Report: Africa Cup of Nations 2015

Guinea and Mali have a date with destiny at the Malabo Hilton

A Ghana fan, Mongomo, 27 January 2015.
A Ghana fan, Mongomo, 27 January 2015. Reuters/Mike Hutchings

Five things we learned from day 12.

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  • It’s a cruel game. Perhaps we already know this but it’s important to remind ourselves of the fact. There you are more than 100 caps for your country and the nation’s most decorated player with trophies clogging up your mantle piece, but you still have to put the ball in the back of the net. Seydou Keita, formerly of the parish of Barcelona and presently gracing the midfield of Roma, missed a penalty in the 17th minute of Mali’s clash against Guinea. Goalkeeper dived right and saved the kick. If the Malian maestro had scored it would have been 1-1. His side did eventually level through Modiba Maiga. After the match Mali coach Henri Kasperczak showed excellent light touch management. “This kind of thing can happen to the greatest of players but if it had gone in it would have put us in a stronger position.” The diplomatic corps awaits.
  • It’s a cruel game so, as organisers, let’s make it worse. Group D was a complex child going into the final round of games on day 12. The previous four matches on day four and day eight had produced 1-1 draws. This meant various permutations. Whoever won would qualify for the last eight. But if there were two draws of same score line, all four teams would draw lots. If one game ended in say a 2-2 draw and the other game finished 3-3, then the teams from the 3-3 game would advance.  If there were a winner in one game but a draw in the other, then the teams featuring in the stalemate would draw lots.  And here’s the rub. Organisers CAF announced on day 12 that the lottery would take place on day 13. How hard can it be to draw lots?
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  • Guinea and Mali have a date with destiny at the Malabo Hilton. Cote d’Ivoire avoided the steely faced wait for their fate by beating Cameroon 1-0 on day 12. Given that the previous four games in the group had finished 1-1 it seemed rather unsporting to go and actually win. But Max Gradel was the hero, scoring his second goal of the tournament and permitting his team mates to reach the quarter-finals and a crunch with the Group C runners-up Algeria on day 16. Gradel will probably feature high on the Christmas card list of a certain Kouassi Gervais Yao – better known as Gervinho. The Roma man will be eligible for the tie after serving a two match for his slappy slappy tiff with Guinea’s Naby Keita during the opening game on day four.
  • For whom the bell tolls. Guinea coach Michel Dussuyer wasn’t happy, neither was his Malian counterpart Diplomat Kasperczak, nor Guinean midfielder Kevin Constant. No one liked the idea of having to draw lots to advance. The Diplomat said the thing should be decided somehow on the playing field. Pistols perhaps Henri? Constant considered penalties or extra time. It does seem odd that in the multi-billion dollar universe that is world football we have a system that seems a tad antiquated.
  • Dial M for Murder, Group D for Draw.  In the future, for that is where we are going, we will look back -.the review can guarantee that since that is our source material and remark upon the five draws in six matches of Group D at the 30th CAN. Quite remarkable, as the former commentator David Coleman would say. Group D was given the title the pool of death. It has provided us with sustained drama. Cameroon and Cote D’Ivoire featured at the world cup last summer and so were considered the strongest teams. Cameroon are on their way home. Guinea or Mali will join Cote D’Ivoire in the last eigth. As Senegal coach Alain Giresse said on the eve of the tournament, the CAN is a competition where the favourites don’t always prosper.

 

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