Now that’s what I call a tournament mascot. I don’t need modern interpretations of peace, harmony and good will like the dreadful trio that South Korea and Japan gave us in 2002. Dreadful mascots and a dreadful tournament. I want giant animals or characters that can play football or playing football. This is Palanquina, who is based on the famed Angolan Giant Sable Antelope, a rare animal now only found in one region of Angola. A proper mascot if there ever was one.
Well if the first round of matches showed us anything, then it was not to take anything for granted. Whilst some semblance of order returned in the second round of games, there were still some shocks and one of the best games you will see all year and allegations of match fixing. Just a normal continental football tournament then!
So Group A saw Algeria recover to beat under-performing Mali 1-0 on Thursday to get them back on track and put Mali facing the exit, but more on that later. Angola continued there fine form with a convincing 2-0 win of Malawi, with Manucho getting another goal. This meant that all Angola and Algeria needed was a 0-0 draw today for them both to qualify, regardless of how many goals Mali scored against Malawi. Can you guess what the final score was?
Apparently, the group stages are decided on head to head results, though the irony of Algeria being involved in a dodgy result after the 1982 World Cup saw them eliminated through exactly the same thing is rather a shame. Yet, Mali have only themselves to blame, they simply never got going until it was too late.
Group B gave us only one game on Friday, but what a match it was. A clash of real international heavyweights was end to end all through the game and Ivory Coast broke the deadlock in the first half, with Gervinho getting the opener. Ghana pushed and pushed but the Ivory Coast held on until half time. 10 minutes in to the second half though, Ghana looked to have the advantage when Emmanuel Eboue was sent off for a reckless two footed challenge.
This seemed to have the opposite effect though and with Drogba in mesmerising form, Ghana were torn to shreds and found themselves 3-0 down through Tiene and Drogba and the lack of real experience and quality in the Ghana side was compounded. Saturday brought further bad news and not just for the Black Stars, when Michael Essien was ruled out for the rest of the competition.With him on crutches, Chelsea will be hopeful that the knee injury is not too serious.
Ghana play Burkina Faso tomorrow knowing a win is the only thing that will get them through the group.
Group C saw Egypt continue with their remarkable from so far in Angola 2010, with another 2-0 win though it was a tough game at times, but another great game of football. Unfancied Mozambique had chances to score before conceding a harsh own goal, then missed chances to draw themselves level before Egypt finished them off with a superb turn and volley from Mohamed Gedo. The Pharoahs are looking good once again.
Nigeria, still hurting from their opening game loss against Egypt struggled to beat Benin 1-0, thanks to a Yakubu penalty in the 42nd minute. Despite all the experience, they looked sluggish and were also hit with an injury to key defender Joseph Yobo. If Benin had been more ruthless in front of goal, the Nigerians would be going home. Instead, a point against Mozambique will see them through.
Finally in Group D, Cameroon huffed and puffed after their humiliating defeat against Gabon to win 3-2 against Zambia despite being a goal down until the 68th minute. Geremi equalised and Eto’o put them 2-1 up but Zambia came back again to equalise with an 82nd minute penalty. To the rescue rode Idrissou with a late header to steal the win and keep Cameroon’s disappointing tournament on track. They need to get going soon because someone is going to take them apart if they’re not careful.
In the final game, surprise package, Gabon, battled to a fine 0-0 draw with Tunisia to keep themselves on track to reach the quarter finals. Tunisia meanwhile now know that the only way they’ll be through to the next stage is to beat Cameroon on Thursday. Now that is a game I’m looking forward to.
So there you have it, a bit of scandal, top Premiership players injured, unfancied Premiership players such as Daniel Cousin and Manucho doing their countries proud and a couple of big surprises. The next 3 days will be very interesting indeed and its been a great tournament so far. I’ll be back with another round up after Sunday’s first Quarter finals.
Qualified for Quarter Finals: Algeria, Angola, Egypt
Out and heading home: Mali and Malawi
On the edge of elimination: Ghana and Cameroon. Ghana have to win, Cameroon have to not lose.