Both teams said they were playing to win the game. Both teams only needed a point to advance the quarterfinals. What was the result? As I predicted here a few days ago, the Tunisia-Angola match yesterday ended in a boring 0-0 draw. The crowd was depressingly small, it was a hot afternoon, the match was played at an incredibly slow pace, and there were only a few real chances all game long.
Angola, after qualifying for their first ever World Cup in 2006 (and they acquitted themselves very nicely as well), have now reached the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations for the first time in their soccer history.
Tunisia coach Roger Lemerre was clearly satisfied with a draw as he was shown repeatedly waving his players back to sit behind the ball in the second half and his side go through as the champions of Group D. Radhi Jaidi and Mehdi Nafti, both Birmingham City players, started for The Eagles of Carthage.
Senegal and South Africa both needed to win and then have a winner in the Tunisia-Angola match for either of the former two nations to qualify for the next round. Neither event happened as yesterday’s other game ended 1-1. South Africa went ahead almost a quarter of an hour into the match through Elrio Van Heerden’s second goal of the tournament, but West Ham striker Henri Camara equalized for Senegal in the 37th minute. Blackburn defensive midfielder Aaron Mokoena played but didn’t have a great game for South Africa, and Premiership players Camara, Abdoulaye Faye, Papa Bouba Diop, and Diomansy Kamara all started for Senegal.
The Lions of Teranga were playing without starting goalkeeper Tony Sylva and captain El-Hadji Diouf as the pair were suspended for breaking curfew earlier in the week. It was a disappointing exit for the West African nation; their roster is full of accomplished players and after a quarterfinal run in World Cup 2002, they enter every major tournament with high expectations.
South Africa was using this tournament as a chance for the players to gain high-level, competitive match experience before World Cup 2010, which they’ll host. Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Perreira has made the World Cup the main focus for his team and they’ll put all their eggs in that basket.
The quarterfinal bracket for Groups C and D is now complete. Tunisia, the champion of Group D, will take on Group C runner-up Cameroon on Monday and Angola will face Egypt, the defending champions of this tournament and winner of Group C, on Tuesday.
Final Group D Standings (Teams in bold advance):
1. Tunisia (5 points, +2 goal differential)
2. Angola (5 pts, +2 GD)
3. Senegal (2 pts, -2 GD)
4. South Africa (2 pts, -2 GD)
Action resumes on Sunday with the first two quarterfinal matchups, Ghana-Nigeria and Ivory Coast-Guinea. I’m going to go with good form and take Ghana and Ivory Coast to win their games and advance to the semifinals.