doha)

Brazil scorer: Casemiro (83′)


Group H: Portugal 2 (0) – (0) 0 Uruguay (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail)

Portugal scorer: Bruno Fernandes (54′, 90’+3’ pen)


And so the second round of group games comes to a finale with a bit of a goals flourish as the tables take shape leaving everyone knowing what needs to be done to progress whilst for others its simply means packing their bags.

The opening game of the day saw Serbia take on Cameroon in a game which a draw was not really of much use to either side, given they both lost their first group game. Serbia started brightly and Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic was unlucky not to give them the lead when his curling effort struck the post. However, it was the African side who went ahead when a corner eventually found its way to the back post where Castelletto tapped in. It looked like an advantage they would take into the break but two goals in added time from Pavlovic and Milinkovic-Savic meant it was the Serbs who went in 2-1 up.

When Serbia then scored eight minutes into the second half with a simple Mitrovic finish after a slick breakaway move the game looked up for Cameroon. However, just as in the first half there was a quick burst of scoring as goals on 63’ and 66’ brought Cameroon level at 3-3. The first from Aboubakar looked it was offside and the way he cheekily lobbed the ball in and barely celebrated, indicated he felt the same. VAR check ensued and showed it wasn’t – cue Aboubakar’s celebration. Then another breakaway saw Choupo-Moting sweep home and suddenly the African side were in the ascendency. The see-saw match was nearly won late on, as Mitrovic was teed up inside the box, only to see his effort curl wide.

Ghana and South Korea then treated us to another ding-dong encounter. Ghana scored twice in the first half, when South Korea’s ability to defend balls into the box proved their undoing. From a free-kick Salisu eventually slotted home after the ball bounced around in the box and for the second, a deep ball in allowed Kudus to ghost in between the defenders and glance home – kudos indeed (sorry couldn’t resist it!) Whatever was said in the South Korean dressing room did the trick as two towering headers from Cho on 58’ and 61’ had well, turned the game on its head. However, their joy was short-lived as within seven minutes Ghana were in front again. Credit to South Korea as they took the game to Ghana and created a number of chances. At the whistle though Ghana took the points and while they celebrated, South Korea manager Paulo Bento was sent off for arguing with English referee Anthony Taylor for not allowing a corner to be taken even though time was up.

After that the Brazil Switzerland game felt like a bit of anti-climax, with Casemiro’s sweet strike seven minutes from time pretty much the only highlight.

Last up was Portugal and Uruguay in a pretty ordinary game, with two goals from Bruno Fernandes (one a penalty in time added up) taking them through to the last sixteen. The biggest talking point was whether Ronaldo had got his head to the cross-shot that opened the scoring for Portugal. Well, weren’t we all relieved when Adidas who provide the Official World Cup balls (the Al Rihla – the journey) announced that the internal ball sensor had not detected any contact from Ronaldo – I’d have lost sleep over it!

2022 World Cup – Friday 25 November 2022

Group G: Switzerland 1 (0) – (0) 0 Cameroon (Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah)

Switzerland scorer: Embolo (48′)


Group H: Uruguay 0 (0) – (0) 0 South Korea (Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan)


Group H: Portugal 3 (0) – (0) 2 Ghana (Stadium 974, Doha)

Portugal scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo (65′ pen), Félix Sequeira (78′), da Conceicao Leao (80′). Ghana scorer: A Ayew (73′), Bukari (89’minutes)


Group G: Brazil 2 (0) – (0) 0 Serbia (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail)

Brazil scorer: Richarlison (62′, 73′)


Thursday was a drab old day in West Yorkshire, rain, grey sky and a biting wind reminding all that winter has assuredly arrived. And it pretty much felt as if some of that dourness had seeped into the  first two games of the day as the first round of group games played to a conclusion.

Whilst Cameroon had an energy about them in a first half in which they were the better side, genuine chances were at a premium and there was an inevitability about it being goal-less at the break. The deadlock was broken early in the second half as a swift Swiss move saw Cameroon born Breel Embolo sweep his adopted country into the lead. After that, well, Switzerland were more positive, but it fizzled out as quickly as the crowds are want to do at these finals in Qatar. The chant of ‘we can see you sneaking out’ should be changed for Qatar to ‘switch the lights off last one out’ (I know it doesn’t properly scan at all, but you get the picture).

Uruguay v South Korea offered little more. The South American’s hit the woodwork in each half but apart from that it felt as if both sides were satisfied with a point.

Then like the sun breaking through the clouds it all changed as Portugal and Ghana offered up a bit of a belter. Ronaldo seemingly unburdened by his Old Trafford kiss and tell revelations was at the heart of all of Portugal’s best moments, with two decent chances spurned and an effort disallowed for a foul. No goals at the break, but a game nicely simmering under, which exploded into action in the last twenty five minutes. First up Portugal were rather generously awarded a penalty after a foul on the Portugal skipper, who then stepped up to convert and become the first man to score in five World Cup finals – love him or hate him, you can’t keep him out of the headlines. However, the lead was short-lived with poor Portuguese defending allowing Ayew to fire home inside the six-yard box on seventy-three minutes. Ghana though were then hit by two goals and with ten minutes remaining it looked game over as they trailed 3-1. But with just a minute left on the clock back came the Black Stars with a header from Bakari to set up a frantic finish. And it nearly came in the ninth minute of time added on. Costa the Portugal ‘keeper put the ball down to kick it up field, whilst  panto-style (he’s behind you) Inaki Williams waited. Williams dashed forward to get the ball but slipped at the crucial minute and the chance for a dramatic leveller was gone. Breathless stuff!

To round off the day, Brazil took on Serbia. I’m not a great fan of the South American team, but they were good enough to see off a dogged Serbian team, with a double from Richarlison, the second of which, a scissor-kick volley, is an early contender for goal of the tournament.


In a flash we are already at the start of the second round of Group Stage games and depending on results some teams will already be waving mae alsalama to the finals. Here’s todays line-ups.

Group B: Wales v Iran (Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan)

After their fine second half performance against the USA, and Iran’s heavy defeat, the Welsh will be in prime position to take three points this morning. I’ll be hoping the Red Dragons do the business, so that the final group game for both the Three Lions and Wales leaves both already through to the knockout stages.


Group A: Qatar v Senegal (Al Thumama Stadium, Doha)

I’m not a vindictive person but simply hoping that Qatar get another good hiding – plain and simple. Nothing else to say.


Group A: Netherlands v Ecuador (Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan)

The Dutch already have three points in the bag after a win over Senegal and I expect nothing more than a similar outcome today.


Group B: England v USA (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor)

I’ll trot out the old fact that England have played USA twice in the World Cup and have yet to beat them. 1950 was the infamous 1-0 loss at the Brazil World Cup for an England side that contained the stars of the day such as Tom Finney, Billy Wright, Stan Mortensen and future England manager, Alf Ramsey. Then in 2010 when South Africa hosted the tournament, despite an early Steven Gerrard goal, the USA levelled five minutes before the break when Rob Green had a moment to forget allowing Clint Dempsey’s speculative shot to squirm its way into the goal. I don’t expect another 6-2 result but believe a solid 2-0 for Three Lions is not out of their reach.

FIFA World Cup 2014 – Tuesday 17 June 2014

Group G

Germany (3) 4 – 0 (0) Portugal

Another result at these Finals that nobody would have predicted.

It was all over by half-time as Germany were 3-0 ahead and Portugal down to 10 men. The first-half was all about Thomas Muller as he converted an early penalty and grabbed Germany’s third goal on the stroke of half-time. He was also involved in the incident on 37 minutes that saw Pepe sent-off for Portugal. The Real Madrid defender tangled with Muller and his hand made contact with the Germans face. However, the reaction by the German forward was ludicrous and Pepe, feeling Muller had overacted, then head-butted the German. The incident displayed once again the canker that is commonplace in the modern game in terms of the feigning of injury to get players sent-off – basically cheating.

It meant that the second-half was a pretty meaningless watch as Germany slowed the pace and Portugal struggled in the heat. The Germans created a number of chances, but only took one as villain of the peace Muller completed his hat-trick.

Note to FIFA, do something that would make a significant impact on the game and come up with a way to stop diving, feigning injury etc. instead of the daft regulations on the kits teams can and can’t wear.


Group F 

Iran (0) 0 – 0 (0) Nigeria

Well we had to have a draw sooner or later. In truth this was a pretty poor game, devoid of much quality. Credit to Iran.


Group G 

Ghana (0) 1 – 2 (1) USA

Oh Clint, why didn’t you show such spark at the Cottage this season? A skilful finish from Captain America gave the USA a first minute lead that looked like it was the winner as the game entered the last ten minutes. With just eight minutes to go, Ghana were level with a well worked goal. A lovely back-heel from Asamoah Gyan put in Ayew who finished cleanly. However, USA were to be denied and with four minutes to go, John Brooks headed home a late winner. Ghana will rue the way they conceded the corner for the goal and the fact that of the 21 shots they had on goal, only 3 were on target.


Tomorrow, in a slightly odd arrangement, the second round of group games begins before the first round has been completed.

 Group A

 Brazil v Mexico

The two unbeaten sides in Group A go head-to-head. Brazil will undoubtedly take three points, with a little help from the 12th man…


Group H 

Belgium v Algeria

Belgium qualified comfortably ahead of runners-up Croatia by 8 points, in a group that also contained Wales and Scotland. For Algeria it was a much tighter run thing as they emerged winners from their CAF play-off on away goals. The Algerians lost 3-2 to Burkina Faso, but a goal from ex-Rangers Madjid Bougherra put them through.

Nearly half the Belgium squad currently play in England and include, Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Nacer Chadli (all Spurs), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj (both Manchester United), Romelu Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas (both Everton), Eden Hazard (Chelsea) and Simon Mignolet (Liverpool). They have a talented squad and maybe could be a bit of a ‘dark-horse’ in these Finals.

For Algeria, Essaid Belkalem plays at Watford, whilst Nabil Bentaleb is at Spurs and Riyad Mahrez will be playing in the Premier League next season with Leicester City.

Surely Belgium will have too much for Algeria?


Russia v South Korea

The Russians topped their group but lost more games than runners-up Portugal. What got the Russians through though was that they drew fewer games than the Portuguese. South Korea came through after finishing as runners-up in the AFC qualifiers but only on goal-difference.

Russia are a rarity at these Finals in that their squad is entirely drawn from their own domestic competition. The same can’t be said for the Koreans. Amongst those playing in Britain are Yun Suk-young, who spent the end of last season at QPR, Kim Bo-kyung at Cardiff City, Kim Bo-kyung who was at Watford on-loan at the end of last season, Ki Sung-yueng who spent last season on-loan at Sunderland from Swansea and Lee Chung-yong at Bolton Wanderers.

Russia to take it in a tight game.

FIFA World Cup 2014 – Monday 16 June 2014

Group E

Switzerland (0) 2 – 1 (1) Ecuador

A dramatic end to start the day’s games.

Enner Valencia headed Ecuador in front after 22 minutes, but how Swiss keeper Benaglio thought he’d save it by diving backwards into the net I’ll never know. Ecuador held the lead until half-time, but within three minutes of the restart, substitute Mehmedi headed home from a corner with the Ecuador defence static. Both sides had chances to win the game, but in time added-on as Rodriguez got down the left and crossed low for Seferovic to clinically finish and grab a spectacular winner for the Swiss.


France (1) 3 – 0 (0) Honduras

I’m not going to be critical of Honduras and their tactics. It could have worked in that it might have unsettled the French and provided a way into the game for Honduras. The fact is that if you go with very physical tactics, you know you are continually treading a thin line and as Palacios showed if you ‘live by the sword, you die by the sword’.

France will be relieved to have got this one out of the way.


Group F

 Argentina (0) 2 – 0 (1) Bosnia-Herzegovina

 A stilted display from Argentina. Although they were never in danger of losing the game once Messi put them 2-0. Bosnia got one late on, but it was too little too late.

 * * * * * * * * *

Tonight the games are: 

Group F

 Iran v Nigeria

 Iran qualified after finishing first in the AFC Group ahead of South Korea. Apart from a 4-0 win over Lebanon, Iran scored only four more goals in their remaining seven games, whilst conceding only two games in their eight qualifiers. Nigeria are the current Africa Cup of Nations Champions and qualified for Brazil after a 4-1 aggregate win over Ethiopia.

I’m all for the underdog Iran, especially as Fulham’s Ashkan Dejagah is amongst their ranks and in our relegation season was one of the better players. Whilst born in Tehran, his family moved to Germany when he was a child and his club football has seen him appear for Hertha Berlin and Wolfsburg. He played for Germany from Under 17s right up to Under 21s, but opted to play for the country of his birth making his debut in 2012.

The Nigerian squad is a nomadic bunch, with the 23 man squad drawn from thirteen different countries, with the biggest contingent (seven) drawn from Britain – Joseph Yobo (Norwich City), Efe Ambrose (Celtic), Peter Odemwingie (Stoke City), John Obi Mikel (Chelsea), Victor Moses (Liverpool), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough) and Shola Ameobi (Newcastle United).

No betting irregularities here as Nigeria cruise to s 2-0 win.


Group G

Germany v Portugal

My office sweepstake team, Germany, make their first appearance in these Finals in one of the games of the opening rounds of fixtures against Portugal. The Germans topped their qualifying group finishing unbeaten and 8 points ahead of second-placed Sweden. Ironically it was the Swedes that Portugal beat in the Play-offs to secure their place in Brazil. Ronaldo scored the only goal in the first-leg in Lisbon and was also to prove the hero in the second-leg. He gave Portugal the lead in the game in Solna, but two goals from Ibrahimovic looked like taking the tie to extra-time. However, Ronaldo got two in two minutes to grab a hat-trick and seal a 4-2 win.

Only six of the German squad play outside the Bundesliga, including the Arsenal trio of Mertesacker, Ozil and Podolski, Chelsea’s Schurrle, and two in Italy, [Mustafi, who was briefly at Everton but now plays for Sampdoria, and Klose (Lazio)]. The Portuguese squad has few players with any experience of the English Premier League, the exceptions being Raul Meireles, who had spells at both Liverpool and Chelsea, Nani who is still at Old Trafford and of course Ronaldo. In addition, Helder Postiga was briefly at Spurs.

Does this game hold a shock score like Spain v Netherlands or are we about the see a cagey draw between two of the European heavyweights?


Ghana v USA

 The image of Suarez celebrating in the tunnel after his sending-off as Ghana missed a potentially match winning penalty, still burns unpleasantly in my memory from the 2010 World Cup. Four years later Ghana are back in the Finals again after a comfortable 7-3 aggregate win over Egypt in the CAF Qualifying stages. USA were top of their CONCACAF Qualifying Groups finishing four points clear of runners-up Costa Rica.

It’s funny how you can go off a player. USA captain Clint Dempsey was a hero at Fulham for his whole-hearted effort and of course THAT goal against Juventus in the UEFA Europa League. He then buggered off to Spurs citing that he needed to at a big club playing European football – and we know how that worked out. He then came back to Fulham for a loan spell this season (essentially to keep himself fit prior to the MLS season and World Cup), contributing nothing in the games he played and further tarnishing his reputation down in SW6.

The rest of the USA squad contains a sprinkling of English Premier League experience including keepers Tim Howard (Everton) and Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland) and Geoff Cameron (Stoke City). The only Ghanian currently playing in England is Albert Adomah, who plays for Middlesbrough, but was born in one of my old stomping grounds in South London, Lambeth.

I hoping for a fluent display from Ghana and a win, although the USA are a dogged bunch and could draw their African opponents into a stilted draw.

2013 Africa Cup of Nations Finals – Sunday 10 February 2013

Third/Fourth Place Play-Off


Mali (1) 3 – 1 (0) Ghana

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth


Mali_FAIt might have been a wet old night in Port Elizabeth and in front of a crowd of just 6,000, but those who braved the weather were treated to an entertaining game. Neither side made wholesale changes to their line-ups, as both teams looked to clinch Third Place in the 2012 AFCON competition.

Ghana were soon into their stride as fullback Richard Kissi Boateng threatened down the wing and Asamoah Gyan had an early attempt on goal which cleared the Mali bar. However, the Malians responded soon after and Samassa’s effort on goal was easily gathered by Dauda the Ghanaian keeper. On twenty one minutes Mamadou Samassa did find a way past Dauda as he dived to head home a cross from marauding fullback Adama Tamboura. The first-half action was end-to-end as Asamoah and Wakaso both had chances to bring Ghana level; with Mali then almost taking a 2-0 advantage, when Samassa saw his effort hit the post just before half-time.

Into the second-half, Mali took control of the game within three minutes of the restart. Mamadou Samassa muscled his way down the right wing and was able to get a cross into the penalty box, where Seydou Keita comfortably side footed home. On fifty eight minutes Ghana got an opportunity to get back in the game when they were awarded a penalty for handball. Wakaso who had already scored three penalties in the 2013 tournament then proceeded to horribly blast this attempt over the bar. It wasn’t until the eighty second minute that Ghana got a goal back, when Mali keeper Diakite badly misjudged a long distance swerving effort from Asamoah. As Ghana went in search of an equaliser, they were caught on the break in time added-on when Sigamary Diarra expertly volleyed home a long through ball.

So Mali 3-1 winners at the end, a result they deserved to clinch Third Place for the second consecutive AFCON tournament. The last CAF Rankings prior to the competition had Mali at three and Ghana at four, which was how they finished here. Pre-tournament, the bookies had Ghana as second favourites at 6/1 to take the title, with Mali out at 14/1. Both countries can be fairly satisfied with what they achieved, however some may question whether Ghana like Ivory Coast have once again not dealt with the pressure of being amongst the favourites.

2013 Africa Cup of Nations Finals – Friday 08 February 2013

Third/Fourth Place Play-Off

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Ghana v Mali

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

It’s the fixture that no team really wants to have to take part in; the game for the two losing Semi-Finalists. At least however the teams won’t have to endure playing the game on the truly dreadful surface at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit or have it officiated by Slim Jedidi.

Ghana finished Third in 2008 and Fourth in 1996 & 2012. Mali finished Third in 2012 and Fourth in 1994, 2002 & 2004. Nigeria are the Third Place ‘champions’ having claimed that title on no less than seven occasions.

Mali and Ghana have already faced each other in the competition in a Group B fixture, which Ghana won with a first-half Wakaso Mubarak penalty in the same stadium as they play again tomorrow. Whether the respective line-ups will be the same remains to be seen, as it may be used as an occasion to give a game to those who have yet to start or had little playing time in the tournament. The winners though will be a historical footnote to the 2013 AFCON competition. The last five Third/Fourth Place Play-Off games were as follows:

2012 AFCON – South Africa: Mali 2 – 0 Ghana

2010 AFCON – Angola: Nigeria 1 – 0 Algeria

2008 AFCON – Ghana: Ghana 4 – 2 Ivory Coast

2006 AFCON – Egypt: Nigeria 1 – 0 Senegal

2004 AFCON – Tunisia: Nigeria 2 – 1 Mali

Good luck to the two teams; here’s hoping that playing for pride produces a reasonable game.


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.