When writing my last blog I was anticipating the start of the Cup. Sadly the terrorist attack on the Togo team bus has overshadowed the competition; my thoughts go out to the family and friends of those who were attacked. Whilst I do not want to get too political in this blog I feel the need to question the negative comments towards Africa, especially comments from certain football managers that suggested that FIFA should reconsider holding the World Cup in South Africa later in the year. We must remember that Africa is a large continent, why should problems that occur in one country affect those in other countries hundreds of miles away?
There was talk of cancelling the Cup of Nations before a ball was kicked. As a comparison in the UK, Euro ’96 continued despite the Manchester city centre bombing. The day after the bombing over 50,000 were present at Old Trafford in Manchester to watch Germany play Russia. In 2005 the Ashes cricket series continued after the suicide bombings on the London underground, and this was despite another failed attack the day it was due to start and terrorist plans to attack the crowd at Lords. Of course, these examples are different to what has happened in Angola as the attacks in the UK were not directly on a team, but to cancel the competition would have let the terrorists win. Angola has a history of trouble, but to get to where it is today and to be hosting the Cup of Nations is remarkable. Just like the West, Africa must be given the chance to learn from hosting these competitions. Let us remember the lost Togolese, but not use this as an opportunity to knock Africa.
Going back to the Cup there have been a few surprises with Côte d’Ivore being held to a 0 – 0 draw by fellow West Africans Burkina Faso, and Cameroon losing 1 – 0 to Gabon. Nigeria did not fare any better losing 3 – 1 to current holders Egypt. The match I had been looking forward to was Côte d’Ivore v Ghana. This proved to be a lively encounter with my team tipped for the Cup, Côte d’Ivore, winning 3 – 1. Despite Eboue being sent off in the 55th minute, goals from Gervinho, Tiene and Drogba sealed an emphatic win for the Elephants. Ghana could only pull one back with Gyan scoring a penalty in extra time. Since this match last Friday the ‘top’ teams have established dominance with wins for Nigeria (beating Benin 3 – 0), Cameroon (beating Zambia 3 – 2), and Ghana (beating Burkina Faso 1 – 0). Ghana scraped through the group stages but lost Michael Essien - one of their best players - on the way with a torn ligament that will keep him out of action for a month.
From the West African teams that started the competition we have now lost Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Togo (who withdrew from the competition due to the tragic attack on their team bus). This now leaves the top dogs of West African football in the cup; Cameroon, Côte d’Ivore, Ghana and Nigeria. The quarter finals will take place over Sunday and Monday:
Angola v Ghana 24/01/2010 16:00 (GMT) Luanda
Côte d'Ivoire v Algeria 24/01/2010 19:30 (GMT) Cabinda
Egypt v Cameroon 25/01/2010 16:00 (GMT) Benguela
Zambia v Nigeria 25/01/2010 19:30 (GMT) Lubango
With less than 10 days of the Cup left I’m looking forward to seeing if my predictions come true for once and Côte d’Ivoire can go all the way. If they overcome Algeria in the quarters then they will face either Egypt or Cameroon, both excellent teams. Whatever happens, it is sure to be interesting!
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