Controversial AFCON Lottery Advances Guinea, Sends Mali Home Grumbling

Posted January 29th, 2015 at 12:17 pm (UTC-4)
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BATA, Equatorial Guinea _ Guinea beat out Mali for the right to advance to the knockout round in the Africa Cup of Nations tournament Thursday, after organizers held a controversial tie-breaker lottery.

Guinea’s head coach Dussuyer reacts during their 2015 African Cup of Nations Group D soccer match against Ivory Coast in Malabo. (REUTERS)

After three qualifying matches for Group D, only Cote D’Ivoire emerged as a clear winner, with 5 points to advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament.

Guinea and Mali, however, wrapped up their qualifying efforts with a 1-1 tie on Wednesday, making them equal second-place finishers in the group,with identical point rankings.

Tournament organizers then drew lots on Thursday to determine which team would advance. Guinea won that right.

But several members of the AFCON organizing committee said there was deep unhappiness and disagreement about whether drawing lots was the best way to proceed. One member, who asked not to be named since he was not authorized to share internal discussions, said world football governing body FIFA had pushed the tournament to instead decide the game by the traditional method: overtime and then a penalty shoot-out.

“We had a number of meetings before the matches and most of us agreed that we should decide the outcome on the field but not at the able but the executive (committee) would not agree,” the member told VOA.

Officials from the Confederation of African Football refused to comment immediately on the controversy, but scheduled a news conference Friday.

Officials at FIFA did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The two team’s coaches also criticized the decision, telling the BBC it was unfair​.

“Mali do not deserve to be eliminated in this way, just as we do not,” Guinea coach Michel Dussuyer was quoted as saying.

Guinea plays Ghana on Sunday.

With 1-1 Tie, Mali and Guinea’s Fate Hangs With Lottery

Posted January 28th, 2015 at 7:04 pm (UTC-4)
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Mali and Guinea battled to a draw in the Africa Cup of Nations Wednesday, leaving the fate of the two Group D rivals in the hands of a highly unusual lottery.

Guinea took the lead in the 14th minute with Kevin Constant coolly converting a penalty resulting from a handball by Mali’s Salif Coulibaly.

Mali themselves earned a penalty less than two minutes later when Guinea’s Baissama Sankoh was booked for a handball. Unfortunately for Mali, captain Seydou Keita’s penalty was saved by Guinea’s keeper.

Mali finally equalized in the 46th minute when Modibo Maiga headed Abdoulaye Diaby’s cross. Neither team was able to score after that.

Mali’s Yacouba Sylla (C) challenges Guinea’s Kevin Constant during their 2015 African Cup of Nations Group D soccer match in Mongomo.

With both teams having drawn all of their group games, and having equal numbers of points and goals, their destiny now lies in the hands of the organizing committee who will draw lots on Thursday to decide who goes through.

The other Group D match, meanwhile, was more decisive, with Cote D’Ivoire notching the first and only win of Group D’s qualifying games. Max Gradel’s screamer in the 35th minute was all that was needed to settle the game, with Cameroon, and especially midfielder Edgar Salli, missing two clear cut chances.

It was a fair result for Ivory Coast, who avoid the lottery, the same process that evicted them from the tournament in 1988, the last time the it was used.

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.

Quarterfinal Matches Get Moved Due to Bad Pitch

Posted January 28th, 2015 at 6:21 pm (UTC-4)
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CAN_Ahmadou_Shawarma_s_Stand_Mongomo

Vendors like Ahmadou, a Cameroonian man selling shwarma outside the stadium in Mongomo, aren’t happy about the decision to move the quarterfinal matches. (VOA/Abdushakur Aboud)

MONGOMO, Equatorial Guinea _ Good news for teams scheduled to play on the fraying pitch in the stadiums of Mongomo and Ebebyin. Bad news for the vendors who have been cashing in on fans attending Africa Cup of Nations matches.

The Confederation of African Football, organizers of the premier football tournament for the continent, announced Tuesday that quarterfinal matches would be moved due to the state of the pitches in the two cities’ stadiums.

With Equatorial Guinea stepping in at the last minute to host the tournament, the stadiums had to have turf specially flown in from Spain, just weeks before the beginning of the tournament. But the turf hasn’t taken well, and grounds keeping staff have had to walk the pitches at halftime to replace segments that have been torn out by play.

Some organizers have also complained the stadiums are far too small to host the quarterfinal matches. And there’s been grumbling from teams about the state of accommodations in the distant cities.

Instead, the upcoming games will be played in the capital, Malabo, and the bustling port city of Bata.

While competing teams will be happier, vendors are clearly not. Amadou, a Cameroonian man selling shwarma to game goers, said he had rented his kiosk at a rate of $200 for three days. Now he’s out that investment.

“This horrible, and unfair for us, they didn’t inform us about all this,” he told VOA.

They Do Have an Award For That…Trophies

Posted January 27th, 2015 at 6:28 pm (UTC-4)
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The best African teams go through a rigorous campaign to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, only to face an even tougher assembly of teams in the official tournament. The winning team must endure potential upsets and beat defending champions to obtain continental bragging rights.

And what better way to display one’s glory than to proudly lift a trophy!

With AFCON having been host to three different trophies throughout the years, we revisit the stories behind these trophies of the past, and present.

1. Abdelaziz Abdallah Salem Trophy

The original trophy, made of silver, was named after the first CAF president, Egyptian Abdelaziz Abdallah Salem. Ghana became the first team to keep this trophy indefinitely after becoming the first winners of three Nations Cups in 1978.  

The Ghanaian football team, holding the Abdelaziz Abdallah Salem Trophy, in 1965.

 

2. Trophy of African Unity/African Unity Cup

Named the Trophy of African Unity or the African Unity Cup, AFCON’s second trophy was given by the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa to the CAF prior to the 1980 tournament. This trophy’s design included a cylindrical piece with the Olympic rings, laid over an engraved map of the continent. It sat on a squared base and had futuristic triangular handles. Awarded from 1980 to 2000, it was permanently placed in the hands of the Cameroonian National Team that hoisted the trophy for the third time in 2000.

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The Trophy of African Unity being lifted by South African captain Neil Tovey after it was presented to him by the late President Nelson Mandela in 1996.

 

3. The Cup of Nations

In 2001, the third trophy was revealed, a gold-plated cup designed and made in Italy by the same company that created the many trophies for FIFA World Championships. Egypt was the victor this time; winning the gold-plated cup indefinitely after they became three-time champions in 2010, in an unprecedented achievement by winning their titles consecutively! Unlike previous winners, Egypt was awarded a full size replica of the trophy for their efforts, with CAF deciding to permanently keep the Cup of Nations as a staple of the tournament.

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Egypt’s captain Ahmed Hassan, center, looks up as he holds the trophy flanked by CAF president Issa Hayatou.

 

 

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.

Algeria, Ghana Advance to Knockout Round

Posted January 27th, 2015 at 5:00 pm (UTC-4)
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Mandla Masango of South Africa challenges Ghana’s Afriyie Acquah (L) during their 2015 African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match in Mongomo.

Algeria and Ghana advanced to the knockout round of the Africa Cup of Nations Tuesday, with the Desert Foxes winning a decisive 2-0 victory over Senegal Tuesday and the Black Stars beating South Africa 2-1.

Ghana ended the group stage atop Group C on goal differentials, even though Algeria is currently the top rated African side in the world FIFA rankings.

Algeria went ahead early, with a free kick in the 11th minute by Madjid Bougherra that went to an unmarked Riyad Mahrez who deftly sent a right-footed shot into the bottom right corner. Nabil Bentaleb added a second at the 82nd minute with a left-footed shot.

Ghana, meanwhile,came came from behind to send the South Africans packing. South Africa struck first, with Mandla Masango putting the Bafana Bafana ahead at the 17th minute with a 25-yard volley and spooking the Black Stars.

But John Boye gave hope to Ghana with a goal at minute 72, and an assist Marseille winger Andre Ayew, who then went on to score the decisive goal with a header at the 83rd minute on a cross from Baba Rahman.

Algeria and Ghana will take on the winner and runner-up of Group D on Sunday.

 

 

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.

AFCON’s Group Of Death Reaches Climax

Posted January 27th, 2015 at 2:43 pm (UTC-4)
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BATA, Equatorial Guinea _ Billed as the toughest section at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations when the draw was made, Group C reaches its denouement on Tuesday evening.

Everything is still up for grabs as group leaders Senegal take on pre-tournament favorites Algeria in Malabo while Ghana and South Africa clash in Mongomo.

There are myriad different scenarios as all four sides bid to advance to the knockout stages, although Alain Giresse’s Senegal know that a draw against Algeria will take them through, while a win will ensure that they go through to the last eight as group winners.

The Lions of Teranga are looking to qualify for the tournament knockout stage for the first time since 2006, when they reached the semi-finals in Egypt.

Algeria, who won 2-1 in the 1990 semi-finals in the only previous meeting of the sides at the competition, know a win will take them into the last eight.

However, Christian Gourcuff’s side, Africa’s top-ranked team, will also progress with a draw if South Africa beat Ghana in the other match.

Meanwhile, in Mongomo, Ghana will go through with a win, while a draw will suffice provided Algeria don’t beat Senegal.

South Africa must win and hope Senegal beat Algeria, although they would also go through in the case of an Algeria win provided they can overturn their goal difference deficit to Senegal.

Sonny Side of AFCON

Posted January 26th, 2015 at 5:55 pm (UTC-4)
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A Sonny Side of Sports insight and analysis into Africa’s premier football tournament:

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.

Rain Dampens Zambia-Cape Verde Match… And Neither Side Advances

Posted January 26th, 2015 at 4:53 pm (UTC-4)
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Zambia and Cape Verde battled to a rain-soaked goal-less draw Monday, sending Zambia, the 2012 champions, homeward.

The tie resulted in both teams at the bottom of Group B, meaning Cape Verde also failed to advance.

Democratic Republic of Congo’s Jeremy Bokila scores a goal against Tunisia during their Group B soccer match of the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Bata. (REUTERS)

In the other Group B match-up, however, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tunisia drew at 1 apiece, giving both sides a point, top placement at the head of the group and advancement to the knockout round.

Tunisia’s Ahmed Akaichi scored first, with a 31st minute header from the box to the bottom right corner.

Congo’s Jeremy Bokila responded with a left-footed howler from the center of the box in the 66th minute, off a headed pass from Dieumerci Mbokani.

Tunisia will take on host Equatorial Guinea in their first knockout round match on Saturday, while DR Congo takes on Congo.

 

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.

Oh My…

Posted January 26th, 2015 at 1:19 pm (UTC-4)
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Manchester City’s new signing Wilfried Bony pulled an amazing bit of skill over the weekend at AFCON 2015.

The move, called an “elastico” because it involves a quick snappy change of direction, was popularized by Brazilian legend Ronaldinho during his mesmerizing career.

To add insult to injury, Bony’s “elastico” nutmegged Malian defender Molla Wagué, the latter scrambling to cover the ball to safety as it went in between his legs.

No one will know why Wagué impeding Bony’s run wasn’t called a penalty, but we sense that the referee must have thought Bony’s skill was punishment enough.

To be fair to Wagué, he isn’t the first defender to fall victim to Bony’s bag of tricks.

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.

Equatorial Guinea Reaches Knockout Round with Win Over Gabon

Posted January 26th, 2015 at 11:19 am (UTC-4)
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Equatorial Guinea’s Vazquez Evuy challenges Gabon’s Madinda during their Group A soccer match of the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Bata. (REUTERS)

Equatorial Guinea sent hometown fans into exultation Sunday, with a 2-0 win over Gabon that sent the Africa Cup of Nations host advancing to the knockout round.

A 55th minute foul by Lloyd Palun against striker Javier Balboa led to a penalty and a goal by Balboa.

Gabon, led by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, struggled to match the goal, but Equatorial Guinea sealed victory in the 86th minute when Ibán slotted home a left footed howler from the center of the box.

Also Sunday, Congo emerged atop Group A standings, advancing to the knockout round with a 2-1 win over Burkina Faso. Fabrice N’Guessi and Thievy Bifouma led the scoring for Congo, who will appear in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1992.

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.

About

Sonny Side of Sports is an energetic and action-packed look at both world and African sports, broadcast on radio, TV and the Internet. Since the show’s creation in 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.

The Sonny Side of Sports is broadcast Monday through Friday at 1630 and 1830 UTC/GMT. And on Fridays at 1730 UTC/GMT, Sonny has an expanded 30-minute sports show.

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