Journalists got rained on and didn’t have desks at the opening two matches of the Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday, but a flurry of goals in the first match on Sunday made up for it – with some good football getting the continental showpiece started.
Not a lot of good football, mind, but enough to make it feel as if the whole exercise wasn’t a total waste of time. The South African National team, as is their wont, didn’t fail to disappoint; but still have a lifeline thanks to stage fright from the other teams in their group.
It’s been a pedestrian start, which the doom-mongers claimed would happen all along. But the contest is underway, and while we wouldn’t suggest you watch every single match as religiously as you do, say, the Premier League, it’s worth checking in on the action every so often – even if it’s just to see some interesting celebrations.
WHO PLAYED AND WHAT HAPPENED?
South Africa 0-0 Cape Verde
Morocco 0-0 Angola
In the two opening fixtures on Saturday, South Africa played Cape Verde, followed by Angola and Morocco. The teams are all in the same group, and they all made history as both fixtures resulted in goalless stalemates – the first time in the history of the tournament that this has happened.
Bafana Bafana and Cape Verde were, in one word, woeful. While many have come to expect South Africa to flunk it in the final third, they hardly made it that far on Saturday. The whole match had just four shots on target – from both sides. It doesn’t get more frustrating than that.
Angola and Morocco had a bit more energy, and despite more than half the crowd having already gone home, there was a lot of running and a bit of shoving. Still, there wasn’t quite enough action to drive one to watch the whole match.
Congo DR 2-2 Ghana
Mali 1-0 Niger
Tournament favourites Ghana took on 101st-ranked Congo DR and the tournament finally dished up its first goals. While the predictability of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur pottered along, the two African sides were embroiled in a rather impressive clash which was packed with action, crazier hair, and even crazier celebrations. There’ll be more talk about Congolese goalkeeper’s hairdo than there will be about Bafana Bafana’s chances to actually net a goal. Bald, save for a lengthy and swinging ponytail, the 36-year old has also a rather interesting goal celebration.
In the second match of the day it was dull and dreary business as usual as dark horses Mali, who finished third last year, took on Niger. Mali, ranked 25th in the world, struggled somewhat against a side ranked 105th. It took until deep into the 84th minute before Seydou Keita found the back of the net after a fumble from the Niger keeper, spilling a cross.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN IN CONTEXT?
The good news is that the dreadfully dull stalemates in Group A mean that Group A is still wide open. That means South Africa can still go through. However, so can any side in that group. The host nation will now have to find some oomph, which has been seriously lacking for ages, in order to get a positive result against both Morocco and Angola.
Mali’s win means they top Group B, and makes things tricky for Ghana, who face them on Thursday. If Congo can somehow win against Niger, things could be potentially tricky for the Black Stars. The tournament is still in its infancy, though, and as it stands all the Group B result really means is that Mali currently has the advantage and Niger has a mountain to climb if they want to salvage anything positive from their group stages.
HAS BAFANA BAFANA SCORED YET?
No. It’s been 31 days since they last did. A whopping 744 hours. They’re considering help from a herbalist to see if that will help. No, we’re not kidding.
“Some of the players seemed to freeze when the whistle blew and lost their nerve. Perhaps for some of them the occasion was a bit too big.” – South Africa’s coach Gordon Igesund.
“The result will make Cape Verde’s 500,000 people happy. Today, I can hold my head up high.” – Cape Verde coach Luico Antunes.
“We were not up against a phantom side – they have got strong strikers and woke up in the second half.” – Morocco coach Rachid Taoussi.
“Before the tournament, we were the [second] weakest team in the group, according to Fifa’s rankings. Now we’ve all come away with 0-0 draws and we [have] the same chances as before.” – Angola coach Gustavo Ferrin.
“I even used to be Ghana on Fifa and other computer games but now I can pick myself in the team. It’s unbelievable.” Ghana winger, Albert Adomah DM
Photo: Cape Verde’s Platini (L) and South Africa’s Bongani Khumalo (R) fight for the ball during the opening match of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2013) soccer tournament in Soweto January 19, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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