Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Differing fortunes for African Cup champions and favourites

Posted in African Football by peterbein on January 13, 2010
Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast could only draw their first game in the African Cup of Nations against unfancied Burkina Faso

Going into this year’s African Cup of Nations many pundits have predicted that Ivory Coast, including the likes of Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Yaya Touré, will win the tournament. At the same time Egypt, who are back-to-back defending champions having won the most recent two tournaments in 2006 and 2008, have been written off especially as their big guns of Mohamed Aboutrika, Amr Zaki and Mido are missing either through injury or non-inclusion in their national team. However their opening matches in Angola in the last couple of days have given these pundits food for thought.

When Ivory Coast played against Burkina Faso on Sunday many thought that three points for the former would pretty much secure their passage into the quarter finals, especially as they are in the group which Togo have now been disqualified from due to their reluctance to participate after the gun attack in Cabinda last Friday. However the Burkina Faso side were determined to prove that they are not in Angola just to make up the numbers and held their more illustrious opponents to a credible 0-0 draw in Group B’s opening match. This means that the second game of the group between the Ivory Coast and Ghana is something akin to an early cup final. If the Ivorians lose then a draw in the final game involving Burkina Faso and Ghana would be enough to send ‘Les Éléphants’ crashing out of the tournament at the group stage, something which was unthinkable before the competition began.

In contrast Egypt have started the tournament strongly. They went behind to a super strike from Chinedu Obasi after only twelve mintes in their 3-1 win over Nigeria. The defending champions equalized when Nigeria’s keeper came out of his penalty area which allowed Emad Moteab to go around him and put the ball into an empty net on 34 minutes. Egypt captain Ahmed Hassan, playing in the African Cup of Nations for a remarkable eighth time, scored the second goal ten minutes into the second half albeit thanks to a wicked deflection of Taye Taiwo. Mohamed Gedo completed the victory for the Pharaohs three minutes from time to give the Egyptians the perfect start in Group C, especially as their other group opponents Mozambique and Benin could only draw 2-2 in their encounter.

Perhaps the fact that Egypt haven’t qualified for the FIFA World Cup this season means that they will try their level best to secure a history making third consecutive African Cup of Nations trophy. It is possible that the Ivory Coast will get through their group and go all the way but after the opening match results they must be fearful that yet another opportunity to become continental champions is going to be squandered. But in what appears to be an open tournament so far I don’t think too many pundits should be making predictions just yet….

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