21 January 2013
The first goal of the 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations was scored just before half-time in the third match of the tournament, but that contest turned into a superb spectacle, while the fourth match of the event finally produced the first win.
Ghana, one of the tournament favourites, were held to a 2-2 draw by a never-say-die Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Port Elizabeth on Sunday, while Mali withstood a tough challenge from Niger to record a 1-0 victory and move to the top of the Group B standings.
For Ghana, it was an opportunity lost as they allowed the Leopards to come back from two goals down to snatch a draw.
The pitch at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium played beautifully, allowing for flowing football, and both sides were able to put together some good passages of play. The DRC, showing no stage fright, took the game to their more fancied opponents, but it was Ghana who made the first breakthrough.
Some superb passing between Asamoah Gyan and Kwadwo Asamoah led to Gyan crossing the ball into the centre along the ground at the edge of the six-yard box where Emmanuel Agyemang-Badua met it and provided the finish.
Five minutes into the second half, Asamoah put the Black Stars two goals clear with a headed goal, but the Congolese kept coming at them and were rewarded with a goal three minutes later by the industrious Tresor Mputu.
In the 68th minute, South African referee Daniel Bennett awarded the DRC a penalty. Dieumerci Mbokani went down comically, but his shirt had been held and credit to Bennett for penalising something not always blown. Mbokani struck from the spot to level the scores.
A draw was a fair result for both teams, but the DRC’s coach Claude le Roy was no doubt a lot happier than Ghana’s Kwesi Appiah after the contest.
For Ghana, John Pantsil, Kwadwo Asamoah and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, while Jean Kasusula, Cedric Makiadi and Tresor Mputu were the best of the Congolese players.
After a tepid opening to Afcon 2013 on Saturday, when Group A failed to produce a goal in two matches, both teams looked a class above Group A sides South Africa, Cape Verde, Angola and Morocco, but the pitch, which was markedly better than the National Stadium’s, certainly contributed to a better game, and it is too early to make a final judgment on any other teams.
Mali became the first winners in the 2013 tournament thanks to a late strike by captain Seydou Keita. Many had expected it to be an easier contest for the Eagles, but Niger showed plenty of toughness, which at times resulted in some rather reckless tackling.
At times, the play was a little scrappy, but there was much better structure than had been seen in Saturday’s games.
Keita led from the front, while Adama Tamboura performed excellent defensive work on Niger captain Moussa Maazou, and Italian-based striker Mamadou Samassa did sterling work when he came on as a substitute.
Striker Modibo Sidibe, formerly with South African First Division club Jomo Cosmos, took a blow to his head early in the game, but that seemed to spur his fighting instincts and he was arguably Niger’s best player on the night. On the defensive side of things, Koffi Dan Kowa was a solid, steadying presence.
An entertaining group
It is difficult to read too much into Group B’s opening games, but they showed enough to suggest that it could be an entertaining group, with Niger possibly playing second fiddle to the other three teams. Then again, it took Mali, ranked 25th in the world, until six minutes from time to finally break through.
The Eagles, based on their consistency and results of recent times, must be considered one of the tournament front-runners. Ghana showed in the 2010 Fifa World Cup that they have the quality to go all the way, and the DRC showed they will not stand back for any other team, so good luck to anyone trying to predict how it all plays out – which is a good thing for the neutral football fan.
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