After squandering an early 2-0 lead, Cameroon needed a 92nd minute goal from Stade Rennais midfielder Stéphane Mbia to beat Tunisia today and advance to the semifinals. The extra time goal was Mbia’s second of the game and spoiled any hope of a Tunisian upset, which was only made possible in the first place after an 81st minute tally from Yassine Chikhaoui levelled the match at 2-2.
The same Tunisia defense that had been stout in the group stage (3 goals allowed in 3 matches) was awful today; their marking was atrocious and in truth, they were fortunate to only concede three goals to a Cameroonian squad that racked up 10 goals in their group games. To be fair, Tunisia did manage to contain star striker Samuel Eto’o, but one man does not make a team.
The Eagles of Carthage started their only two Premiership players, Birmingham City’s Mehdi Nafti and national captain Radhi Jaidi, as usual, although French coach Roger Lemerre made multiple changes to the side that drew with Angola on Thursday.
The four-time champions of this tournament and Group D winners this year exit in heartbreaking fashion. They came from behind and got a late goal to equalize, only to have their dreams shattered by a goal just two minutes into extra time.
Cameroon’s lineup featured three Premiership players in Alexander Song, Geremi, and Andre Bikey. Geremi, a Newcastle midfielder, scored directly off a free kick to put the victors up 2-0 in the 27th minute.
The Indomitable Lions’ victory propels them to a semifinal matchup against Ghana, the host nation, on Thursday. Goals could be aplenty with the firepower each team possesses, so I’m really looking forward to that game. My pick: The home team gets it done, 3-1.
In today’s other quarterfinal, Egypt wrecked my pre-round predictions and beat Angola 2-1. I had gone 3-3 until this result, and it was a game in which Angola was clearly the unluckier of the two teams.
Egypt went ahead 1-0 on a PK (as a result of a questionable handball decision) from Hosni Abd Rabou in the 23rd minute, which was his third goal from the spot in the tournament. A left-footed screamer from Manucho, Manchester United’s newest signing, levelled the match just four minutes later however, and that goal was Manucho’s fourth of the tournament.
Amr Zaky “scored” the winning goal seven minutes before halftime, and it was just one of those “right place, right time” situations. Angola’s defense failed to cut out a cross and it cost them, as the ball ended up deflecting off the onrushing Zaky’s arm and into the net.
Angola ran out of gas at the end and Egypt was able to attack and counter-attack succesfully, though they didn’t get the insurance goal which would’ve put the game away.
Despite the loss today, the Black Antelopes are clearly on an upward trend, having qualified for World Cup 2006 and giving a good account of themselves there as well. Portuguese coach Luís Oliveira Gonçalves has a team that will host the 2010 African Nations Cup and should have every chance to make a run there and in the 2010 World Cup, if they can qualify for that.
With the victory, the Pharaohs move on to the semifinals where they’ll meet my choice, Ivory Coast. This match is going to be a little trickier for Ivory Coast than a lot of outsiders would expect, but I’m going to ride my favorites until the very end. Ivory Coast-2, Egypt-1