Africa Cup of Nations: Five things we learned on Day 16
Woe, no Mo and thrice woe. Egypt go. So too the coach and the head of the country's football association as part of a measured response to a 1-0 defeat to a savvy South Africa side who'll take on a tasty looking Nigerian outfit in the last eight.
And so the champions were undone. Nigeria beat Cameroon 3-2 in a thrilling tussle in Alexandria. Nigeria led, were led and then led again. Fantastic stuff for the neutral or a Nigerian. Not so good for Cameroonians. Still, the Cameroon coach Clarence Seedorf says it’s not appropriate to talk about his future. “The players have worked really hard and played well but this is football and only one can win in the end. It's not so important my future. The important thing is what we have built until now.” Defending champions? Only a place in the last 16? Clarence this is precisely the time to talk about the future.
They got their money’s worth
The faithful started arriving early at the Cairo International Stadium to spend the evening with Mo Salah and the Egyptians - no it's not a pop band - in their game against South Africa. Pre-match entertainment consisted of a few Mexican waves - prescient this - as the masses anticipated a slaughter. That didn’t happen but rather an evenly fought contest with the hosts looking edgy and South Africa oozing confidence and nous that were lacking in their defeats to Cote d’Ivoire and Morocco. South Africa’s goal five minutes from time calmed the crowd. And effectively waved goodbye to Egypt's Mexican coach Javier Aguirre.
How to react soberly
So unexpected was Egypt’s defeat to a side that had scraped into the last 16 as one of the four best third placed teams that there were tears and slient disbelief among the previously roaring masses in the Cairo International Stadium. Thousands of them munificently applauded South Africa off the field. “That was something special,” said South Africa midfielder Dean Furman. "And it will be something we’ll always remember.” The generosity spread like a pyramid. The Egypt coach, Javier Aguirre, hailed his players and was then given the chance to find another squad to lead before his boss, Hany Abo Rieda, the head of the Egyptian Football Association, fell on his sword.
How to go with no Mo
The daily review’s wish to be in the Cairo International Stadium when Mo Salah scores a last minute winner in the Cup of Nations final will now not be fulfilled. We ask for so little, so thanks South Africa. What will be interesting will be how the organisers, the Confederation of African Football, jolly up the locals to fill the 70,000 seat arena for the final.
Third is the new first
Back in the day, Julius Ceasar was told to beware the ides of March. Perhaps a similar warning should be applied at the Cup of Nations to the third in the group. Benin and South Africa – two teams who finished in that position after garnering three points – have upset unbeaten group winners Morocco and Egypt respectively to advance to the last eight. It's a funny old game.