Monday, June 4, 2007

The Road to Ghana 2008

Three former champions, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Morocco inched closer to booking their place at next year’s African Cup of Nations tournament, Ghana 2008, after convincing victories during the weekend qualifiers.

Four time winners, Cameroon and Ivory Coast maintained their 100% records in Groups One and Five courtesy of 5-0 and 2-1 victories over Madagascar and Liberia respectively, while Morocco beat Zimbabwe 2-0 to stay clear at the top of Group Twelve.

The trio need at least a point from their last games to become the first batch of teams to qualify for the 26th edition of the continent’s showpiece football event.

However, the thrill of the weekend qualifiers was eclipsed by the death of 12 fans in a stampede at the Konkola stadium during the Zambia – Congo Group Eleven clash.

Reports have it that three women and nine men were crushed to death as fans rushed out of the stadium after Zambia’s 3-0 victory. President Levy Mwanawasa has ordered an inquiry into the stampede which also left dozens injured.

The Cranes of Uganda produced the biggest shocker of Match Day Four qualifiers, bagging a 2-1 victory over Nigeria in Kampala, while South Africa and Tunisia also took giant strides towards qualification after managing 4-0 victories over Chad and Seychelles, respectively.

Here's a rundown of the Group action, courtesy of the Confederation of African Football's website.

Group One

Ivory Coast hammered Madagascar 5-0 to maintain their clean sheet in the group and boosted their quest for the single slot.

A brace from Dutch based striker Arouna Kone and a goal each from Salomon Kalou, Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure ensured the maximum points at the packed Bouake stadium.
Elephants captain and reigning African footballer of the year Drogba described the scenery at the stadium.
“It was beautiful. We are very satisfied to have made a complete victory.”

Group Two

Defending champions Egypt were surprising held to a 1-1 draw by Mauritania in Nouakchott in one of the shocking results of the weekend, but still remained at the summit of the table.

The Pharaohs stunned the home crowd, scoring first on the quarter-hour mark through Ahmad Hassan before Johan Langlet ensured a point for Mauritania with the equalizer in the 70th minute.
In Kigali, Abdul Hakizimana’s 83rd-minute goal gave Burundi a 1-0 win over Botswana, despite the former shifting the game away from home.

Group Three

The Super Eagles of Nigeria retained the top spot despite a shocking 1-2 loss to Uganda in Kampala.
The Cranes gave thanks to striker Geoffrey Massa, who won two penalties which were converted by David Obua (52nd minute) and captain Ibrahim Sekagya (65th minute) which annulled John Utaka’s first half opener.

Nigeria coach Berti Vogts is optimistic of victories in the remaining games to ensure automatic qualification.
"We will try to win our remaining games against Niger and Lesotho to qualify."
But his counterpart Laszlo Csaba blamed his players for conceding an easy goal in the first half.

"We gave away a cheap goal in the first half” but commended his boys for the excellent display in the second half.
Bottom placed Niger also recorded her first win in the qualifying series as they beat Lesotho 2-0 at home.
First half strikes from Hamidou Djibo and Souleymane Saka was all Niger needed to achieve that feat.

Group Four

Tunisia routed Seychelles 4-0 in Rades on Saturday, jumped to the summit of the group and a step closer to their 13th Nations Cup appearance.
Midfielder Issam Jomaa opened the goal party in the 30th minute before Esperance striker Kamel Zaiem struck twice to extend the Carthage Eagles' grip on the tie.
Etoile du Sahel striker Amine Chermiti grabbed the last goal with a header in the 80th minute.
Sudan kept the chase on the Carthage Eagles as they thrashed Mauritius 3-0 in the other match of the group.
A brace from Richard Gastin and one from Faisal Al-Ajab was all the Desert Hawks needed.

Group Five

Four-time champions, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon maintained their hundred percent record in the campaign after a 2-1 win over Liberia in Monrovia.
The Lions, who need just a point from their next game to qualify for next year’s finals, scored first through Stephane Mba after 12 minutes.
Three-time African best footballer, Samuel Eto’o made it two in the second half before Stephen Mennoh grabbed a consolation for the Lone Stars in the dying embers of the game.
In the other game, a brace from Harouna Niyonzima ensured a 2-0 victory for Rwanda at the expense of Equatorial Guinea, earning the victors their first points of the campaign.

Group Six

The Palancras Negras of Angola kept their hopes of a fourth Nations Cup appearance on course after a 1-1 draw against Eritrea in Asmara.

The Angolans, one of the continent’s five representatives at the 2006 World Cup went down to an Elias Ali Abubeker strike after 17 minutes.
Substitute Norberto Mulenessa Maurito equalized for the visitors in the 61st minute, as Angola remain in contention for a place at the finals.
Swaziland were held to a barren draw by Kenya, a result which meant the latter crashing out in the race for a place in next year’s finals.

Group Seven

The Teranga Lions of Senegal, leaders of Group Seven, went unscathed at the top despite being held to a 1-1 draw in Tanzania.
The Taifa Stars went up through Nizal Khalifan on the quarter-hour mark as he lobbed the ball over Senegal goalie Tony Sylva before Demba Ba earned the visitors a point in the second half.

Brazilian-born coach of the Taifa Stars, Marcio Maximo was full of praise for his boys after the wonderful display against the highly fancied Senegalese.
"I am proud of my boys. Senegal were favourites but we showed what we are capable of."
"We deserved victory, but we still have a chance to reach Ghana next year provided we win our next game," He said.

Burkina Faso suffered a humiliating 0-3 loss to Mozambique, which saw the latter moved to the second spot in the group.
Dario Moteiro opened the scoring before playmaker Manuel Tico Tico added two later in the game to seal victory.

Group Eight

Algeria stayed clear at the top as Cape Verde forced them to a 2-2 draw on Saturday.
Algeria's Madjid Bougherra opened the scoring in the first half before Cape Verde drew equal through Manuel Sanchez in the second half.
Rafik Saifi increased the tally for the Desert Warriors in the 85th minute before Mashado Blanco rescued a point for the Blue Sharks on the stroke of full time.
Algeria now has eight points from four matches, three adrift of Guinea who were also held 2-2 by Gambia.

Group Nine

The Hawks of Togo edged past Sierra Leone’s Leone Stars by a lone goal in Freetown to keep their qualification hopes alive.
Togo, without several key players including Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor made victory certain courtesy a second half strike from Yao Senaya.
Second place Mali’s hope of giving the Hawks a hot chase at the top was dashed by Benin who held the former to a 0-0 draw in Porto Novo.
Mali still lie second, three points behind Togo, who have nine.

Group Ten

Namibia and Ethiopia both grabbed surprise 1-0 wins over the weekend to keep the group open.
Namibia edged past Libya 1-0 in Windhoek thanks to a first half strike from Germany-based Collin Benjamin, giving them their second win of the campaign.
A 30th minute strike from Saladine Said gave the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia their second win of the qualifying series as the licked DR Congo 1-0.

This is the most open group in the qualifiers as any of the teams has an equal chance of picking up the automatic slot.

Group Eleven

The Bafana Bafana of South Africa thrashed bottom placed Chad 4-0 in their 200th match since returning to international football and also maintained their hundred percent record in the campaign.
Despite the absence of England-based striker Benni McCarthy, defender Nasief Morris opened the goal harvest with the opener in the 13th minute from the spot kick after Sibusiso Zuma was brought down by the Chad goalie.

Zuma then doubled the lead after 23 minutes before making it three ten minutes later.
Substitute Siyabonga Nomvete put the icing on the cake with the fourth goal later in the game.

The Chipolopolo of Zambia beat Congo 3-0 in the other match of the group.
Local hero Collins Mbesuma broke the deadlock early in the first half, before Congwe Chalwe sealed victory with the final later in the second half.

Twelve fans were reported dead in a stampede after the game as fans forced their way out of the Konkola Stadium in Chililabonbe.
Zambia coach Patrick Phiri said the tragedy had sucked away the euphoria after the victory over Congo.
"This national tragedy has taken away the mood of victory and now, instead of celebrating, we are mourning."

Group Twelve

Two early goals helped Morocco beat Zimbabwe 2-0 to claim firm control of the Group.
Marouane Chamakh opened the scoring after just three minutes before Youssef Hadji sealed victory with the second 23 minutes later.

Morocco needs at least a point from the next game to cement a place at the finals.

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