Sunday, February 03, 2008

Just soccer but no films

Sunday: Feb 3, 2008: The African Cup of Nations Quarter-finals kicked off.

Today's two matches pitted 4 West African Nations against each other. I am familiar with almost all of the players from Ghana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast but I have yet to see a movie from any of the four countries.

Quarter-Final 1: Ghana 2-1 Nigeria

pic from Eurosport

The hosts Ghana were the clear favourites going into this game and they duly beat Nigeria to advance to the semi-finals. Although, Nigeria surprized the hosts by taking the lead in the 35th minute via the penalty spot. Everton's Yakubu coolly slotted the ball for the opener, but on the stroke of half-time Ghana's midfield dynamo Essien powerfully headed the hosts level. On the hour mark, the Ghanian captain (John Mensah) was sent-off for bringing down Nigeria's Odemwingie on the edge of the penalty box. The decision was a correct one as Mensah was the last Ghanian player in between Odemwingie and the Ghanian net but only if Odemwingie had looked up and passed the ball to his team-mate who was completely unmarked, Nigeria could have taken the lead. Ten-men Ghana battled on and grabbed a winner in the 83rd minute thanks to Agogo tapping in a cross from a few yards out. The Ghanian goal came of nowhere and thrilled the packed stadium.

Despite having a man advantage for the last 30 minutes, Nigeria never looked like getting a winner. They never created any clear-cut chances and in fact, their performance has been very poor at this year's African Cup of nations. Nigeria started the tournament with a 1-0 defeat to Ivory Coast and followed that with a 0-0 tie with Mali. Only a 2-0 win over Benin coupled with Mali's 3-0 defeat to Ivory Coast ensured that Nigeria were in the quarters. Nigeria were once a force on the international stage in the mid 1990's but their star is fading fast not only in International soccer but also in African soccer.

Quarter-Final 2: Ivory Coast 5-0 Guinea

pic from Eurosport

This was clearly a mismatch. Before the game, I had expected a 3-0 or a 4-0 Ivory Coast win but I was surprized at how well Guinea managed to contain the talented Ivory Coast team in the first half. Keita's well taken goal in the 25th minute was all that separated the two teams at half-time. In the second half, it all came undone for Guinea in the final 25 minutes. After a long ball opened up Guinea's defense in the 68th minute, Aruna Dindane raced past Guinea's goal-keeper (Camara) but he somehow missed the open net. Even though Dindane let Guinea off the hook, it was a worrying sign to see Guinea exposed so badly as their entire defense was missing. Guinea were throwing caution to the wind and were pushing forward to get an equalizer, so it appeared to be only a matter of time before Ivory Coast would hit them on the counter-attack. Sure enough, two minutes later Didier Drogba powered past the final Guinea defender to calmly place the ball into the bottom corner for a 2-0 lead. Another two minutes later, Drogba carved open Guinea's defense with a perfect through ball and Kalou rounded the helpless Camara to walk the ball into the net to make it 3-0. Guinea were in shambles now and it was not a surprize to see Ivory Coast score two more goals.

Ivory Coast continue to march along in this year's tournament. Their team is loaded with talented players in every position and should be one of the favourites to win this year's tournament.

Monday, Feb 4 Quarter-Finals:

Tomorrow's two matches see the defending African Cup Champs Egypt take on Angola and the talented Tunisian team take on Cameroon. With the exception of Angola, atleast I have seen films from the other three countries.

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