The quarterfinal round of the 2008 African Cup of Nations opened in style today as Ghana snatched a 2-1 victory over their fierce West African rivals, Nigeria, through an 83rd minute goal from former MLS star Junior Agogo. Portsmouth midfielder Sulley Muntari threaded a low, left-footed shot/cross across the six-yard box to leave the easiest of tap-ins for Agogo, whose second goal of the tournament proved to be the winner for the host nation.
Ghana had been playing with 10 men since the 60th minute, when captain John Mensah was sent off for a professional foul on Nigeria’s Peter Odemwingie, who had broken in nearly alone on goal. There was very little contact but as Mensah was the last man back and prevented a clear goal-scoring opportunity, the match referee had little choice but to show the red card.
Nigeria went ahead 1-0 on a PK from Everton striker Yakubu, but a powerful header from versatile Chelsea stalwart Michael Essien levelled the match nearly right on halftime. The Super Eagles almost equalized in the game’s dying minutes; they puffed and puffed but in the end, they couldn’t blow the Ghana house down.
There were Premiership players galore in this game as four started the match for Ghana (Essien, Muntari, Paintsil, and Kingson), and four started for Nigeria as well (Yobo, Etuhu, Obi Mikel, and Yakubu).
Ghana will now play the winner of tomorrow’s Tunisia-Cameroon match on Thursday in the semifinals, while Nigeria exit the African Cup of Nations before the semifinal round for the first time in five tournaments.
In today’s second match, Ivory Coast cruised to a 5-0 victory over Guinea, who were playing without their captain and best player in Pascal Feindouno. My pre-tournament pick to win it all made things look easy as two Chelsea players, Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba, combined for three goals in the victory. Les Éléphants scored four times in the last 20 minutes of the game to put the match well and truly away, but this was no contest from the opening kickoff.
Five Premiership players (Kalou, Drogba, Meite, Zokora, and Eboue) featured for the winners today, who move on to face the winner of tomorrow’s match between Egypt and Angola.
I got both of my predictions for today’s games correct and so I’m feeling it, I’m feeling lucky. I’ll go with the high-flying Cameroon side, led by Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o, to win against Tunisia. In the only real surprise pick of the round, I’m also going to go with Angola to knock off the defending champions, Egypt.