Report: Africa Cup of Nations 2015

Pitch problems cause relocation, Senegal, Algeria, Ghana through to quarter-finals at CAN day 11

Senegal's Papa Diop Koulygrabs the shirt of Algeria's Yacine Brahimi.
Senegal's Papa Diop Koulygrabs the shirt of Algeria's Yacine Brahimi. AFP

Quarter-final venues were reshuffled, aesthetic pyrotechnics could not save South Africa and established teams reasserted their supremacy on day 11 at the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN).

  • There are no pessimists at the Equatorial Guinea Football Association. When Equatorial Guinea decided that it would step in for Morocco and host the 30th CAN, there can’t have been any downbeat people in the meeting to decide the venues for the games. They must have all thought Equatorial Guinea would win Group
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  • A despite being the lowest-ranked team at the competition. On day 11 organisers CAF decided to inject some sense into proceedings and relocate two quarter-final clashes.  Group A winners Tunisia had been scheduled to play the Group B runners-up Equatorial Guinea in Ebebiyin. This would have caused a headache to say the least. The stadium in the eastern border town has a capacity of 8,000 and Equatorial Guinea have enjoyed crowds of more than 30,000 when they have featured in Bata. Their showdown with Tunisia will now take place on 31 January at 8.30pm in Bata following the quarter-final between the Group A winners Congo and the Group B runners-up Democratic Republic of Congo. The review can’t really believe no one asked: “Hang on a minute, what if we qualify in second place? The quarter-final on 1 Febraury between the Group C winners and the Group D runners-up that should have been in Mongomo has been transferred to Malabo.

  • Christian Gourcuff was right. The Algeria coach Christian Gourcuff lamented from his side’s first Group C match that the pitch in Mongomo was boggy and didn’t suit his team’s slick passing game. There was stuff about players not being confident about how the ball would travel over the surface. Algeria were all over the place in the first match on day three before South Africa self-destructed to hand them a 3-1 victory. The Algerians were undone on day seven in the final seconds against Ghana. Ironically, the opening came from a long punt over midfield.
  • CAF has an odd way of saying Gourcuff was right. “The newly installed pitches in Ebebiyin and Mongomo have been very satisfactory, allowing free flowing play during the group stages,” a statement said. “And this despite having been installed about only one month ago. However these two pitches have been adversely affected by a combination of wear and tear.” Algeria played their third Group C match in Malabo where Gourcuff said the field was more favourable to his side’s modus operandi. Algeria beat Senegal 2-0. Touché.
  • Pretty pretty doesn’t beat nitty gritty. Woe to us … but ‘twas ever thus. Alack! Alright, enough of the old vernacular but the ancient truths hold firm. South Africa have dazzled defences with their all-action forward game. Problem is they have run out of juice towards the end of their encounters and have allowed teams to come from behind to undo them. Sides have essentially bored them into submission. And so South Africa, for all their aesthetic pyrotechnics, are on the way home having finished bottom of Group C with one point. A by comparison prosaic Ghana have advanced as group winners with six points and Algeria were second also with six points.
  • Underdogs have had their day. For all the promise of upsets, it was the two more established teams who progressed from Group C. Going into the final matches on day 11, all four teams had the chance to move into the quarter finals. The arithmetic was simple for Senegal, Algeria and Ghana, a win would see them through. South Africa needed to beat Ghana by two clear goals and hope that Algeria would beat Senegal. Algeria did indeed beat the west Africans but South Africa could not build on their early lead against Ghana and lost 2-1. Africa’s top ranked team Algeria are into the quarter-finals against the winners of Group D on Sunday and Ghana take on the runners-up from Group D.


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