Monday, March 26, 2007

African Cup of Nations Re-Cap

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to watch any of the African Cup of Nations qualifying games this weekend.

But I've heard unsubstantiated rumors the games are shown in African conclaves in Harlem and Brooklyn. Anyone care to corroborate these rumors?

So once again, I have to rely on the eyes and ears of veteran scribes like Mark Gleeson of Reuters to guide me along.

First off, big ups to Kenya as the Harambee Stars roared back to the international stage with a 2-0 victory over Swaziland in Group Six. (pictured above, Harambee Stars striker Denis Oliech (center) dribbles past two Swaziland players during their Nations Cup qualifier at Nyayo Stadium, on Sunday.)

According to the news report, 'Marabou storks circled above Nyayo National Stadium in the capital as delirious fans danced and beat drums in the heavy rain ...past defeats by Eritrea and Angola in previous qualifiers were a distant memory for the 30,000 spectators, and for those stuck outside after gates were closed, chanting and demanding updates from fans perched high on top of the stands.'

In one word? Raucous. That's what winning feels like after months of FIFA-imposed suspension.

More from the report by Reuters' Jeremy Clarke: 'While there was sometimes spiteful action on the pitch -- with four Swaziland players carried off injured -- there was no suggestion of the violence that has marred past internationals.
Security guards, armed with metal poles and makeshift wooden clubs, relaxed and enjoyed the game alongside fans.
"African football is the best football. We are African football," one fan called to reporters as he ran to catch a glimpse of players after the game.'

It's a feel-good story all around. Kenya now lie third in the group, six points behind leaders Angola who have a maximum nine points after their 6-1 rout of second-placed Eritrea on Sunday.

Elsewhere, Carlos Alberto Parreira made a winning start as South African coach when the 2010 World Cup hosts beat Chad 3-0 in Saturday's Nations Cup qualifier in Ndjamena.

The victory leaves Bafana Bafana (South Africa's nickname) two points clear at the top of Group Eleven after Congo and Zambia could only draw 0-0 in Brazzaville on Sunday.

The Ivory Coast moved a step closer to qualifying by maintaining their 100 percent record at the weekend, defeating Madagascar 3-0. The Elephants, who dominated proceedings, broke the deadlock in the 28th minute through Steve Gohouri before Aruna Dindane doubled the lead seven minutes later.
Amara Diane ended the Crocodiles’ hopes of qualifying for the 26th edition of the Cup of Nations with the third goal in the 82nd minute.

Nigeria also kept up their 100 percent record but the first match for new coach Berti Vogts delivered a far from convincing 1-0 home win over Uganda on Saturday.

Kanu scrambled the ball home 17 minutes from time in Abeotuka as Nigeria stretched their lead in Group Three to five points over Lesotho.

Cameroon also made it three out of three in Group Five with a 3-1 win over Liberia on Saturday but Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o was replaced in the 60th minute of the game.

Instead it was another Spanish-based striker, Achille Webo of Osasuna, who set up the win with a pair of goals in the opening quarter hour.

In Group 9, Togo moved top of the Cup qualifiers after beating Sierra Leone 3-1 in a game in which Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor scored twice. Adebayor revealed on Friday that Togolese internationals, who threatened to boycott last year's World Cup over a bonus row, are still waiting to receive their payments for reaching the finals in Germany.

"The bonus problem is still there. We were given promises but still nothing has been done," said Adebayor. "We're still waiting to see the management and it's in their interest to meet with us as soon as possible. Whatever happens, we're not going to let this go. If they don't pay up, I don't know what will happen."

Here's what happened: they were kicked off the team. After the game, Adebayor and two Togo team-mates were kicked out of the national team following a spat over bonus payments. More on this later ...

The weekend's 22 qualifying matches delivered hat-tricks for Tunisia's Issam Jomaa and Senegal's Mamadou Niang.

Here's a great rundown of all the scores from the weekend from the Confederation of African (CAF) football website.

Maybe I can watch the next round of qualifiers somewhere in New York City?


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