Monday, June 18, 2007

Cup of Nations Roundup

African Cup of Nations qualifying resumed this weekend. Congratulations to Cameroon, Morocco, Angola, Tunisia and Sudan, who became the first batch of teams to qualify for next year’s Cup of Nations in Ghana.

Nigeria and South Africa inched closer to joining the qualification party while Algeria and Togo suffered shocking defeats, keeping their groups wide open. The remaining 10 teams will be determined after the last matches of the campaign in September.

Here's a rundown of the weekend's action, courtesy of our friends at the Confederation of African Football.

**A side note, but don't these countries have the greatest nicknames? Read the following report and notice the teams colorful monikers. They're fabulous!**

Group One

Gabon shuttered the Ivory Coast's Elephants hopes of qualifying without kicking a ball as they beat “whipping boys” Madagascar 2-0 to move three points adrift of the former.
Midfielder Georges Akiremy Owondo broke the deadlock after 20 minutes before substitute Elvis Eva-Kedi sealed victory with the second in the dying embers of the game.
The Azingos play the Elephants in the ultimate match of the group at home and need at least a 6-0 victory to qualify.

Group Two

Botswana lifted themselves from the bottom with a 2-1 victory over Mauritania in Gaborone, despite being out of contention of a Nation’s Cup berth. Two goals from Modiri Marumo and Dipsy Selolwane were enough to give the Zebras their second victory of the campaign, though Yoann Langlet pulled one for the visitors. The other game involving Burundi and Egypt has been rescheduled for September after accommodation problems in Kigali.

Group Three

Nigeria’s Super Eagles edged closer to their 15th appearance at the biennial event after thrashing neighbors Niger 3-1 in Niamey. A goal each from Nwankwo Kanu, Taye Taiwo and Yakubu Aiyegbeni gave Berti Vogts his biggest victory since assuming the reigns of the Eagles a few months ago. Despite the loss, Niger coach Hamieye Hamadou was a happy man after not conceding an avalanche of goals against the star-studded Nigerians.

"I am very happy to lose by only 3-1. We tried to play for a draw but unfortunately, that was not possible. But this is a young team, and I know that we have a big future ahead,” Hamieye told the media.

The Uganda – Lesotho game has been fixed for Tuesday following the late arrival of match officials.

Group Four

The Carthage Eagles of Tunisia booked their place at next year’s soccer fiesta courtesy a 2-0 win over Maurituis in Rades just like second placed Sudan, who won 2-0 in Seychelles. The 2004 winners moved to 13 points, one more than their opponents in the ultimate match of the qualifiers, Sudan.

Top scorer Issam Jomma scored first just before the first half, before Karim Nafti sealed qualification with the second later.
A goal each from Kamal Haytham and Faisal Agab ensured the Desert Foxes reached their first Cup appearance since 1976, as one of the second best placed teams.

Group Five

Four-time winners Cameroon sealed their place at next year’s event after a slim 2-1 victory over Rwanda in Garoua on Sunday. Germany based striker Mahamadou Iddrisou opened the scoring in the 34th minute before Chelsea defender Geremi Njitap blasted home the second from a thunderous shot in the 42nd minute.

Striker Jimmy Gatete grabbed a consolation for the Amavubis later in the second half, but that was not enough to halt the 15th appearance of the Lions at the bi-annual event. Indomitable Lions coach Jules Frederic Nyongha dedicated the victory to the people of Garoua as pay back for their support towards the team.

“It is a personal victory and one for the people of Garoua. If we have qualified today, I say thanks to everybody from the bottom of my heart.” In the other game, Liberia and Equatorial Guinea settled for a pulsating 0-0 draw.

Group Six

Angola secured a place at the 26th edition of the Cup thanks to a 3-0 drubbing of Swaziland on Sunday as they moved five points clear of second placed Eritrea. The Palacras Negras, one of Africa’s representatives at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany realized their second successive appearance with goals from Paulo Figueiredo, Arsenio Love and Al Ahly play maker Flavio.

Eritrea dashed the hopes of the Harambee Stars of Kenya as they beat them by a lone goal courtesy an 80th minute strike from Berhane Aregay.

Group Seven

Tanzania’s Taifa Stars shuttered the dreams of Burkina Faso, beating them by a lone goal in Ouagadougou, to move to eight points, same as leaders Senegal. The Taifa Stars, who played most of the game without Brazilain coach Marcio Maximo and Shadrack Nsajigwa, both sent off, got the match winner through Henry Joseph.

FIFA 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists Senegal were held to a pulsating goalless draw by Mozambique, taking the group decider to the ultimate matches slated for September.

Group Eight

Algeria suffered a severe setback in their qualification bid as Guinea handed them a 0-2 defeat in Algiers. The feat saw Guinea moved to the top spot on eight points, same as the Desert Warriors, but with a better head-to-head record. France-based duo Fode Mansare and Pascal Feinduono scored two goals, which handed the 1990 winners their first loss in the qualifying series.

In the other match, Gambia drew 0-0 with Cape Verde making the automatic spot a two-horse race between the Syli Nationals and the Desert Warriors.

Group Nine

The Hawks of Togo also wasted a perfect opportunity to wrap up a place at the finals as they bowed out to neighbours, Benin 4-1.
The match almost failed to produce a goal before Squirrels top marksman Razack Omotoyossi broke the deadlock just before the break. Omotoyossi grabbed a brace in the 52nd minute before Stephane Sessegnon and Muri Ogunbiyi added one each to land the Hawks their heaviest defeat of the campaign. Adekambi Olufade grabbed a consolation for Togo 15 minutes before the end.

Mali moved to top spot after thrashing Sierra Leone 6-0 in Bamako to set up a potentially thrilling three-team finish involving Benin.

Group Ten

DR Congo maintained top spot despite a 1-1 draw with Namibia in Windhoek.
The Simbas drew first blood in the 28th minute through Zola Matumona, before Michael Pienaar leveled up for the home team 13 minutes later. In the other match, Libya thrashed Ethiopia 3-1 in Tripoli to move to second spot.

Group 11

South Africa was held to a 1-1 draw by Congo in Pointe Noire, forcing the automatic spot to be decided on the last day matches. A costly error by Bafana Bafana goalie Rowen Fernandez, who allowed a long range from Jean Vivien Bantimba slip through his fingers, gave the hosts the equalizer in the 65th minute after Sibusiso Zuma had put the visitors ahead in the 46 minute.

Zambia failed to take advantage to topple the 1996 winners as they were also held by the same scoreline by lowly Chad. Hilaire Kedigui stunned the home crowd with the opener in the 14th minute before local hero, Collins Mbesuma drew equal in the 57th minute.

Zambian coach Patrick Phiri blamed the inability of his strikers to convert the numerous chances they had as being their bane.
“We created a lot of chances but we failed to covert them,” a sad looking Phiri said.
“We have to win our last match against South Africa” Phiri added.

Group Twelve

Morocco became the first team to qualify for Ghana 2008 after beating Malawi in Blantyre on Saturday. The Atlas Lions got the goal after only nine minutes, when Bouchaib Al-Moubaraki pounced on a mistake from Malawi goalkeeper Simeon Kapuza to connect home. The 1976 winners will be making their 15th appearance next year.

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