Some tournament favourites crash out at the group stage as the on-going African Cup of Nations move to the knockout stage
| Anayo Ezugwu | Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE on-going African Cup of Nations, Afcon, is full of surprises with some of the favourites exiting the competition at the group stage. Defending champions, Zambia and Morocco, one of the tournament’s favourites were bundled out of the tournament after playing the three group matches without recording any win. Cape Verde Islands, one of the tournament’s debutants, surprised the football world by qualifying for the quarter finals ahead of Morocco and Angola in group A. The team beat Angola 2-1 in their last group match to advance to the next stage with South Africa, the host nation.
It was a shocking night for the Zambians that their dream of a second Afcon title had ended so soon. It had been 21 years since a defending champion had failed to progress beyond the group stages. In 1992, Algeria failed to qualify for the quarter finals stage after winning the title two years earlier.
However, countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso have all qualified for the quarter finals that will start on February 2. Burkina Faso, led group C on goal difference after finishing on the same points with Nigeria. This means that Nigeria will play Cote d’Ivoire which leads group D on February 3.
The Super Eagles struggled throughout the last group match with Ethiopia to stamp their authority in the encounter until Moses produced some of his tricks to win two penalties which he converted to goals. He was voted man of the match. He also showed Nigerian fans the creativity that has been lacking in the team.
Football analysts in the country believe that despite the win over Ethiopia, the team is not dominant as expected and it must do better in the next game which would be against one of the tournament’s favourites. They urge the coach to work on his tactics and not to depend on penalties to win matches.
There was palpable fear that John Obi Mikel and Fegor Ogude would miss the quarter finals match after receiving two yellow cards each at the group stages. Emmanuel Maradas Confederation of African Football, CAF official, said Mikel is likely to miss the quarter finals match due to suspension from the yellow cards he received. “If it was just one yellow card, I’m sure he wouldn’t be suspended, but with two, I’m not very sure,” he said. But CAF, after its executive meeting on January 30, said Mikel will play the quarter final match.
Stephen Keshi, Super Eagles coach, has declared that there is nothing special about Cote d’Ivoire, his next opponent in the competition. “I don’t know why you guys are worried about Cote d’Ivoire because I’m not worried about them. It’s going to be 11 versus 11 and we’re looking forward to the game,” Keshi said.
Besides, CAF has confirmed the suspension Gehad Grisha, one of its referee in the on-going championship after considering the complaint against the referee by the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF. The Egyptian referee who officiated in the Zambia versus Nigeria match on January 25, was suspended following the controversial penalty he awarded to Zambia against Nigeria.