Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Saturday 04 February 2012


Zambia (3) – (0) Sudan [Estadio de Bata]

Ivory Coast (3) – (0) Equitorial Guinea [Nuevo Estadio de Malabo]

De La Soul once sang, “…three, that’s the magic number…” and so it proved to be for Zambia and Ivory Coast tonight as my predictions to progress indeed made it through to the Semi-Finals.

In the opening game of the evening at the Estadio de Bata, Zambia met Sudan. Zambia dominated from the off and were 1-0 up within the opening fifteen minutes. Kalaba swung in a Zambian free-kick from the wing and as the Sudanese defence stopped, Sunzu (sporting a rather fine mohican) headed in. Now depending whether you are part of the goalkeeping union or not, you would either say that Sudan custodian Akram was left badly exposed by his defence and had no chance with the header, or his challenge at punching away the incoming ball into the box was too little too late. Whatever you point of view, it added more fuel to the fire in the debate about the standards of goalkeeping in this competition. Sudan struggled to get into the first-half and any chance of establishing any rhythm was hindered by two enforced substitutions due to injury as Yousif Ela Eldin and Hamid Nazar were replaced. Overall, Zambia deserved their half-time lead. Sudan however dominated the opening twenty minutes of the second half with good chances created for Eltaib and Ahmed Khalifa. They were still in the match on 66 minutes, but then threw the game away. Kalaba broke into the Sudan penalty area and was being forced wide, when inexplicably, cynically and crudely, Saif Eldin Ali Idris hacked the Zambian down. A penalty was awarded and Sudan were down to ten men. Akram did well to save the spot-kick, but the rebound fell kindly to skipper Christopher Katongo who swept it in and put the game out of reach of Sudan. The result was put beyond doubt on 86 minutes, as James Chamanga curled in a beauty to make it 3-0. Undoubtedly, the turning point was the sending off and penalty, as it was still only 1-0 with about 25 minutes still to play. However, Zambia were the better team and are emerging as a dark horse in the tournament.

In the second game of the night the first-half was very much about The Elephants captain Didier Drogba. After thirty minutes (in which Ivory Coast had dominated), a penalty was awarded after Didier Zokora was fouled. Drogba stepped up, but his effort was well saved by Emmanuel-Danilo. However, within six minutes Drogba redeemed himself. Rui Fernando Gomez make a hash of controlling the ball, Drogba pounced, drove into the box and after cutting inside two defenders squeezed a shot past Danilo; 1-0 and Ivory Coast had their half-time lead. As in their previous fixtures, The Elephants seemed content to absorb the pressure in the opening of the second-half and play on the counter. The killer blow came with twenty minutes remaining. Yaya Toure fired in a free-kick and Drogba placed a bullet header into the net for his and The Elephants second. If that finish wasn’t impressive enough, then with just ten minutes to go, Yaya Toure scored with an absolutely stunning curling free-kick and clinch a 3-0 win. The Elephants through and yet to concede a goal – ominous for the other teams. Equatorial Guinea did their country proud and they will no doubt rise up the CAF and FIFA rankings after this showing.

The great shame about the games tonight were the attendance figures, with a reported crowd of only 200 in Bata and surprisingly in the capital Malabo, the stadium was not full even for home team Equatorial Guinea, with a reported crowd of 12,500 in the 15,000 capacity stadium. When the CAF organising committee review this tournament, the issue of attendance figures will surely be on the agenda.

Tomorrow the remaining two Quarter-Finals take place with the first involving co-hosts Gabon up against Mali in Libreville and the second with Ghana playing Tunisia in Franceville. Gabon looked an accomplished side in winning their three group games with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the star attacking force for The Panthers. Mali who face Gabon, clinched their Quarter-Final berth after coming from behind in their last game to beat Botswana. For me, Gabon will have too much for The Eagles. In the later game, Ghana take on Tunisia. Ghana like Ivory Coast, haven’t really got into top-gear, but did enough to top their group. Their four goals to date have been scored by four different players, which shows that they have a number of options in that department. Tunisia have yet to keep a clean-sheet in the tournament and will for me struggle to contain The Black Stars. G-force tomorrow then, with Gabon and Ghana to go through.

Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Friday 03 February 2012

After a two day break the action resumes on Saturday, when the first two Quarter-Finals take place and will see Zambia v Sudan (in Bata) and Ivory Coast v Equatorial Guinea (in Malabo). Sudan and co-hosts Equatorial Guinea are the two lowest ranked teams in the competition and would not have expected to have made it this far. However, Sudan will feel they have a chance of causing an upset when they meet Zambia, but will have to contain two useful strikers in Christopher Katongo and Emmanuel Mayuka who have both scored two each for Zambia in the tournament so far. For me, the attacking abilities of The Copper Bullets will bring down the Falcons of Jediane and Zambia will progress to claim a Semi-Final place.

Over in Malabo the second Quarter-Final will see the favourites and top ranked team, Ivory Coast, attempt to break the hearts of the locals when they take on Equatorial Guinea. The Elephants have by no means been outstanding so far, but have won all their games in an efficient, if somewhat unspectacular fashion. However, Ivory Coast have yet to concede a goal in the tournament so far, and with the strength of squad that includes the experience of Eboue, Drogba and Zokora and younger talent such as Bony, there seems to be no outcome except a win for the Ivory Coast. Of course we all love the underdog, but this really does look on paper a game too far for Nzalang Nacional.

Throughout the “diary” for the competition I have made reference to the rankings of teams, so detailed below is the current full list for the Confederation of African Football (CAF). This was last published on 18 January 2012 and will be updated on 15 February 2012. It shows the ranking within the CAF and FIFA. Each team is given a number of points (not shown here) which is based on a calculation which is arrived at by the following factors:

Points from a single match x Importance of game x strength of opposition x strength of opposition football association/confederation.

However, below each of those criteria is another set, so for instance, in terms of “importance of game” there are a range of points available depending on the type of competition the game took place in. For full details of how it all works, click here

Q = Qualified for 2012 Orange Africa Cup of Nations.

CAF Ranking FIFA Ranking Team Name
1 18 Ivory Coast (Q)
2 26 Ghana (Q)
3 32 Algeria
4 36 Egypt
5 43 Senegal (Q)
6 45 Nigeria
7 56 Cameroon
8 56 South Africa
9 58 Cape Verde Islands
10 59 Tunisia (Q)
11 60 Sierra Leone
12 61 Morocco (Q)
13 63 Libya (Q)
14 66 Burkina Faso (Q)
15 69 Mali (Q)
16 71 Zambia (Q)
17 79 Guinea (Q)
18 82 Uganda
19 85 Angola (Q)
20 91 Gabon (Q)
21 94 Botswana (Q)
22 98 Niger (Q)
23 99 Malawi
24 100 Togo
25 102 Zimbabwe
26 105 Mozambique
27 110 Rwanda
28 116 Congo DR
29 118 Gambia
30 120 Sudan (Q)
31 121 Kenya
32 122 Namibia
33 123 Liberia
34 128 Central African Republic
35 131 Congo
36 133 Ethiopia
37 136 Benin
38 137 Tanzania
39 141 Burundi
40 142 Chad
41 151 Equatorial Guinea (Q)
42 153 Lesotho
43 160 Madagascar
44 162 Guinea-Bissau
45 180 Swaziland
46 187 Comoros
47 188 Seychelles
48 189 Eritrea
49 190 Somalia
50 194 Mauritius
51 196 São Tomé e Príncipe   
52 198 Djibouti  
53 204 Mauritania

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 – 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.