2022 World Cup – Thursday 01 December 2022

Group D:

Tunisia 1 (0) – (0) 0 France (Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan)

Tunisia scorer: Khazri (58’)

France had already qualified going into the final round of games, with Australia second on three points and Tunisia and Denmark bringing up the rear with a point apiece.

Tunisia knew that only a victory would give them any chance of progressing to the last sixteen and they would have been heartened by the rotation to the French squad that saw players like Lloris, Griezmann, Giroud and Mbappe on the bench. In what was to prove an emotional and highly charged atmosphere given the historical and political links between the countries. Despite a lack of possession. Tunisia held their own and then struck just before the hour mark, winning the ball in midfield releasing ex-Sunderland player Khazri to advance on the French defence before slotting into the corner. Didier Deschamps the French coach reacted by throwing on his big guns in search of an equaliser, but it was not to be with Griezmann having his late strike disallowed for offside. Tunisia had secured the win they required, but with Australia beating Denmark it was the Socceroos who took second spot and a place in the last sixteen.


Australia 1 (0) – (0) 0 Denmark (Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah)

Australia scorer: Leckie (60’)

The equation was a simple one for both teams, win and progress. The Danes dominated possession but didn’t convert this into shots on goal and when they did they couldn’t find a way past Mat Ryan in the Australian goal. The vital goal came on the hour, as Australia broke with a lightning-quick counterattack finished off by Mathew Leckie.

For the Danes their Semi-Final spot at the Euros seems a lifetime away as they struggled in Qatar, gaining just a point. For Australia, progressing equals their best tournament in 2006 when they lost in last sixteen to a Italian penalty in time added-on.


Group C:

Poland 0 (0) – (0) 2 Argentina (Stadium 974, Doha)

Argentina scorers: Mac Allister (46′), Alvarez (67′)

Going into the final round, Poland topped the group (4 points), with Argentina second who were level on points with Saudi Arabia and Mexico last with a solitary point.

Yet again VAR and those who adjudicate to be frankly embarrassing. The awarding of a penalty to Argentina on 39 minutes was simply comical. Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny has his eyes on the ball as he attempts to punch/palm the cross away, the contact between his hand and Messi’s face is an accident…and then the acting from Messi for the ‘contact’ – well don’t get me started. Thankfully justice was done as the ex-Arsenal ‘keeper clawed away Messi’s spot-kick. No goals at half time – jeez how many times have I typed that during this World Cup.

Within a minute of the restart though they had their goals with Mac Allister’s shot going in off  the post. When Alvarez scored with twenty-three minutes remaining to make it 2-0 and the score over in Lusail, having started top the Poles were in danger of missing out on second spot. Indeed they were ragged in the last quarter of the game and can be grateful for Argentina’s profligate finishing which could have sent Poland home. Argentina recovered from the defeat against Saudi Arabia to finish top of the group and finding a bit of a groove.


Saudi Arabia 1 (0) – (0) 2 Mexico (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail)

Saudi Arabia scorer: Al Dawsari (90’+5’). Mexico scorers: Martín (47′), Chavez (52′)

Mexico despite victory missed out on the last sixteen on goal-difference. They were ahead 2-0 after fifty-two minutes, the second a stunning free kick from Chavez. And as they went in search of more goals, the situation though in the group took some understanding (and believing). With Argentina beating Poland 2-0 and Mexico leading by the same score-line at Lusail Stadium in the fourth minute of time added on, El Tri (The Tricolour) needed one more goal to prevent them from going out according to FIFA’s fair play rule for having more yellow cards than Poland. However, this didn’t come into play as Salem Al Dawsari’s goal in the fifth minute of time added-on sent Mexico home on goal difference instead. Some drama at least in a World Cup that has yet to burst into any sort of life.

2022 World Cup – Wednesday 23 November 2022

GROUP C: Argentina 1 (1) – (0) 2 Saudi Arabia (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail)

Argentina scorer: Messi (10’ pen) Saudi Arabia scorers: Al-Shehri  (48′), S. Al-Dawsari  (53′)


GROUP D: Denmark 0 (0) – (0) 0 Tunisia (Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan)


GROUP C: Mexico 0 (0) – (0) 0 Poland (Stadium 974, Doha)


GROUP D: France 4 (2) – (1) 1 Australia

France scorers: Rabiot  (27′), Giroud (32′, 71′), Mbappe (68′). Australia scorer: Goodwin  (9′)


Four games, two goal-less, a win for the current World Champions and the first big shock of the tournament.

In a day of four games, it was an early start for those in the UK with the Argentina game starting at 10:00 and La Albiceleste quickest out of the blocks. Messi had an early effort after two minutes saved but had put Argentina ahead just eight minutes later. Again you have to question the VAR decision. From a free-kick, Leandro Paredes was pulled down and the spot-kick awarded after a check. Please can someone tell me how this was different to the Harry Maguire incident in the England v Iran game…Anyway Argentina didn’t capitalise on their first half dominance with VAR doing its best to ensure it was 1-0 at the break. Out came the Saudis who were level within three minutes of the restart and ahead on fifty-three minutes with a superb strike from Al-Hilal  forward Salem Al Dawsari. The South Americans huffed and puffed and even with fourteen minute of time added on couldn’t find an equaliser. Credit to Saudi Arabia, but don’t write off Argentina just yet.

Group C’s other game between Mexico and Poland ended 0-0 where the crucial moment came on fifty-eight minutes as Polish captain Robert Lewandowski had his penalty saved.

Group D also saw a 0-0 with Denmark and Tunisia with Danes having the best chances in the second half.

The final game of the day for anyone still gorging on the fourth fixture saw Australia give World Cup holders a bloody nose with a Craig Goodwin goal after nine minutes. Two quickfire goals after twenty seven minutes and thirty two minutes saw the French go 2-1 ahead. First Rabiot headed home and them Oliver Giroud scored his fiftieth international goal after Australia gave the ball away at the back. France could have been out of sight at the break as they created further decent chances. Into the second half and the French eased to a 4-1 win with the ever busy and creative Mbappe heading in on sixty-eight minutes and then turning provider three minutes later as he delivered the perfect cross for Giroud to score with a header, equalling Henry’s record of 51 France goals in the process. France looking ominously good.


GROUP F: Morocco v Croatia (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor)

Morocco qualified as CAF third round winners so making it to the finals for the sixth time. Nayef Aguerd (West Ham), Ilias Chair (QPR), Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea) and Anass Zaroury (Burnley) will be familiar to English fans and are part of a squad who didn’t concede in their last three games before Qatar with wins over Chile (2-0) and Georgia (3-0) and a draw with Paraguay (0-0). Croatia of course put pay to the Three Lions hope of a final appearance in 2018 winning 2-1 in the Semi-Final clash. The side is led by the mercurial Luka Modric supported by the vastly experienced squad members Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren, Mateo Kovacic, Ivan Perisic and Andrej Kramaric. I really can’t see anything other than a victory for Kockasti (The Checkered Ones).

GROUP E: Germany v Japan (Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan)

Four-times World Cup winners strolled through qualification from UEFA Group J with nine wins and a surprise 2-1 loss to North Macedonia. Die Mannschaft like England were far from convincing in their recent Nations League campaign and at the 2018 finals in Russia failed to make it out of the Group Stages, whilst at the Euros exited in the last sixteen to England. Will this be another tournament of frustration? Certainly their opening game against Japan will be a tester. Previous to 2022 the Blue Samurai have appeared at the last six finals reaching the last sixteen in 2002, 2010 and 2018. The Japan forward line looks short on goals at international level and this will be a concern.

GROUP F: Spain v Costa Rica (Al Thumama Stadium, Doha)

Spain had a fairly comfortable passage to the finals as UEFA Group B winners, whilst Costa Rica were the last side to qualify back in June after beating New Zealand 1-0 in the CONCACAF–OFC play-off final held in the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Qatar. The Spanish side looks light on goals as this level with only Alvaro Morata and Ferran Torres in double figures, 27 and 13 respectively and the feeling is that it is a side very much in transition. This is Costa Rica’s sixth appearance at the finals, reaching the Quarter Finals in 2014 before going out on penalties to the Netherlands. They have an experienced squad with four players over the 100 caps mark, including, Keylor Navas (107), Celso Borges (155), Bryan Ruiz (146) and Joel Campbell (119). This could be a stalemate, although don’t be surprised if Spain pinch it by a single goal.

GROUP E: Belgium v Canada (Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan)

Belgium won UEFA Group E going unbeaten with eight wins and two draws and were third place winners in the 2018 World Cup. A vastly experienced and talented squad, the criticism of Belgium teams down the years is that they have always underachieved. Certainly 2022 will be the last chance of World Cup glory for a number of the squad echoed in a recent interview by captain Eden Hazard, who also reflected that his own level is not what it was. Canada qualified as CONCACAF third round winners and last appeared in the finals in 1986 losing all three Group games to France, Hungary and the Soviet Union. They are coached by John Herdman an Englishman who moved to New Zealand in 2001 and coached the New Zealand women (2006–2011), the Canadian women (2011-2018) and the Canadian men from 2018. Within their squad is St Johnstone’s David Wotherspoon and Reading’s Junior Hoilett and eleven squad members playing in the MLS. Belgium to get off with a win must be on the cards.

World Cup diary 2018 – Friday 29 June

So that’s that. The final round of group games were completed yesterday and the final sixteen teams are now all known.

The action began in Group H, and with Poland already out, it was left to Colombia, Japan and Senegal for fight for the top-two spots. It was to prove a controversial afternoon as with Colombia ahead 1-0 against Sengal through Mina (74′) and Japan losing 1-0 to Poland through a Bednarek (59′) goal, the Japanese knew that if the scores remained the same that was enough to send them through. With Senegal and Japan having the same points and goals scored it came down to the number of bookings. It produced a final ten minutes of the game that caused such outcry in 1982 between Austria and West Germany when they effectively played-out time without any intend of going forward, that FIFA made final round games kick-off at the same time. The reaction some 36 years later is no less vociferous, but let’s consider a couple of things. Firstly, Japan did nothing wrong, what they did was within the laws of the competition and whilst some might argue it’s not in the spirit of the game, they were perfectly within their rights to finish the game as they did. Secondly, it was a risky strategy from Japan, as Senegal only needed to equalise and the Blue Samurai would have been eliminated. Something for FIFA to ponder once this World Cup finishes.

That just left Group G to be completed with England and Belgium competing for top-spot and Tunisia and Panama vying to avoid finishing bottom. Tunisia won the game 2-1 thanks to a second-half strike from Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri, condemning Panama to the bottom slot in the group. In the battle at the top, both sides rested players with England making eight changes and Belgium nine, so it was no surprise that it felt a somewhat disjointed game, that was ultimately won by a superb Adnan Januzaj strike six minutes into the second-half. Much of the debate wasn’t around the game itself, but which looked a better route to progression, which to me is all pretty academic if you don’t win your last sixteen game.

It left the final pairings as follows:

July 02 Belgium v Japan                 July 03 Colombia v England.

Today there are no games with the knockout phase beginning on Saturday with two Europe v South America clashes as France play Argentina in Kazan and later in the day, Uruguay play Portugal in Sochi. Both very difficult to call. Like the teams I’m resting for today and will pick up with previews tomorrow.

2013 Africa Cup of Nations Finals – Thursday 31 January 2013

Group D:

Algeria (0) 2 – 2 (0) Ivory Coast

Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg

Despite the fact that there was nothing riding on this game as Ivory Coast were through and Algeria were out, it actually proved to be an entertaining encounter. With the pressure off, Ivory Coast rested a number of players, although Didier Drogba started for The Elephants. Algeria had the chance to go ahead in the first half when they were awarded a penalty, however Ryad Boudebouz could only hit the post and the chance was gone. Into the second-half and on sixty four minutes Arthur Bokam clumsily handled in the box to give Algeria a second penalty. Sofiane Feghouli made no mistake, putting it firmly into the top left hand corner. Six minutes later Algeria scored a second, when Feghoul got down the right wing and his cross was headed home by El Arbi Hillel Soudani, who had easily lost his marker. On seventy seven minutes Drogba got Ivory Coast back in the game when he delicately flicked home a header. The comeback was complete with nine minutes remaining, when Wilfried Bony let fly from outside the box, and his shot found the net after a wicked deflection off defender Rafik Halliche. At the whistle, Algeria left the tournament with their first goals and only point in the competition, whilst for Ivory Coast, the quest for the 2013 title continues.


Togo (1) 1 – 1 (1) Tunisia

Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

Togo knew a point would be enough to see them through to the Quarter-Finals for the first time in their history, but it was by no means a simple task. They started the more positive of the two teams and took the lead on thirteen minutes. Adebayor made a surging run from half-way before playing in Serge Gakpé who finished smartly. However, replays suggested that Gakpé was offside, but the goals stood and Togo were ahead. Tunisia though responded and were level on the half-hour when Khaled Mouelhi converted a penalty after Walid Hichri was brought down following a corner; 1-1 at the break. The second-half became the story of the referee, South African Daniel Bennett, as blatant penalties were turned away for both sides, and then one awarded for a ‘soft’ challenge on Saber Khlifa. Khaled Mouelhi stepped up again but this time he hit the post; justice done. In addition, Bennett mistakenly booked Nibombe Dare, when in fact the foul was committed by Serge Akakpo. Despite the best efforts of Tunisia, Togo held on to progress. Tunisia like their North African neighbours Algeria were out.



(1) Ivory Coast, (2) Algeria, (3) Togo, (4) Tunisia.


Final Standings:

(1) Ivory Coast, (2) Togo, (3) Tunisia, (4) Algeria.


The competition now has a two day break and resumes on Saturday with the first two Quarter-Finals, with Sunday seeing the remaining two being played. The fixtures are as follows, with the latest CAF Rankings in brackets:

Saturday 02 February 2013

 Ghana (4) v Cape Verde (15)

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth


South Africa (22) v Mali (3)

Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban


 Sunday 03 February 2013

 Ivory Coast (1) v Nigeria (9)

Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg


Burkina Faso (23) v Togo (18)

Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

2013 Africa Cup of Nations Finals – Tuesday 22 January 2013

Group C: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

Zambia (1) 1 – 1 (0) Ethiopia

The 2012 AFCON Champions Zambia were involved in a game that is best described as ‘incident packed’. From the kick-off it was a game that featured some, what only can be described as ‘robust’ challenges and Zambia’s Stoppila Sunzu received a yellow card within the opening fifteen minutes for a crude tackle on Saladain Said. The Ethiopia nearly put his side ahead on eighteen minutes, but his lob over Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene incredibly bounced over the crossbar, thanks to a dry and rock hard pitch. The Champions were living dangerously and on twenty four minutes, they conceded a penalty when Chisamba Lungu fouled Saladin Said. The Ethiopian took the resultant penalty, but his weak effort was easily parried away by Mweene. From the ensuing attack, Zambia nearly scored themselves, but Jemal Tassew saved smartly. However, the hero turned villain when just after the half hour mark he was sent-off for an awful challenge on Chisamba Lungu. The keeper injured himself in the process and left the field on a stretcher as the referee brandished the red card. Zambia made their numerical advantage count with the first-half ticking away, as Collins Mbesuma muscled between two Ethiopian defenders to plant his half volley past substitute keeper Zerihun Tadele. As the Zambians celebrated, objects were thrown at the players from the crowd. Into the second-half, Ethiopia remained resolute and on sixty four minutes levelled the score. Addis Hintsa provided a pin-point pass for Saladain Said and he fed Adane Girma who slotted past Mweene at his near post. Zambia searched hard for a winner, but couldn’t find one and so Ethiopia finished with a point that they richly deserved.


Nigeria (1) 1 – 1 (0) Burkina Faso

Another game in the 2013 AFCON and another draw. Nigeria one of the ‘big guns’ in African football failed to deliver in a game they were expected to win. The Super Eagles dominated the opening exchanges and therefore it was no surprise when they took the lead after twenty three minutes. From a through ball, Ideye Brown’s clever back-heel flick fell to Emmanuel Emenike and he reacted quickest to fire home to give Nigeria a 1-0 lead. There seemed to be no urgency from the Nigerians to seek a second goal and the remainder of the half was a pretty uninspiring passage of play. In the second period Burkina Faso stuck manfully to their task, but there was a distinct lack of quality in some of the play from both sides, with wayward passes and equally wayward attempts on goal. As with the earlier game in Group C, some of the tackles and challenges were crude and on seventy three minutes, Nigeria were reduced to ten men when Celtic’s Efe Ambrose was dismissed for a second yellow card. Despite being a man down, Nigeria continued to create chances, with Ikechukwu Uche particularly wasteful. The Super Eagles were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal when in time added-on, substitute Alain Traoré levelled for Burkina Faso. Jonathan Pitroipa received the ball out wide and cut the ball back into the box, inexplicably the two Nigerians defenders dithered and failed to clear it, allowing Traoré to slot home; cue wild celebrations on the Burkina Faso bench. Not a great game by any stretch of the imagination, but one which delivered with some last gasp drama.

Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg

Group D: Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg

Ivory Coast v Togo

Ivory Coast (The Elephants) are the top ranked CAF side going into the competition and also the bookies favourites. However, they have in the past struggled with this weight of expectation and their one and only AFCON title was in 1992. In qualifying for the 2013 tournament, The Elephants overcame Senegal 6-2 on aggregate. The 2nd leg in Dakar had to be abandoned shortly after the Ivory Coast went 2-0 ahead in the seventy first minute, as violence erupted on the terraces. In their last warm-up game, The Elephants overcame Egypt 4-2. Ivory Coast will no doubt make it through the Group stage, but can they hold their nerve to take the crown?

Togo’s (Les Eperviers – The Sparrow Hawks) last experience of the AFCON was surrounded with tragedy as on the eve of the tournament in 2010, their team bus was attacked and three people were killed. Togo withdrew, but were then banned by CAF from the next two tournaments. However, FIFA halved the penalty which meant The Sparrow Hawks could enter qualification for the 2013 competition. They overcame Kenya on away goals after finishing 2-2 on aggregate and sealed their place in South Africa with a 3-2 aggregate victory over Gabon.


Tunisia v Algeria

The first round of Group games concludes with a clash of North African teams and will see Tunisia (The Eagles of Carthage) up against Algeria (Les Fennecs – The Fennec Foxes). Tunisia came through qualification against Sierra Leone on away goals after finishing 2-2 on aggregate. In their warm-up games, they lost 4-2 to Ghana and drew with Gabon 1-1.

Algeria were more convincing in qualification, and saw off Gambia 6-2 on aggregate, followed by victory over North African neighbours Libya 3-0 on aggregate. In their last warm-up game, Algeria took on 2013 hosts South Africa and played out a 0-0 draw.0

The bookies see very little between these teams, whereas the CAF rankings have Algeria at number two and Tunisia at ten. A ‘local derby’, so a draw with honours even and local bragging rights not settled.


Prediction: (1) Ivory Coast, (2) Algeria, (3) Togo, (4) Tunisia.

Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Sunday 05 February 2012

Gabon (1) – (1) Mali (AET: Mali won 5-4 on penalties) [Stade d’Angondjé]

Ghana (2) – (1) Tunisia (AET) [Stade de Franceville]

Yesterday I tipped the two “G’s” (Gabon and Ghana) to complete the Semi-Final line-up, but only came up with one out of two tonight.

In the case of Gabon, “G” stood for “Going, going, gone”, as there was no dream of progress for The Panthers and as a result both co-hosts exited at the Quarter-Final stage. However, it all looked so promising in Libreville, when after an even first-half, Gabon took the lead on 55 minutes with a goal best described as a comedy of errors. Gabon launched a free-kick into the Mali penalty area which was badly misjudged by Mali as they tried to clear. The ball fell to Gabon forward Aubameyang who cut the ball back into the box where it was  missed by the Mali defence. The ball ran to Eric Mouloungui who drove the it towards goal and which found its way in after a deflection from two Mali players who were more effective in getting in each others way, rather than blocking the goal-bound effort. Gabon went in search of a second and captain Daniel Cousin hit the post when it was easier to score. The clock ticked down and it looked like Gabon were edging their way to the Semi-Final. Then with six minutes remaining, a ball into the Gabon box was headed back towards the penalty spot by Modibo Maiga. Substitute Tidiane Diabate with his back to goal, controlled, turned and fired under the body of Didier Ovono in the Gabon goal. Mali were level mainly through great skill by Diabate, but the finger will be pointed at Ovono, in that he should have kept the shot out. Extra-time came and went and suddenly it was the drama and agony of penalties. Six successful penalties had the scores at 3-3 as Gabon’s star performer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stepped-up. His kick was saved and the advantage shifted to Mali. Bakaye Traoré coolly put Mali 4-3 up, but Gabon stayed in the tie as Ecuele Manga casually chipped in his penalty to level the score at 4-4. It all came down to Seydou Keita who with calmness passed his spot-kick left footed into the net. It was a lesson in penalty taking and England fans will hope Fabio Capello was taking note! Despair for Gabon and elation for Mali. The Eagles were through and have the dubious pleasure of facing Ivory Coast in the Semi-Final. For now though it will be about enjoying the moment.

For Ghana is was a case of “G” for “Gift”, a gift that only came to fruition in extra-time. The prospect of extra-time didn’t look on the cards early on when The Black Stars made a lightening start and were 1-0 up against Tunisia within ten minutes. From a corner taken by Emmanuel Agyemang Badu, Ghana skipper John Mensah muscled out the Tunisian defence to head in. Ghana continued to press and a second goal seemed likely. With half-time looming and Ghana cruising, against the run of play, Tunisia scored three minutes before the break. A speculative cross into the box was headed home by Saber Khelifa who attacked the ball with more purpose than the Ghanaian defender. The second-half couldn’t separate the teams and so as with the earlier game it was extra-time. The “gift” arrived just over ten minutes into the first period of extra-time. Agyemang Badu looked like he had wasted a good attacking position, when he over hit a cross. However, Tunisian keeper Aymen Mathlouthi inexplicably tried to take the cross as it was sailing out of play. He failed to gather the ball and instead knocked it into the path of Andre Ayew who gratefully slotted home to give Ghana the lead 2-1. It was quite simply the keeping clanger of the tournament and Mathlouthi cost his team dearly. Into the second period of extra-time, Tunisia lost their composure as Aymen Abdennour was sent-off for elbowing an opponent and Oussama Darragi was lucky not to reduce Tunisia to nine men with an ugly challenge. It was a shame that the game finished in the manner that it did. However, Ghana made it through, although less comfortably than they would have hoped.

There is a break now until Wednesday when the Semi-Finals take place and they will be as follows:

Zambia v Ghana (Estadio de Bata)

Mali v Ivory Coast (Stade d’Angondjé)

Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Tuesday 31 January 2012

Group C

Gabon (1) – (0) Tunisia [Stade de Franceville]

Niger (0) – (1) Morocco [Stade d’Angondjé]

In terms of qualification for the Quarter-Finals, that was already done and dusted prior to kick-off. Gabon and Tunisia were playing to establish who would top the Group, whilst Niger and Morocco were in opposition to avoid the ‘cuillère en bois’

Incredibly going into this game, there had not been one fixture which had ended 0-0. After 45 minutes in both games without a goal, the indications were that perhaps this was about to change. The two games provided quite a contrast. In Franceville, Gabon and Tunisia provided a half of genuine pace and passion. Daniel Cousin and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had ‘put themselves about’ and were causing the Tunisian defence some real problems. Meanwhile in Libreville, Niger and Morocco produced a pretty awful first-half. Niger did hit the bar just before the break when Moussa Maazou was unlucky with his strike, otherwise there was little to excite the crowd.

Thankfully there was a little more for spectators to get excited about in the second period of each game. Co-hosts Gabon completed a clean sweep winning all three games and finished on 9 points after a 1-0 victory over Tunisia. The winning goal came on 62 minutes with a rapid fire attack from Gabon. Starting inside the Gabonese half the ball was swept to Cousin, his first-time ball found Aubameyang, who took it on before shooting from just outside the Tunisian box. The ball found its way into the net but Rami Jeridi in goal for Tunisia was at fault, as the shot ricocheted and spun off his body. Gabon deserved their lead and also continued to press in the remainder of the game. There was still enough passion in this game as ninety minutes approached for a little fracas between the players. At the whistle went, both teams could celebrate, as they were both through and the challenge of the Quarter Finals awaited. In the game at Libreville, thankfully Morocco sparked into life in the second-half. Younes Belhanda was the catalyst for a better tempo as he was involved in all the positive work by Morocco. The goal came on 79 minutes, when Marouane Chamakh, who did appear offside, laid the ball through for Belhanda to finish. Morocco finished with a win, but didn’t live up to their pre-tournament promise, whilst Niger left empty handed.

Final Positions:

(1) Gabon: 9 pts, (2) Tunisia: 6 pts, (3) Morocco: 3 pts, (4) Niger: 0 pts.

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.