Ghana Stuns Algeria; South Africa, Senegal Draw

Posted January 23rd, 2015 at 5:38 pm (UTC-4)
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When Ghana announced that Asamoah Gyan had contracted malaria on the eve of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, fans of the Black Stars were understandably discouraged.

The striker who plays in the UAE Pro League was forced to watch his side’s opening 2-1 loss to Senegal from the sidelines.

Algeria’s Carl Medjani (R) looks on as Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan (C) scores the winning goal during their 2015 African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match in Mongomo. (REUTERS)

But the Ghanian captain silenced his doubters and elated fans Friday, scoring a scorcher of a goal against Algeria, keeping Ghana’s hopes for advancing alive.

The win stunned Algeria, who are the top ranked Africa team in the FIFA rankings, and the team mainly believe will ultimately raise the AFCON 2015 trophy.

The match was scoreless into extra time, with many expecting yet another tie that would give Algeria the advantage going into a final match against Senegal.

But in the 91st minute, Gyan collected a pass on the right corner of the Algerian box from Mubarak Wakaso, and sent it shooting into the bottom left corner.

Avram Grant, the former Chelsea, West Ham and Portsmouth coach, who now runs the Black Stars, had only superlatives for Gyan, according to the BBC:

“Asamoah Gyan was not fit – he didn’t train like he needed to – but he’s Asamoah Gyan, if you look at the stats and his behaviour in the dressing room.

“You know I have been coach of some of the great players – he’s one of the greatest. First – he always scores when you need him. Second – he’s good for the spirit of the team – he’s a very good captain.”

In other Group C action, South Africa scored early in the second half, but couldn’t hold off Senegal, as the rivals tied at 1, putting Senegal at the top of the group table.

 

 

Mike Eckel
Mike Eckel's dreams of being drafted by Man United or FC Barcelona peaked when he was captain of his high school football team, but ended during his short-lived college career. He continues to be an avid player (midfield) however and holds out hope that Jozy Altidore will get his act together for 2018. When not running VOA's football blogs, he writes about Russia, international war crimes, Central Asia corruption and oversees VOA's multimedia collaboration efforts.

So You Think You Can Dance?

Posted January 23rd, 2015 at 3:51 pm (UTC-4)
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Celebrating a goal in football is an art in itself. From intricately choreographed team celebrations, to individual acrobatics that would be the envy of any gymnast, there’s no doubt that the AFCON surely offers the best of the lot when it comes to continental tournaments. So who is stealing the show at AFCON 2015?

Zambian players seem to have brought not only their cleats but their dancing shoes as well to Equatorial Guinea. You don’t have to believe our words, just check out some of their moves below.

Emmanuel Mayuka might or might not have hurt himself with this celebration (he is 50% likely to play in Zambia’s last game)

judges-score

 

Zambia currently sits at the bottom of their group having drawn one game with Cape Verde and having lost another to Tunisia. Some of us here hope Zambia can pull a miraculous win to advance from the group stages, because no team that celebrates so well should be eliminated so quickly.

Honorable mention: Gabon National Team

Borussia Dortmund’s Aubameyang and his teammates had a few moves of their own during their opening match:

Teff Teff
Raised in Ethiopia, Teff Teff has played the game for as long as he remembers. He is a huge Manchester United supporter who tries to emulate his heroes the best way he can, on FIFA or at the local park. He is a multimedia producer for the Africa Division at VOA, where he spreads the football gospel to anyone who listens.

The White Witch Speaks: “This is a Very Nice AFCON!”

Posted January 23rd, 2015 at 2:24 pm (UTC-4)
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Congo has already seen historic success in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, its first appearance in the tournament since 2000.

Under the experienced eyes of Frenchman Claude Leroy, the Red Devils opened their bid for trophy with a 1-1 tie against Equatorial Guinea, but then notched a 1-0 victory against Gabon.

Leroy, who’s known affectionately as the “White Witch,” told VOA’s Nicolas Pinault this week that he’s expecting a difficult last game against Burkina Faso on Sunday.

Leroy

VOA: How did you celebrate this first victory of Congo in the African Cup of Nations since 1974?

LEROY: Last night at the common meal, we enjoyed this first victory for Congo in 41 years in the finals. Indeed, it called for a celebration. We return[ed] to training on Thursday.  The work has resumed.

VOA: What makes the playoffs magic still operating during this final phase?

LEROY: It’s been a year that it’s been working, gradually building a core team. There are quality players but, above all, a great state of mind. We know that there is no margin [of error]. We know that if we don’t do the maximum, we are going to meet with cruel disappointment. It will hurt everyone. Whatever happens this adventure is already great!

VOA: What do you think of your next opponent, Burkina Faso? Are they on the brink (of elimination)?

LEROY: They are not on the brink. They are a strong team even if they have not scored in two games. Burkina is still solid and punchy with Pitroipa and the Traore brothers, Bancé.  [Behind], they are muscular and go high into the air. We will play as we know how, without taking things too seriously. If you ask me to play a qualifier draw, you can immediately dismiss me because I do not know how. Players must have some fun, seriously.

VOA: Have you accommodation conditions improved?

LEROY: It is much better. People are dedicated to helping us. It was mostly very complicated in the three days before our match against Equatorial Guinea. Since that game is over, everything is much simpler… .

VOA: How do you feel Equatorial Guinea has organized this AFCON, at the last minute?

LEROY: “It’s amazing. It’s a very nice AFCON. I’m not saying this because we have good results. We see people in stadiums. The turf is good. People don’t talk about it, but there is a very good refereeing. In the first 10 matches, the referees were quality. This African Cup of Nations is impressive! Good matches; tight, young talent. It is a beautiful competition. ”

Listen to the original interview in French (and read it here)

 

Mike Eckel
Mike Eckel's dreams of being drafted by Man United or FC Barcelona peaked when he was captain of his high school football team, but ended during his short-lived college career. He continues to be an avid player (midfield) however and holds out hope that Jozy Altidore will get his act together for 2018. When not running VOA's football blogs, he writes about Russia, international war crimes, Central Asia corruption and oversees VOA's multimedia collaboration efforts.

Tunisia Beats Zambia 2-1; Cape Verde, DR Congo Scoreless

Posted January 22nd, 2015 at 9:59 pm (UTC-4)
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Tunisia capitalized on brief play from a 10-man Zambian squad after Emmanuel Mayuka went to the sidelines, as Ahmed Akaichi scored and Yasine Chikhaoui followed up to give Tunisia the win.

APTOPIX Equatorial Guinea Soccer African Cup

Tunisia’s goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi, right, is challenged by Zambia’s Emmanuel Mayuka, left, during their African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match in Ebibeyin, Equatorial Guinea, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. (AP)

The win puts Tunisia at the top of Group B with four points after two games, while Zambia has just one point, with one last game to play in order to advance.

Mayuka opened the scoring for Zambia in the 59th minute, but then injured himself in the 67th minute. As play continued with Mayuka on the sidelines, Akaichi pounced on a goal mouth scramble to punch home an equalizer for Tunisia.

Chikhaoui headed home the winning goal for Tunisia at the 89th minute.

Zambia must grab a win against Cape Verde in its last qualifying match, to stay in contention for the knockout round. Zambia has also not won a match since winning the Cup of Nations in 2012.

In other Group B action, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cape Verde battled to a scoreless draw. Both sides must win their final matches in order to advance.

 

 

Mike Eckel
Mike Eckel's dreams of being drafted by Man United or FC Barcelona peaked when he was captain of his high school football team, but ended during his short-lived college career. He continues to be an avid player (midfield) however and holds out hope that Jozy Altidore will get his act together for 2018. When not running VOA's football blogs, he writes about Russia, international war crimes, Central Asia corruption and oversees VOA's multimedia collaboration efforts.

Africa Cup of Nations: The Passion of the Fans

Posted January 22nd, 2015 at 11:42 am (UTC-4)
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There is nothing quite like football fans. Think the fervor of a religious revival, the uninhibited emotion of a rock concert, the intensity of a political rally. This year’s Africa Cup of Nations is no exception to that rule.

Check out some of the beautiful faces attending the matches of the beautiful game in Equatorial Guinea this past week.

 

Mike Eckel
Mike Eckel's dreams of being drafted by Man United or FC Barcelona peaked when he was captain of his high school football team, but ended during his short-lived college career. He continues to be an avid player (midfield) however and holds out hope that Jozy Altidore will get his act together for 2018. When not running VOA's football blogs, he writes about Russia, international war crimes, Central Asia corruption and oversees VOA's multimedia collaboration efforts.

Setting High Goals

Posted January 22nd, 2015 at 8:46 am (UTC-4)
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A goal, the holy grail of football. Every footballer wants to do it, and every fan wants to see it.

The Africa Cup of Nations having hosted many of these goals, we decided to brush up on our number skills by finding four interesting scoring facts.

Check out this video, and see if you can play along.

 

Want to take a wild guess about how many goals will be scored in AFCON 2015? (Hint: 20 have already been scored)

Post a comment below, and we’ll make sure to revisit your predictions.

 

Teff Teff
Raised in Ethiopia, Teff Teff has played the game for as long as he remembers. He is a huge Manchester United supporter who tries to emulate his heroes the best way he can, on FIFA or at the local park. He is a multimedia producer for the Africa Division at VOA, where he spreads the football gospel to anyone who listens.

Football, Fun and Festivities… And Lots of Police

Posted January 21st, 2015 at 8:03 pm (UTC-4)
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Equatorial Guinea Daily Life

People walk along the main road in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Bata is one of the venues for the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament currently taking place. (AP)

BATA, Equatorial Guinea _ Word on the street is that the stadiums have never been so full of fans for any Africa Cup of Nations in the past.

That may be because Equatorial Guinea has given out 40,000 tickets for free so locals can attend the matches.

That’s one of the eyebrow-raising details that has popped up during this year’s premier African football tournament. The country’s authoritarian leader is Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who, in the course of becoming Africa’s longest ruling leader, has created what many consider to be a police state, funded largely by revenues from substantial oil revenues. That’s given him alot of leeway to make sure his countrymen and women are happy.

To be fair, quirks, oddities and complications are to be expected when a county — any country— steps in at the last moment to host a major international sporting event. Morocco had been slated to host the 2015 event, but was stripped of the honor at the last moment. Equatorial Guinea agreed to take on the task, just nine weeks before things got underway.

Throughout the country, police are a strong, visible presence. At every major roundabout in every major population center, armed police are conducting ID checks, even pulling people from cars to check their IDs.

Normally, it would take just 90 minutes to drive between the cities of Bata and Ebebiyin, which is also hosting matches. These days, however, it takes three hours, on account of all the police checkpoints along the way.

And though the matches are themselves festive, with fans chanting, cheering, singing and dancing, there isn’t a lot of spontaneous celebrating or partying in the streets, as is usually the case at major sporting events. By nightfall, streets are empty of festivities.

There’s been lots of griping about visas, as well. Cameroon’s delegation angrily complained to reporters that 20 of their officials had tickets to attend matches, but couldn’t get visas. Many of the visa restrictions stem from government effort to restrict immigrants seeking work or to benefit from the country’s oil wealth.

Soldiers and policemen take their positions at the Estadio de Bata in Bata during the Africa Cup of Nations 2015 tournament. (REUTERS)

Many observers are also praising the government efforts to keep Ebola in check. The government recruited dozens of doctors from Egypt, Cuba and France to advise and conduct preventative measures to block the deadly disease. Hand sanitizer is ubiquitous, with hotel clerks advising people to wash their hands immediately upon checking in.

Banners hanging over streets tout the African football confederation’s efforts at fighting Ebola. And passengers have their temperature taken by foreign doctors the minute they step off planes at airports.

Congo Defeats Gabon; Equatorial Guinea and Burkina Faso Draw

Posted January 21st, 2015 at 5:53 pm (UTC-4)
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Hosts Equatorial Guinea held Burkina Faso to a goal-less draw Wednesday in the Africa Cup of Nations 2015 tournament, putting the 2013 runners-up in trouble going into their final game of the group qualifying round.

Thievy Bifouma of Congo is challenged by Gabon's Johann Obiang during their Group A soccer match of the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Bata

Thievy Bifouma of Congo is challenged by Gabon’s Johann Obiang during their Group A soccer match of the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Bata. (REUTERS)

Les Étalons saw a surprise first-round loss to Group A rivals Gabon earlier, which means they must eke out a strong win against Congo on Sunday in order to stay in contention to advance to the knockout round.

Alain Traore came closest to putting Burkina on the score sheet, hitting the posts twice in the first half, with a curled free-kick at 19th minute, and volley that was tipped by Equatorial Guinea keeper Didier Ovono at the 39th minute.

In the other Group A match Wednesday, Congo defeated Gabon 1-0, on a goal from Prince Oniangue, collected off a corner kick in the 48th minute.

The win, which put Congo atop the Group A standings, was Congo’s first in AFCON competition in 41 years, according to the BBC.

Mike Eckel
Mike Eckel's dreams of being drafted by Man United or FC Barcelona peaked when he was captain of his high school football team, but ended during his short-lived college career. He continues to be an avid player (midfield) however and holds out hope that Jozy Altidore will get his act together for 2018. When not running VOA's football blogs, he writes about Russia, international war crimes, Central Asia corruption and oversees VOA's multimedia collaboration efforts.

Hugs and High Fives for Ghoulam’s Goal

Posted January 21st, 2015 at 3:56 pm (UTC-4)
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It’s National Hugging Day in the USA.

So how about some hugs and high fives for Algerian defender Faouzi Ghoulam, who may have the finest goal to date in the Nations Cup?

The 23-year-old Ghoulam, who plays for Napoli in Italy’s Serie A, fired in a left-footed howler in the 72nd minute of Algeria’s 3-1 victory over South Africa in Mongomo on Monday.

As you can see from the photo, Ghoulam’s teammates thought he deserved a few hugs after that blistering strike.

Ghoulam and “The Desert Foxes” of Algeria entered the Nations Cup as Africa’s highest-ranked team, according to FIFA, world football’s governing body. You might say “The Desert Foxes” are thirsting for Nations Cup success. Their one and only title came in 1990 when they hosted the tournament.

Algeria will be back on the pitch Friday when it plays Ghana in Mongomo. Ghana is coming off a 2-1 loss to Senegal in its opening Nations Cup match.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Reporting From Malabo

Posted January 21st, 2015 at 8:06 am (UTC-4)
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The Africa Cup of Nations is underway after a controversial build-up to the 30th edition, which included a hasty late switch of hosts to Equatorial Guinea, in the wake of concerns over the Ebola virus. Sixteen nations again line up for the biennial continental championship, seeking Africa’s top football prize at the tournament which finishes on Feb. 8th.

For more, VOA’s Vincent Makori is joined via Skype by VOA’s Abdushakur Aboud, from Malabo in Equatorial Guinea.

 

Mike Eckel
Mike Eckel's dreams of being drafted by Man United or FC Barcelona peaked when he was captain of his high school football team, but ended during his short-lived college career. He continues to be an avid player (midfield) however and holds out hope that Jozy Altidore will get his act together for 2018. When not running VOA's football blogs, he writes about Russia, international war crimes, Central Asia corruption and oversees VOA's multimedia collaboration efforts.

Sixteen teams. 28 matches. Three weeks. One winner. Champion of Africa.
 

Follow all the action in the Africa Cup of Nations 2015 with Voice of America. Led by on-the-ground coverage by Abdushakur Aboud from Equatorial Guinea, VOA’s reporters, producers and bloggers will be watching and reporting—here and on-the-air—as the sides look for bragging rights to be called the best in Africa, and look toward World Cup 2018.
 

Sonny Side of Sports will return to this space after February 9.
 

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Schedule — All Times UTC

QUALIFYING ROUND

Saturday, Jan. 17 -- Group A
Equatorial Guinea v. Congo 4 p.m.
Burkina Faso v. Gabon 7 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 18 -- Group B
Zambia v. RD Congo 4 p.m.
Tunisia v. Cape Verde 7 p.m.

Monday, 19 Jan. -- Group C
Ghana v. Senegal 4 p.m.
Algeria v. South Africa 7 p.m.

Tuesday, 20 Jan. -- Group D
Cote d'Ivoire v. Guinea 6 p.m.
Mali v. Cameroon 7 p.m.

Wednesday, 21 Jan. -- Group A
Equatorial Guinea v. Burkina Faso 6 p.m.
Gabon v. Congo 7 p.m.

Thursday, 22 Jan. -- Group B
Zambia v. Tunisia 4 p.m.
Cape Verde v. RD Congo 7 p.m.

Friday, 23 Jan. -- Group C
Ghana v. Algeria 4 p.m.
South Africa v. Senegal 7 p.m.

Saturday, 24 Jan. -- Group D
Cote d'Ivoire v. Mali 4 p.m.
Cameroon v. Guinea 7 p.m.

Sunday, 25 Jan. -- Group A
Congo v. Burkina Faso 6 p.m.
Gabon v. Equatorial Guinea 6 p.m.

Monday, 26 Jan. -- Group B
RD Congo v. Tunisia 6 p.m
Cape Verde v. Zambia 6 p.m.

Tuesday, 27 Jan. -- Group C
South Africa v. Ghana 6 p.m.
Senegal v. Algeria 6 p.m.

Wednesday, 28 Jan. -- Group D
Cameroon v. Cote d'Ivoire 6 p.m.
Guinea v. Mali 6 p.m.

QUARTERFINALS

Saturday, 31 Jan.
1st Group A v. 2nd Group B 4 p.m.
1st Group B v. 2nd Group A 7 p.m.

SEMIFINALS

Wednesday, 4 Feb.
Winner 25 v Winner 28 7 p.m.

FINALS

Sunday, 8 Feb.
Winner 29 v. Winner 30 7 p.m.

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