Africa Cup of Nations review: The group stages

By Steve Mitchell

African Cup of Nations Preview

Group A

Like when John F Kennedy was assassinated, everyone will know where they were on the night of January 10, 2010.

The 27th Cup of Nations kicked off in Luanda with the hosts Angola taking on one of the tournament favourites Mali. After 79 minutes, in front of a fervent home crowd, Angola were 4-0 ahead with the Mali players looking totally bemused with what had happened.

Then Sedou Keita pulled one back, the hosts crumbled under the weight of expectation and Mali made one of the most dramatic comebacks ever seen in a football match. An unforgettable start to Africa’s footballing carnival which, after the atrocities suffered by the Togo team just 48 hours earlier, had gone someway to demonstrate to the world that terrorism would not stop the party from going ahead.

A day later, Malawi shocked Algeria with a convincing 3-0 win to throw Group A wide open. In the second round of matches, Mali took on Algeria with everyone looking for a reaction from Stephen Keshi’s men – what they got was yet another surprise as Algeria sneaked a 1-0 win to put the Malians on the verge of elimination.

The hosts eased past Malawi with the tournaments outstanding player, Flavio, netting for the third time in two games and all but confirming his country’s qualification to the knock-out phase. In the final round of matches, Mali had to beat Malawi and hope that Algeria slipped up against Angola. Freddie Kanoute and Keita helped their country to a 3-1 win — but it was all in vain as Angola played out a goalless draw with Algeria to ensure both countries made it into the last eight.

Group A results:
Angola 4-4 Mali
Malawi 3-0 Algeria
Mali 0-1 Algeria
Angola 2-0 Malawi
Angola 0-0 Algeria
Mali 3-1 Malawi

Group B

Togo’s decision to pull out of the tournament left just three teams in this group.

The Ivory Coast were strong favourites to top the standings but after a dismal opening showing against Burkina Faso, alarm bells started to ring as their next opponents Ghana lay in wait. This highly-anticipated encounter saw two of the English Premier League’s biggest names go head-to-head as Didier Drogba came up against his Chelsea teammate Michael Essien.

Drogba netted for the Ivory Coast as a less than 100% fit Essien only appeared as a second half substitute for Ghana. A 3-1 final score for the Elephants was a fair reflection on proceedings. With the Ivory Coast safely into the last eight, Ghana now had to beat Burkina Faso to ensure qualification.

Essien left the tournament without kicking another ball – his World Cup hopes now also in doubt. The Black Stars scraped through thanks to a goal from Andre Ayew after half an hour. A big improvement will be needed if Milovan Rajevac’s men are to progress into the last four.

Group B results:
Ivory Coast 0-0 Burkina Faso
Ivory Coast 3-1 Ghana
Ghana 1-0 Burkina Faso

Group C

Group C’s big game was the opener as Egypt took on Nigeria.

The match was completely one sided as the Pharaoh’s tore into the Super Eagles to run out 3-1 winners and take control of the section. The two outsiders of the group, Mozambique and Benin fought out a 2-2 draw to ease some of the pressure on Nigerian coach Shuaibu Amodu.

The Super Eagles then beat Benin 1-0 and with Egypt easily disposing of Mozambique, Nigeria had been saved the embarrassment of an early exit from the tournament. In the final round of matches, Egypt beat Benin 2-0 whilst Nigeria ran out 3-0 winners against Mozambique with former Inter Milan and Newcastle striker Obafemi Martins, getting on the score sheet.

Group C Results:
Egypt 3-1 Nigeria
Mozambique 2-2 Benin
Nigeria 1-0 Benin
Egypt 2-0 Mozambique
Egypt 2-0 Benin
Nigeria 3-0 Mozambique

Group D

The shocks kept on coming as Paul Le Guen’s highly-fancied Cameroon side lost 0-1 to Gabon in the Group D opener.

Daniel Cousin, who plies his trade in the Premiership with Hull City, brought much rejoicing to his country with a 17th minute winner. The Indomitable Lions were let off the hook however as the other two teams in the section – Tunisia and Zambia drew 1-1 in Lubango.

In the second round of matches, Gabon and Tunisia fought out a goalless draw whilst Le Guen’s men overcame Zambia 3-2 in a thriller. Former Chelsea man Geremie and Samuel Eto’o helped keep their country’s hopes alive. As we entered the final round of matches, all four teams were in with a chance of progressing to the knock-out phase.

Zambia disposed of the Gabon 2-1 to reach the quarter-final’s but the real drama was in Lubango where Cameroon twice came from a goal down to break Tunisian hearts and snatch the second qualification spot. Eto’o and Landry Nguemo saw their country over the finishing line.

Group D Results:
Cameroon 0-1 Gabon
Zambia 1-1 Tunisia
Cameroon 3-2 Zambia
Gabon 0-0 Tunisia
Cameroon 2-2 Tunisia
Zambia 2-1 Gabon

So, the quarter-final line-up look like this:

Sunday January 24
Angola v Ghana
Ivory Coast v Algeria

Monday January 25
Egypt v Cameroon
Zambia v Nigeria

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