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 – Sunday 12 February 2012

Africa Cup of Nations – FINAL

Ivory Coast v Zambia


Ranked 16 in the CAF standings, in footballing terms Zambia’s progression to the Final today is a remarkable achievement. Their two most noteworthy results in the tournament to date include the group win over highly fancied Senegal and the Semi-Final win over pre-tournament favourites Ghana. Others will say though this journey is all about fate and that The Copper Bullets are destined to win the trophy. The reason? Back in April 1993 the Zambian team were flying to a World Cup Qualifying game in Senegal. After a fuel stop in Libreville, the plane took off, but crashed soon after, just off the Gabon coast. All passengers and crew were killed and included 18 players. So for the modern-day Zambian squad that crash and loss of their compatriots has been there in the background – a part of their drive, an unconscious positive force – and maybe, just maybe it will take them to one more incredible victory.

Ivory Coast have yet to concede so far in the competition and another statistic of note is that none of the previous thirty one games have produced a 0-0. Could The Elephants lose the tournement on penalties having not lost a game or conceded a goal? Does the competition have one last twist? Football logic says that the footballing stars of the Ivory Coast will take the title, but is it written in the celestial stars that Zambia will be crowned champions?


Sometimes you get an image that says so much. As the captains exchanged pennants before kick-off, the camera drew back and revealed Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba standing by Zambian skipper, Christopher Katongo. Drogba physically dwarfed the opposing captain – an obvious visual ‘David and Goliath’ – a representation of The Elephants, a side full of stars, the favourites, against The Copper Bullets, the unfancied minnows.

Pleasantries over, Ivory Coast kicked-off in drizzly conditions and within a minute Zambia showed that they were not here to make up the numbers as they forced a corner. It was well worked and Nathan Sinkala fired in an excellent shot that was not only saved but held by Boubacar Barry the Ivory Coast keeper. Almost immediately the action switched to the other end where Zambian defender Joseph Musonda makes an important interception. However, the defender is in pain as replays shows his ankle twist and fold beneath him on the greasy surface. He goes off for treatment but does return, however it is evident he is in pain, and in tears departs the game after only 11 minutes. Drogba sportingly consoles the Zambian, but Musonda is understandably distraught. Mulenga comes on as substitute and so grabs his chance of glory. It does not seem to effect Zambia and on 13 minutes from a long throw, Chisamba Lungu crosses and Emmanuel Mayuka heads over on onto the roof of the net. The first fifteen minutes have belonged to Zambia, but Ivory Coast then started to get into the game as in quick succession runs by Drogba at the Zambia defence result in free-kicks within shooting range. The first is high and wide, the second a comfortable catch for Kennedy Mweene in the Zambian goal. Just past the twenty minute mark, Zambia have a free-kick, but it only results in a corner. The Elephants then press and win two corners in quick succession, with the second causing panic in the box and is eventually scrambled clear. Despite this flurry of activity, it is thirty minutes into the games before Ivory Coast create a genuine chance on goal, when from a Drogba back-heel, Yaya Toure shots wastefully wide. As the game enter the final ten minutes of the half, it loses momentum as there are breaks for injuries and it all becomes rather scrappy. After two minutes of time added-on the whistle is blown and despite the 0-0 score-line, Zambia go into the break the happier of the two teams.

Ivory Coast start the second period more positively with Gervinho getting out wide and attacking the Zambian defence. The Elephants dominate the opening ten minutes without actually creating a decent chance. However, Zambia nearly catch out the Ivory Coast as they have consecutive corners which rattle The Elephants defence. With twenty minutes to go Ivory Coast bring on Max Gradel to reinforce the threat to the Zambian defence down the flanks. Salomon Kalou departs and looked less than impressed as he left the field. The double threat of Gervinho and Gradel pays dividends, when on 70 minutes, Gervinho is bundled over in the box by Isaac Chansa – a pretty soft penalty really. Drogba takes the spot-kick and ballons it over the bar. The Chelsea man points accusingly at the turf, whilst Zambian keeper Kennedy Mweene celebrates mockingly in front of The Elephants skipper. Once more the question looms, are Zambia fated to win this trophy? The game enters a scrappy phase again and without realising it, extra-time is a real possibility. However, with a minute to go, Gradel is in the Zambian box and creates a chance for himself, with defender and keeper wrong-footed, he drags his shot just wide. Four minutes of added-time ebbs and flows and in the Final game of the tournament we have our first 0-0.

As with the start of the game, Zambia nearly take the lead in the first period of extra-time. Skipper Christopher Katongo gets down the by-line and cuts back for brother Felix. His shot looks to be going in, but Boubacar Barry in the Ivorian goal sticks out a leg and manages to deflect the ball onto the post. Replays show that the vital deflection is off the keepers studs! That turns out to be the only real goal attempt and suddenly the game is underway again for the final fifteen minutes. Ivory Coast look the more dangerous in the second period, but there is now an inevitability about the onset of penalties.

This morning I dared to venture whether The Elephants would end up losing the competition having not conceded a goal. I didn’t honestly believe that would happen, but here I was watching from afar with that outcome a real possibility. At this point, I have to say that I wanted Zambia to complete this incredible victory by winning the shoot-out. Ivory Coast went first and Tiote, Christopher Katongo, Bony, Mayuka all scored as penalties reached 2-2. Bamba then had his penalty saved by Mweene, but it had to be retaken as the keeper was adjudged to have moved too early. Bamba slammed in his second attempt and Chansa, Gradel and Felix Katongo all scored to tie it up at 4-4. Drogba was then up next for Ivory Coast, but despite the pressure of his earlier miss, there was no error this time and he gave The Elephants a 5-4 lead. The spotlight then feel on Zambian keeper who took the fifth penalty for The Copper Bullets. Calmly he scored and the two keepers (both who had played so well in the Final) shared a ‘Keepers Union’ moment, before sudden death penalties began. Tiene, Sinkala, Didier Ya Konan  and Chisamba Lungu all slot home to bring the score to 7-7. Kolo Toure was next up and had a run-up that seemed to begin at the half-way line. His penalty was a week effort and Mweene comfortably saved. Zambia had the chance to win it as Rainford Kalaba stepped-up. However, he blasted way over and the chance was gone. Gervinho had the chance to put The Elephants back in front, but he shot high and wide and once again, The Copper Bullets had the chance to clinch the trophy. Stoppila Sunzu became the hero and ensured that Zambia fulfilled their destiny. Many banners in the crowd acclaimed the victory as being for the victims of the ’93 air-crash and the Zambian players formed a circle to offer a prayer at their memory and their victory, another image which said so much. Zambia coach Herve Renard carried down the injured Musonda to join his colleagues and all that was left was the presentation of the cup, once it had been delivered by tribal dancers.

Third time lucky for Zambia. They will tell you it wasn’t about luck, but their destiny.

 2012 Africa Cup of Nations – Final

Ivory Coast (0) 0 – 0 (0) Zambia [AET]

Zambia won 8-7 on penalties

 Stade d’Angondjé, Libreville

Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Wednesday 08 February 2012

Zambia (1) – (0) Ghana (Staid de Bata)

Mali (0) – (1) Ivory Coast (Stade d’Angondjé)

Congratulations to Zambia and Ivory Coast. Commiserations to Ghana and Mali. Both games settled in ninety minutes and both by a single goal. However, that doesn’t begin to tell the story of another dramatic night in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.

In Bata Zambia and Ghana were the first game of the day. The game hinged around two key moments and an old football adage. The first key moment came on 8 minutes when Ghana were awarded a penalty. Asamoah Gyan took the spot-kick and he went for placement rather than power. Unfortunately for Ghana, Zambian keeper Mweene went the right way and saved with his left hand. After their 2010 World Cup exit on penalties and now this, perhaps The Black Stars are starting to develop the English penalty phobia. The second key moment came on 78 minutes. Emmanuel Mayuka received the ball on the edge of the Ghanaian box with his back to goal, he created some space for himself to turn and although surrounded by white Ghanaian shirts managed to curl in a shot which nestled in the net after clipping the post. To paraphrase David Coleman, “Zambia…one nil”. Finally, the old football adage, “…you have to take your chances…”. Having missed a penalty Ghana did create plenty more opportunities. Certainly Kennedy Mweene had an excellent game in goal for Zambia, but Ghana were wasteful upfront and they paid the price when Mayuka scored the winner for Zambia. The Black Stars wait for another tournament win continues, whilst Zambia keep defying the odds.

With one of the favourites gone, Ivory Coast would have been nervously eyeing their opponents Mali as the game kicked-off. Ivory Coast like Ghana created plenty of chances in the opening half and must have been wondering if they would also suffer the same fate as The Black Stars as a goal eluded them. However, with half-time approaching, Gervinho produced one of the goals of the competition. He collected the ball in his own half and then beat Mali defender Ousmane Berthe. Gervinho then ran the length of the Mali half to cut into the box and calmly finish past Soumaila Diakite. In the second-half The Elephants did what they have done in previous games in this tournament and basically absorbed the threat of the opposition and comfortably held on to their single goal win.

There is a break now until Saturday, when the 3rd/4th place play-off game between Ghana and Mali takes place in Malabo and then Sunday the Final itself, when Ivory Coast take on Zambia. 

Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Tuesday 07 February 2012

Slowly but surely the end of the 2012 Orange Africa Cup of Nations is coming into view. Tomorrow the last four teams take part in the two Semi-Final fixtures. Depending on the result it will lead either to an appearance in a Final and perhaps the opportunity of a career defining moment or having to take part in a game that no one wants to play in – the dreaded 3rd/4th Place Play-Off.

First up will be the game between Zambia and Ghana in Bata. The Zambians have crept into the Semi-Finals pretty much under the radar. They have got past this stage to play in two previous Finals, the first in 1974 and the second in1994. The 1974 tournament was held in Egypt and in the Final The Copper Bullets faced Zaire (who were later that year to take part in the World Cup in West Germany). The game went into extra-time (after it finished 1-1 in normal time). Zaire went 2-1 ahead, but Zambia equalised with virtually the last kick of the game and a replay was needed. Zaire proved too strong and took the cup in 1974 with a 2-0 win. Twenty years later in Tunisia, Zambia faced Nigeria in the Final, but a 2-1 score-line saw the Zambians finish as runners-up again.

They say you need a certain amount of luck in the Cup and Ghana will feel they had that in their last outing against Tunisia, when they were literally handed the game after a terrible goalkeeping error. The Black Stars have been billed as one of the favourites from the start of this competition, but have rarely shone so far. Their record in the Africa Cup of Nations is impressive with four wins (1963, 1965, 1978 and 1982), but will reflect that it is 30 years since that last triumph. The pressure will be on them to make it through and I’ll take them to get past Zambia in a close game that will require extra-time to separate the teams.

The second Semi-Final will see Mali take on Ivory Coast at the Stade d’Angondjé. Mali have appeared in a Final and that was back in 1972 in Cameroon, where they lost 3-2 to the Republic of Congo. The Eagles face an Ivory Coast squad that boasts the best CAF and FIFA ranking, but like Ghana have at times flattered to deceive. I didn’t tip Mali to get past Gabon in the Quarter-Finals, and really can’t see them getting past Ivory Coast on this occasion. The Elephants to go through 2-0, to set up a Final between Ivory Coast and Ghana.

If my predictions come to pass, then the Final will be a repeat of that which took place in 1992. The game finished 0-0 at full-time and extra-time couldn’t separate the teams either. So to penalties and it turned into a dramatic episode. The first seven penalties were successful and Ivory Coast led 4-3 as youngster Isaac Asare took the next for Ghana. He was unsuccessful and suddenly Ivory Coast had the chance to clinch the cup with the next kick. Joël Tiéhi took the kick, but couldn’t clinch his place in the football history of the Ivory Coast. Tony Yeboah (then of Eintracht Frankfurt, before his move to Leeds United) brought Ghana level at 4-4 and the drama continued as penalties moved into sudden-death. At 10-10 all the players had taken a penalty each and so Basile Aka Kouamé who had started the shoot-out for Ivory Coast prepared to take his second. He scored but Ghana keeper Ansah having gone the right way merely pushed the ball into the net to give The Elephants a 11-10 lead. Anthony Baffoe then had the task of making it level once more, but his effort was a very tired one and Gouamené in goal for The Elephants made a comfortable save and with it Ivory Coast had their first (and to date, only) Africa Cup of Nations title. Anybody for a repeat in 2012?

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 – Sunday 29 January 2012

Group A

Equatorial Guinea (0) – (1) Zambia [Nuevo Estadio de Malabo]

Libya (2) – (1) Senegal [Estadio de Bata]

So here we are at the final round of Group games. For these fixtures and in order to ensure that there is no advantage to any team, both games kick-off at the same time. It provides an occasion that players, coaches and fans are spending the game with half an eye on events happening elsewhere. The permutations of who could go through and how, made the Duckworth Lewis Method look simple! All that was certain going into the games today was that Equatorial Guinea were through and Senegal were out. Zambia were in control of their destiny in that they knew a victory would see them through and also top the Group. Libya were at the mercy of events in Malabo, all they could do was go out and win the game and hope Equatorial Guinea did them a favour.

Libya got the perfect start when on 5 minutes they opened the scoring. Senegal were sloppy in defence and gifted Ahmed Sa’ad the ball, whose jinking run and clever through ball to Ihab Albusaifi was slotted home. Zambia at this stage were drawing 0-0, so still had the edge in terms of progressing. Senegal then further dented Libyan hopes, when on 11 minutes Deme N’Diaye headed home a corner. His task was made easier by Libyan keeper Samir Aboud, who having started to come for the corner, then stopped and was in no position to claim the corner or stop the header. Back in Malabo there was still no score in the opening ten minutes. Libya and Senegal continued to provide a more end to end game than that between Equatorial Guinea and Zambia and so at the half-time whistle it was 1-1 in Bata and 0-0 in Malabo. The second-half continued to lack bite and edge, not so surprising since both teams had qualified. However, on 68 minutes Zambia took the lead. From a throw-in Chris Katongo received the ball, took on one defender, cut across the penalty area, before sending a skimming shot than bounced a couple of times in front of the keeper before finding the net. This goal meant that Zambia were now top of the Group and the chances of Libya advancing receded significantly. The game in Bata became scrappy, but Libya didn’t give up hope and were rewarded on 84 minutes when Senegal didn’t deal with a long ball into the box, allowing Zuway to  cross for Ihab Albusaifi, who volleyed home to give the Libyans a 2-1 advantage. However, to go through they needed Equatorial Guinea to score twice in the remaining minutes, which looked a forlorn hope as the game in Malabo drifted to a finish. At the whistle, Zambia (1-0) and Libya (2-1) had won the final fixtures, with Zambia through as Group winners and Equatorial Guinea as runners-up. Libya had not disgraced themselves given the difficult period they had leading to the tournament. For Senegal it was an embarrassing exit; as one of the pre-competition favourites, they left without a single point.

Final Positions:

(1) Zambia: 7 pts, (2) Equatorial Guinea: 6 pts, (3) Libya: 4pts, (4) Senegal: 0 pts.

Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Wednesday 25 January 2012

Group A:

Libya (2) – (2) Zambia

The second round of group fixtures kicked-off today, which would, if results went a certain way, see the first teams qualify for the Quarter-Finals. After their opening game wins, both Zambia (nicknamed, Chipolopolo – The Copper Bullets) and Equatorial Guinea (nicknamed, Nzalang Nacional – National Lightning) knew that victory today would see them through. Toto famously sang, “…I bless the rains down in Africa…”, although I don’t think the organising committee of the Africa Cup of Nations would agree! The start of this game at the Estadio de Bata was delayed 75 minutes after torrential rain, however even at kick-off the pitch had a great deal of surface water. This didn’t seem to deter Libya (nicknamed, The Mediterranean Knights) who within five minutes had gone ahead. Walid Elkhatroushi picked up the ball midway in the Zambian half and threaded a ball to Ahmed Saad Osman, whose crisp finish was impressive given the wet conditions. With both sides bogged-down (quite literally) by the conditions, the game became scrappy. However, Zambia did get themselves level just before the half-hour mark. From a Rainford Kalaba cross dug-out of a puddle on the left, Emmanuel Mayuka cleverly hooked in a right foot volley across Libyan keeper Samir Abod. The second-half got off to an explosive start, as within two minutes, LIbya went 2-1 ahead. Substitute Ihab Albusaifi got down the right and behind the Zambian defence, to cross into the box. The Zambian defence failed to clear and Ahmed Saad Osman skipped past a couple of tackles and slotted in off the post. Within seven minutes the game was back all square at 2-2. Mayuka’s clever over-head kick sent the ball to the right where Christopher Katongo headed in. Both sides went looking for the winner, with the best chances falling to Ahmed Saad Osman and Ahmed Zuway for Libya and Christopher Katongo and brother Felix for Zambia. There was late drama in the dying seconds as Zambia thought they should have a had a penalty. However, it was not to be and the tournament had its first drawn game. Given the conditions it was a credit to both sides that the game was as good as it was. Although whether the game should have gone ahead in the first place is a different argument entirely.


Equatorial Guinea (2) – (1) Senegal

With the delay to the first match in Bata, this fixture was also put back by 75 minutes. Senegal (nicknamed, Les Lions de la Teranga – The Lions of Teranga) knew that defeat would see them (one of the favourites) out of the competition. On a pitch still sodden and worse for wear after the earlier game, there was drama aplenty. Senegal were quickest to settle in the difficult conditions with Fenerbahçe midfielder Issiar Dia pulling all the strings for Senegal.  However, as with Morocco earlier in the week, the Senegalese didn’t capitalise on their chances and at the break the game stood at 0-0. Equatorial Guinea started the second-half with more intent and now it was a much more open, end-to-end game. Senegal paid for their profligacy on 62 minutes when Equatorial Guinea went ahead. A cross-field ball found Kily, whose teasing centre was headed home by Randy. As expected Senegal responded, but their attacks were becoming more desperate as the clock ticked down. Then on 89 minutes, home fans hearts were broken. From a free-kick a hopeful ball was pumped into the box, which ricocheted around until substitute Moussa Sow hooked in an equaliser. Suddenly the stadium was silent and the Equatorial Guinea team looked out on their feet. Senegal sensed that perhaps there was time for a winner. Incredibly, there was a clinching goal, but it was for Equatorial Guinea. Four minutes into time added-on, Kily received the ball outside the Senegal penalty area and unleashed an unstoppable shot into the net – cue pandemonium on the pitch and in the stands! One of the favourites Senegal were out and the lowest ranked team in the tournament were through to the Quarter-Finals. Who said lightning never strikes twice!

Final Group A fixtures: Sunday 29 January – Equatorial Guinea v Zambia and Libya v Senegal