Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Mon 28 January 2008

African Cup of Nations: Round-up #2

Time now for our second round-up of events in the African Cup of Nations and the first question to ask is 'How come the BBC are calling this the Africa Cup of Nations'? That can't be right, surely? It doesn't scan unless you add the 'N' to the end of 'Africa'. Pah...

Anyway, moving on, all teams have now played their second games so let's see how the First Round groups are shaping up.

In Group A, host team Ghana virtually sealed their place in the quarter-finals with another ever-so-slightly unconvincing win over Namibia, 1-0. The Namibians had their fair share of the chances in the game and were it not for some better finishing, Ghana might have found themselves needing a win in their last game. It was not to be, however, and Junior Agogo's goal just before half time proved to be enough to make it six points out of six for the hosts.

Also playing last Thursday were Guinea and Morocco and here the form book went out the window. Guinea were reeling from a 2-1 defeat to Ghana in the opening game but Morocco were riding high on the back of a 5-1 drubbing of Namibia, and yet it was Guinea that emerged the victors 3-2.

Guinea captain Pascal Feindouno scored twice but was sent off in a fraught match against the Moroccans, but his team were worth the win as Morocco seemed to lose the confidence and competence they owned in their first game.

All of which left Ghana top of the group with a maximum six points, while Morocco clung onto second spot with Guinea in third, also on three points but with an inferior goal difference to the team they'd just beaten. Ghana played Morocco today at the same time as Guinea played Namibia, more of which we'll tell you about in our next round-up.

Friday was the day the Ivory Coast cemented their place in the next round after beating Benin 4-1. Benin, for a team hardly seen in the African finals, continued to play some good football, but their defence was found wanting and their attack desperately lacked some accurate shooting. It was enough of a weakness to allow Didier Drogba and his men to comfortably cruise to the top of the group with four goals in the space of 23 minutes, one of which was scored by the Chelsea man himself.

In the other game of the group, Nigeria faced Mali knowing that defeat would send the Super Eagles out of the tournament after two games. In a nervous performance on the part of both sides, no goals were forthcoming - in fact even a sufficient number of decent shots were forthcoming - and the match ended 0-0.

That means Nigeria MUST win in their last game against bottom-placed Benin while a draw for Mali (second place with four points) against Ivory Coast tomorrow will ensure they both go through at the expense of Berti Vogts' Nigeria side. Unthinkable? Certainly not, just you wait and see...

Onto Group C and Egypt continued their highly convincing charge to retain the trophy with a 3-0 win over whipping boys Sudan. Though the scoreline was comfortable, The Pharoahs were still only one goal up going into the last eleven minutes and required Mohamed Aboutrika's brace to confirm the victory which was all but one-sided in favour of the reigning champions.

After losing heavily to Egypt in their first game, Cameroon had a point to prove as they faced Zambia last Saturday. Zambia already had three points in the bag from a win over Sudan, and a win in this match would have seen Cameroon go out and themselves go into the Quarters. Sadly for them they were over-run by the Indomitable Lions as their stars ran riot in a 5-1 victory which gets Cameroon's campaign back on track.

Zambia slip to third in the group and now have to beat Egypt in their last game, although in their favour is the fact that Egypt are already through. Cameroon, meanwhile, take on Sudan this Wednesday which may very well see the end to Zambia's ambitions in this competition.

Finally to Group D and our self-appointed Group of Death is pretty much living up to its reputation, being as it is the only group where no team has won both of its opening games. Tunisia looked good in their first match but could only draw with Senegal, but Sunday brought about a much more convincing performance as they put three goals past South Africa before half time. A late goal from the Bafana Bafana proved too late to avoid a second match without a win, thereby setting up an intriguing encounter with Senegal on Thursday of which more later.

Senegal themselves are looking for their first win of the tournament after losing 3-1 to Angola yesterday. Senegal will be kicking themselves (although I suspect not very well) after taking a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes through Newcastle United's Abdoulaye Faye, but the Black Antelopes came back in some style in the second half with a sharpened attack that this time made the most of their considerable possession.

Once again, Manchester United-bound Manucho got on the scoresheet and added two more goals to the one gained from the match against South Africa to see Angola through to an impressive win and second spot in the table behind Tunisia. A draw against them on Thursday will be enough to see both teams through to the quarter-finals.

So here we are two-thirds of the way through the First Round and we could already be about to say goodbye to Nigeria (my tip for champions, ahem...) and Senegal. Will they survive to fight another day? Join us at the end of the week to find out...

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