Tag Archives: African Cup of Nations

Lightning strikes twice, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon both qualify for the quarter finals

They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice but both Equatorial Guinea and Gabon scored late goals in their matches to make the last eight of the African Cup of Nations.. Then again many experts said that Equatorial Guinea and Gabon shouldn’t be hosting the African Cup of Nations as neither country has any real football pedigree..

Gabon somehow managed to leave it later than the Equatoguineans 93rd minute winner by scoring theirs against Morocco in the 97th minute. Their last match in the group against Tunisia will simply decide which side wins the group and avoids Ghana (likely winners of Group D).

On Wednesday evening the Nzalang Nacional (National Lightening) Equatorial Guinea faced off against one of the favourites to win the AFCON Senegal. Despite their opening day win against Libya very few people gave the Equatoguineans any sort of hope against Senegal. After all, the Senegalese side featured players who plied their trade in the Premier League for Newcastle United and in Ligue 1 for sides like Lille, Montpellier and Bordeaux. Conversely the hosts had called up a rag-tag bunch of naturalised pros from the lower league in Spain and had even snaffled a Brazilian keeper to play between the sticks.

The game started as you’d expect, with the Senegalese dominating processions. Despite their undoubted array of talent in front of goal the Teranga Lions couldn’t make the breakthrough and it was Equatorial Guinea’s Randy who headed into an unguarded net to give the hosts the lead with half an hour to go. Senegal’s game plan didn’t change and they continued to push bodies forward, scoring a fully deserved equaliser with seconds remaining.

After conceding the leveller Nzalang Nacional began to tire and it appeared that the momentum was with Senegal and it would be them who would go on to win the match. Then, three minutes into injury time Javier Balboa picked up the ball on the left side of attack. Rather than attempting to run down the clock to earn his side a creditable draw he played the ball square to full-back Kily who had sprinted the length of the pitch to join the attack. It was a remarkable achievement for him to show the stamina on a heavy pitch to get into that area of the pitch that late in the game, and an even more remarkable achievement to fire a shot at the Senegalese goal. But what was most remarkable was that Kily’s shot from twenty-five yards out, hit with the outside of his right foot, swerved past a helpless Bouna Coundol into the top corner of the Senegalese net.

It’s hard to fully put into context what a shock this result was. Perhaps a European comparison would be Malta or Luxembourg knocking Italy or Holland out of a European Championships. Equatorial Guinea’s first international match was in the mid 70s and it wasn’t until the mid 80s that they played their first competitive match. Despite being able to host an international tournament things haven’t gone smoothly off the pitch, their coach Gilson only took charge two weeks before the tournament and their top scorer and captain Bodipo limped out of the first match. But all these problems are now forgotten. Kily, a player who plays in the fourth tier in Spain, has become a national hero and most will forgive his wild celebrations that unsurprisingly saw him receive a yellow card.

The African Cup of Nations has been an absolute delight to watch and has put the 2010 World Cup to shame so far. Let’s hope it continues.

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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Africa


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Africa Cup of Nations 2012 Group B: Sudan 0 Ivory Coast 1

Over the Sunday afternoon’s match between Sudan and Ivory Coast was the third match in succession where one of the goalkeeper’s had sported a kit in a  horrific shade of purple, making goalkeeper’s look like blueberries and in need of an Oompa Loompa escort to Willie Wonka’s juicing room. It was a lacklustre performance from the Ivory Coast. Many were expecting the Elephants to steamroller Sudan but the well drilled and efficient Sudanese held the Ivorians relatively comfortably for long periods of the tie.

Sudan may have even snatched a point (or more) had Mudathir El-Tahir’s shot not been acrobatically tipped onto the crossbar by purple-bedecked Boudacir Barry’s flying fingertips. [Kit officianados who spend the long winter evenings reading FIFA documentation regarding kit regulations will be interested to see both Sudan and Ivory Coast wearing predominantly white socks (a flash of orange on white being the only difference between the sides). The Mauritian referee could well be dragged before a shadowy committee sometime after the end of the Africa Cup of Nations]

A question often asked about players is whether they can take their club form onto the international arena. Well, in the case of Gervinho that’s entirely true. The Arsenal forward showed that he can also be frustratingly inconsistent and profligate whilst wearing the colours of his international side Ivory Coast.  Ultimately it was his strike partner Didier Drogba who headed in from a  Solomon Kalou cross that handed the spoils to the west Africans over east Africa’s only representative at this Cup of Nations. Whilst the Ivorians won’t be pleased with the performance they’ll take some solace from the result, especially after seeing the Senegalese come unstuck against Zambia on Saturday.

The Elephants appeared to suffer from a similar disability to Senegal. Whilst you can see the undoubted talent of the players they appear not to be able to add tempo to their quality. If a team is well organised and drilled like Sudan they can often deal with accurate passing, it’s when this passing is executed in addition to a fast tempo that team’s often struggle to cope. This slow tempo led to my mind wandering from time to time, I began to quietly sing “His name was Lolo, he was a full-back” about the Ivorian right-back Igor Lolo (who’s currently keeping Arsenal favourite Emmanuel Eboue out of the side) and wondering whether Equatorial Guinea keeper Danilo could be convinced to sing this song at the end of tournament party, should this sort of event even exist.

I can only put this odd and embarrassing episode down to the fact that the Equatorial Guinean authorities have seen fit to place the camera for the Malabo stadium on top of the main stand and the pictures from Gabon are from such a height that they can give the casual viewer a form of vertigo. I’m not sure that the Ivorian players can make the same excuse.

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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Africa


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Africa Cup of Nations 2012 Group A: Senegal 1 Zambia 2

Read any preview of the Africa Cup of Nations and you’ll read expert after expert talk of Senegal’s striking talent. Football being football Saturday’s tie between the Terranga Lions and Chipolopolos didn’t really turn out that way. The undoubted talents of Moussa Sow, Demba Ba, Pappis Cisse and Mamadou Niang failed to fire and it was the trio of Christopher Katongo, Rainford Kalaba and Emmanual Mayuka who impressed.

Senegal lined up in their all white strip against Zambia in their green and orange number. If any football match ever symbolised the Tic Tacs battle between “minty fresh” and “fruity” then this was it. It was the Young Boys youngster Emmanuel Mayuka who impressed the most, finding space behind the Senegalese back-line on numerous occasions as the Terranga Lions back four. In the 12th minute the 21 year old Mayunka  headed the Copper Bullets into a fully deserved lead, his celebration matching his exuberant style as he somersaulted towards the touchline giving African Cup of Nations montage editors footage for their end of tournament  pieces.

Only eight minutes later the Chipolopolos had doubled their lead, Rainford Kalaba slotting past the rushing Senegalese keeper with some confidence. The Zambian player who plays his football in the Democratic Republic of Congo for recent African Champions League winners TP Mazembe celebrated with his substitutes who sported some of the finest tracksuit tops ever seen at an international tournament (seriously, if you get a chance take a look at Zambian subs in their forthcoming African Cup matches).

Senegal’s well taken consolation goal from one of the Terranga Lions’ less talked about front-men Dame N’Doye did lead to a resurgence in their fortunes, however their only other real chance was a header from Ba that struck the bar (or did it strike the Ba?). Despite their obvious difficulties in defence and their profligacy in possession the Terranga Lions did show enough to suggest they’ll have enough quality to see off Libya and Equatorial Guinea in their final two games, but their opening day loss gives them very little lee-way in their quest to reach the second stages.

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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Africa


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The King of Kampala and Uganda’s quest to reach Gabon/Equatorial Guinea 2012.

In 1978 the president of Uganda (or to give him his full title His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor) was Idi Amin, the country was embroiled in a war with neighbours Tanzania and Idi Amin was still twelve months from relinquishing power. It was also the last time that Uganda’s national football team (The Cranes) had qualified for an African Cup of Nations. Now, after defeating Guinea Bissau 2-0 in front of a delirious Kampala crowd, thirty-three years later Uganda stand on the cusp of qualifying for the 2012 edition in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea.

The Ugandans, like many other nations in Africa recently decided to appoint a European manager. It’s a common practice amongst African nations to do so, the supposed tactical expertise of a manager who has earned their spurs in a European league is often attractice to African FAs who wish to instill tactical discipline amongst their players. Most African countries appoint French mangers, but Uganda went in a slightly different route, appointing a Scotsman, Glasgow-born Bobby Williamson. On first impressions it’s difficult to understand what would have attracted the Ugandan FA to give a former Plymouth, Chester, Hibs and Kilmarnock manager the reins of their national team, but it appears to have been a master-stroke.

State of the group with two games remaining. Top team qualifies for CAN 2012

State of the group with two games remaining. Top team qualifies for CAN 2012

The Cranes currently sit on top of their CAN qualification group ahead of Angola, Kenya and Guinea Bissau, they also reached the final of the Nile Basin tournament, only losing to African champions Egypt in the final and they reigned victorious in the final of the CECAFA Cup (an East African regional tournament). Williamson appears to have formed a coherent and reliable squad of players who can compete well at an African level. Much of this can be put down to the fact he was employed three years ago and unlike many other managers in Africa has had time to build a team and to communicate his ideas to players. The fruits of this labour can be seen in the Ugandans defensive record in qualifying. Only they and South Africa are yet to concede a goal. The process of employing and sacking managers within months is all too frequent in Africa, Williamson’s fellow Scot Iffy Onoura recently fell victim to this as he was sacked by Ethiopia halfway through his contract.

Despite the recent successes Williamson has attempted wherever possible to play down the successes of his Ugandan side, reiterating that nothing is achieved until the goal of qualification is reached. The Ugandans have to travel to Luanda at the start of September to face the Palancas Negras in what could be a historic game for the central African nation. A draw or better for The Cranes will be enough to earn them a place in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea. It’s difficult to bet against the Ugandans in their current form. Along with South Africa they have not conceded any goals at all during qualification, an impressive feat for a country with as little footballing history as Uganda in comparison to the heavyweights of African football.

During Idi Amin’s reign over Uganda he referred to himself as the “King of Scotland”, should Williamson’s Uganda qualify for the African Cup of Nations there will be many in Uganda proclaiming Williamson as the King of Kampala football, a title he’d fully deserve if he can steer The Cranes to Gabon/Equatorial Guinea 2012.


Posted by on June 6, 2011 in Africa


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