Report: Africa Cup of Nations 2015

Zambia out, Cape Verde out, Day 10 is rainy at CAN

South Africa's Dean Furman (L) challenges Senegal's Pape Kouli Diopi
South Africa's Dean Furman (L) challenges Senegal's Pape Kouli Diopi Reuters/Mike Hutchings

Five things we learned on day 10 at CAN.

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  • Zambia are going backwards.

The review has to admit a soft spot for Zambia. We were introduced to their former star player Kalusha Bwalya at the CAN in Ghana in 2008. Back then he was a rising voice in the Zambia football association. His line was that a core of players had to be developed around a hungry young coach and given time to develop - much like the squad he’d captained before18 of them died on a plane out of Libreville in April 1993.

Even when Bwalya hit the heights of president, he still said hello – the review likes that kind of behaviour – and when Zambia got their CAN trophy in Libreville three years ago, tears welling from the memories of the comrades he’d lost long ago – Bwalya acknowledged that the plan had come together and dedicated the victory to the lost and present team.

Hervé Renard, the manager of the CAN winning side, had moulded a band to play for the group and not themselves. Christopher Katongo was his vigilant lieutenant on the field and the esprit de corps was palpable. The Zambians returned as defending champions to South Africa in 2013 and went out after the first round following three draws. Here, under Honour Janza, selfishness has been highlighted by the coach and the skipper Rainford Kalaba, who featured in the final in 2013. After the 0-0 draw against Cape Verde in Ebebiyin on day 10, Zambia are on the way home. Clearly time to regroup and rethink.

  • Back to the drawing board in Cape Verde.

Cape Verde dazzled in 2013 as they surged through the group stages to reach the last-eight. The antic-rich coach Lúcio Antunes joined in the singing after they’d reached the quarter-finals in South Africa. He is now in charge of the Angolan club Progresso Associação do Sambizanga.
Hopefully the Cape Verdean players will be singing on the plane back home after their elimination following three stalemates in Group B.

  • Don’t argue with this philosopher coach.

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There is really only one winner in the category of coach of the tournament. South Africa coach Shakes Mashaba has been warned by the organisers CAF for whipping out his native Zulu. From Roots man, he then turned Slicks gleaming on the sidelines in a dashing blue three-piece suit during the match against Algeria and in his day 10 interviews before his side’s day 11 showdown he teased journalists and CAF funtionaries: “No Xhosa, no Zulu, how about Wolof?” Tricks Mashaba then highlighted where South Africa had been going wrong in their two matches. They’ve been creating chances but just haven’t put them away. When a Ghanaian reporter mentioned that Ghana had never beaten South Africa in the CAN, the coach replied calmly: “Don’t forget that in everyone’s life there’s a first time for everything.” Sphinx Mashaba added: “The game in Mongomo might well be the first time they beat us. We’re living in the current. We must be in the moment.” Pens down, pay tribute to the Zen master.

  • Rain is such a rogue element.

There you are practising in the late afternoon for your matches in hazy sunshine and when the match comes the heavens decide to open. Not just for a little shower but for a full force tropical splash. Not a hint of rain around Ebebiyin for more than a week. And it all turns up in the game between Zambia and Cape Verde. Want to move the ball quickly? Don’t try passing along the ground. It won’t move. Hoof and hope, lads. Very old school English football. No wonder it ended 0-0. It’s not really the African way.

  • Who organised this thing?

Equatorial Guinea has wheeled out this 30th edition of the CAN. Has it come of age? The answer to that will come. Maybe the review has been too long in the presence of Sphinx Mashaba. But with Tunisia and Democratic Republic of Congo emerging from Group B as winners and runners-up respectively, it all means that the north Africans will take on the hosts and there’ll be a hint of local rivalry when Congo and DRC meet.

That particular humdinger is slated for Bata but the match between Equatorial Guinea and Tunisia is supposed to be in Ebebiyin. Now, given that Ebebiyin is a charming little eastern border village nurturing a quaint stadium with a capacity of 8,000, we think this is an issue where size does matter. When Equatorial Guinea play, they can easily fill the stadium in Bata with more than 30,000 people. Bata is but a few hours away on the splendid motorway.

In this instance, it has been built and people will come. Ebebiyin on Saturday 31 January appears to be a dangerous swamp of misery waiting to spill.

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