Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1231, (29 January - 4 February 2015)
Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Issue 1231, (29 January - 4 February 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Soccer on the side - No favourite for Africa title

As the results come in from the Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea, fans are promised some thrilling third-round games, says Marawan Zayed

Al-Ahram Weekly

Dropping Morocco as the host of the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament just months before its start always meant that whoever took on the responsibility of stepping into Morocco’s shoes would have their work cut out for them.

The Moroccan Football Federation had insisted on either postponing or cancelling the tournament, fearing the possible spread of the Ebola virus. Exactly 53 days prior to the start of the competition it was announced that Equatorial Guinea would host this year’s edition and that the Moroccan national team would not be allowed to take part as punishment of the country’s Federation.

A lot has been said about the quality of the hotels, the training facilities and even the lack of water in some cities hosting games in Equatorial Guinea, but at the end of the day the tournament has gone ahead and has seen plenty of surprises on the pitch so far.

In Group A, the opening game of the tournament saw the hosts denied a victory as Congo scored in the 88th minute to cancel out Equatorial Guinea’s 16th minute goal. Dortmund star Aubameyang also played a starring role as he guided Gabon to a 2-0 win over Burkina Faso after scoring the first goal and destroying opponents with his incredible speed for the rest of the game.

In the second round of the same Group, Equatorial Guinea was once again denied a much-needed victory as its team played an entertaining but goalless draw against Burkina Faso who needed a win badly as well.

Congo managed to defeat Gabon 1-0 to reach the top of the Group with four points, while Gabon are now second with three points and the hosts lie third with two points from two draws. Finally, Burkina Faso occupies the last and fourth place with one point from two games.

In Group B, the Tunisian side has been making a good impression so far as it sits top of the table after two games after drawing 1-1 against Cape Verde in the opening game before coming from behind to defeat Zambia 2-1 in the last minute in the second game.

Zambia and DR Congo drew their first game 1-1 before Congo drew against Cape Verde in its second game as well, a result that saw both teams collect two points from two games while Zambia has got just one point from its draw against DR Congo.

In Group C, or the “group of death” as it is called because it contains four giants in the form of Algeria, Senegal, Ghana and South Africa, it is extremely hard to predict who will qualify after two rounds have been played.

Senegal managed to come from behind in its opening game against Ghana to win 2-1 thanks to a last-minute goal from star striker Moussa Sow, claiming a very important victory in a group of that level.

Four second-half goals saw Algeria come from behind to defeat a very spirited and energetic South African side 3-1 despite being second best for most of the game.

Ghanaian captain Asamoah Gyan, who missed his side’s first game as a result of malaria, scored a 92nd minute winner against Algeria in the second game to all of a sudden make his team the favourites to qualify for the next round with either Senegal or Algeria.

His team is now second with three points and will face the weakest side in the Group, South Africa, in its last game.

The leaders Senegal could not get the better of South Africa and drew 1-1 to ensure that fans will be guaranteed a thrilling finale to this Group, especially in the game between Algeria and Senegal when both teams will be playing for their lives.

Group D, the last group, is without doubt the strangest in the tournament so far. Two rounds have passed, four games have been played, and the outcome of all four games has been the same: 1-1 draws. This ensures that the third and final round of the group stages will be as thrilling as it gets.

The first game of the Group saw Ivory Coast score a late equaliser against Guinea, and another very late goal from Cameroon saw it snatch a point against Mali. Round two once again saw a mediocre Ivory Coast side score in the last two minutes against Mali, while two first-half goals saw Cameroon and Guinea leave with one point each.

Who will make it out of this Group is the most-asked question in the group stages right now.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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