Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Burkina Faso progressed to the final four of the Africa Cup of Nations over the weekend. There was some rather good football… and also some very, very bad football. ANT SIMS watched all of the action so you didn’t have to.
WHO PLAYED AND WHAT HAPPENED?
Ghana 2-0 Cape Verde
The score line hardly does the game any justice. Everybody had half expected Ghana to win and roll Cape Verde over, and perhaps the players expected the same. For most of the game, Ghana was outplayed – and for most of the first half, it was Cape Verde who looked more impressive. Mind you, both teams were actually pretty dire and looked so terrified of making a mistake that it seemed they had forgotten scoring goals is what actually wins you games. Many romantics would have been dreaming of the Cinderella story continuing, but Ghana got the edge in the 54th minute through a penalty.
It was a somewhat dubious decision after Asamoah Gyan went down following a shoulder charge from Cape Verde’s Carlitos and the referee pointed to the spot, despite feverish appeals from the Blue Sharks’ players. Wasako put the ball in the back of the net and what Cape Verde thought was injustice charged them up as they launched a feverish attack. Ghana’s keeper, Fatau Dauda, made superb saves from Platini, Djaniny and Heldon.
Heartbreak followed in the dying minutes of the match, when Cape Verde had sent all their players, including the keeper, up front. Wakaso stole the ball and raced clear, easily finding the back of the net in the 90th minute, sending the Ghanaians into rapture.
South Africa 1-1 Mali (Mali won 3-1 on penalties)
South Africa so very nearly made the semi-finals. After an early goal, they looked charged up and their confidence looked to be their greatest asset, but as soon as Mali equalised, the hosts were beaten. Their heads dropped, their confidence dropped and they looked completely shell-shocked. By the time the match went into extra time, the players were so utterly knackered that they were falling over even when a slight breeze scraped them. It was a physical game with loads of studs-up tackles which didn’t bring any red cards. This is Africa, after all, not the Premier League.
There was also a lot of diving and rolling around for nothing, which the referee did actually pick up on. South Africa scored first through Tokelo Rantie and Seydou Keita levelled matters just over 20 minutes later. By the time the full-time whistle had blown and the match had gone to extra time, Bernard Parker and Reneilwe Letsholonyane looked like they had run the Comrades. Extra time had come and gone, and when Gordon Igesund looked like he wasn’t sure who was going to take the penalties, that perhaps should have been a sign. Dean Furman, May Mahlangu and Lehlohonolo Majoro all shanked their penalties and that was that for the host nation.
Nigeria 2-1 Ivory Coast
At the start of the tournament, everybody thought this would be the year Ivory Coast finally didn’t choke in the Africa Cup of Nations, but oh, how wrong they were. The Mighty Elephants had their tusks cut and their trunks knotted as they choked yet again in a match which Nigeria dominated. The tournament favourites looked rather flat and Nigeria simply seemed to want it more. Nigeria took the lead just before half-time, and Emmanuel Emenike and Cheick Tioté levelled matters after the break. Sunday Mba was the hero of the match, though, scoring the winner in the 78th minute as the perennial chokers of the tournament did it yet again, much to the jubilation of the Nigerian players and fans.
Togo 0-1 Burkina Faso
Togo and Burkina Faso played out one of the most excruciating goalless draws the tournament has seen. Such utter drabness was last forced down football fans’ throats on the tournament’s opening day. The Nelspruit pitch looked more like a beach than a pitch, but even a game played in a sandpit on a Sunday afternoon in Plumstead wouldn’t have been this dull. The game was forced to extra time as two bad sides battled it out on an even worse pitch. Jonathan Pitroipa headed into the back of the net in the 105th minute from a Charles Kabora cross, and that was that.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN IN CONTEXT?
Mali will take on Nigeria in the first semi-final on 6 February in the 17:00 kick-off, while Ghana will take on Burkina Faso in the 20:30 kick-off on the same day.
“Our first half was okay, but the second half was not one of our best games. Cape Verde dominated in the second half, but the important thing is that we won and are through to the semi-finals. Cape Verde proved me right that they would be tough.” – Ghana’s coach, Kwesi Appiah
“Today, we all watched a beautiful game but, unfortunately, the best team is going home and the tournament will lose its shine. This was our fourth game and in our first three games there were no questions – now there are questions. You should draw your own conclusions. [Would you] want to see Ghana move into the semi-finals, or do you want 200 spectators to watch Cape Verde against Togo in the semi-finals?” – Cape Verde’s coach, Luis Antunes.
“The South Africans posed a lot of problems in the first half, and we had to change the tactics in the second half to get back into the match. They pressed us with a lot of diversity. But we knew we had to be patient and we had time to fight back.” – Mali’s coach, Patrice Carteron.
“My boys lost with dignity, pride and passion. There is only so much any coach can ask from his team and my boys gave everything they had. It is very difficult to accept defeat when you play so well. Congratulations to Mali for winning a tough game for both teams.” – South Africa’s coach, Gordon Igesund.
“I sincerely thank my players for everything they did today. I hope we can keep going to the final. Ivory Coast are the top team on the continent with lots of quality, so we tried to speed up and try to catch out players like Drogba and Yaya Toure. I’m glad my team is progressing in every game. There is great discipline in the team and I just hope we keep going that way. The boys showed character. When the Ivorians levelled we tried to defend and work out our tactics, and we scored again. Sunday came up with a beautiful, beautiful goal.” – Nigeria’s coach, Stephen Keshi.
“I’m proud of my players’ work. I put forward the team I judged to be the best to pose problems to a good Nigeria side. Of course our aim was to win the title and for certain players this could be their last chance so, yes, there is disappointment in the dressing room. It’s a great sadness for me as the players were working with one objective – to win this Nations Cup – but it proved not to be enough.” – Ivory Coast’s coach, Sabri Lamouchi.
Ghana hasn’t won a title in 31 years; the last time they did was in 1982, when they beat Libya on penalties 7-6 following a 1-1 draw.
Ivory Coast has exited the tournament in the quarter-final stage for the second time in three years. They choked in 2012, too, when they lost to Zambia on penalties in the final. DM
Photo: Better than sex – Burkina Faso players celebrate scoring a goal during their African Cup of Nations (AFCON 2013) quarter-final soccer match against Togo at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, February 3, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
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