Friday, February 08, 2008

Recap of African Cup of Nations Semi's

On Thursday, Feb 5 the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations took place. In the first semi, I expected the hosts Ghana to edge past Cameroon while I expected the talented Ivory Coast team to beat the defending champs Egypt in the other semi.

Well I was wrong on both counts. Even though Cameroon are not the force they were once in the 90's, they managed to do enough to get past Ghana. Despite an opening day 4-2 thrashing by Egypt, Cameroon have improved steadily and managed to hold their defense together against the heavily supported home team.

The second semi between Ivory Coast and Egypt was a cracking affair. The game was fast paced and completely physical. It was surprizing to see Egypt outmuscle and outplay Ivory Coast for most of the game. Even though Egypt were fortunate to take the lead with a deflected shot, they managed to keep Ivory Coast at bay. Credit goes to the Egyptian goal-keeper for making two world class saves, including one early in the second half from a perfect Drogba header. Drogba's downward header appeared to be going in the goal until a superb reflex save by Al Hadari preserved Egypt's narrow 1-0 lead.

Just after the hour mark, Amr Zaki lost his marker (Arsenal's Kolo Toure who was back in the line-up after an injury early in the tournament) and perfectly headed the ball into the far corner to give Egypt a 2-0 lead. A minute later Keita scored one of the goals of the tournament with a brilliant long range shot to pull the score back to 2-1. From then on, Ivory Coast pushed forward and Egypt caught them on the break with Zaki getting his second of the game to make it 3-1. That third goal took the wind out of Ivory Coast and they never looked like getting back in the game. Egypt duly wrapped things up in the 90th minute with a 4th goal. The Egyptian captain looked towards the camera and appeared to utter "khallas" refering to the game as finished. Indeed. There was no doubt that the defending champs Egypt had put in the best performance of the tournament to take out the talented Ivory Coast 4-1.

Sunday's final promises to be interesting with Egypt taking on Cameroon. Saturday's third place game will be an anti-climatic event as pre-tournament favourite's Ghana take on Ivory Coast.

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