08 February, 2008

African Cup of Nations Roundup

So, the African Cup of Nations has its finalists. The championship game will take place in sunny Accra on Sunday will be played between the Pharaohs of Egypt and the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. Sadly, the Black Starts of Ghana and the mighty Elephants of the Ivory Coast have fallen by the wayside.

The highly favoured Elephants were shamed 4-1 by the Pharoahs in a fantastically open game, which might have alerted the small army of European scouts to some exiting new talents. Ahmed Fathi and Amr Zaki scored the first two for Egypt one each side of half time, before Kader Keita quickly pulled on back with a peach of a long range strike (1:05 into the video):

Egypt's reply was positive and succint, with Zaki grabbing his second of the game and Mohamed Aboutreika adding the fourth and final 'teabagging' goal in injury time. Egypt looked very good all game going forward and at the back, with keeper Al-Hadri putting on a terrific display to frustrate Drogba and keep the Elephants to just the one goal. It was a different story between the sticks for the West African team, however, as stalwart Boubacar Barry was forced off at half time for the inexperienced Stephan Loboue, who has to shoulder some blame for the Pharoah's second and third goals. Kolo Toure had a performance to forget and was also at fault for Egypt's third.

Earlier in the day, the Indomitable Lions edged out the Black Stars in a very different, much more closely fought game. The only goal of the game came in the 71st minute from supersub Alain Nkong, who has fought his way back into the team this competiton, having last played for Cameroon in 2002. The goal came completely against the run of play, as Cameroon had only really had one chance all game, as globetrotting Newcastle utilty man Geremi hit the bar from 40 yards out. Ghana were wasteful all game, as Agogo and Addo missed easy chances in both halves. They were probably distracted by the prospect of being rewarded with booty for their performances. Ghana weren't as incisive in midfield as they have been this tournament, as Michale Essien was forced to play in the back line all game, replacing captain Thomas Mensah who was ruled out through suspension. Without Essien and their injured talisman Stephen Appiah in the engine room, Ghana didn't have enough grit or creativity and could not find an answer to Nkong's opener.

Possibly the most amusing moment of the tournament came during injury time, as Reading's Andre Bikey flipped out and got a bit too physical with a medic who was treating his teammate Rigobert Song:

Bikey got shown the red card for his amusing brutality, but he was most likely incensed by the poorly driven medical golf cart, which have been the scourge of the tournament.

The final will be a replay of the group game that took place a few weeks ago, where Egypt really showed their credentials with a highly convincing 3-0 win, with a thunderstrike from former Obscure African of the Week Mohamed Zidan. The Pharoahs must be favourites, as they look to defend their title and add to their five titles in four different decades. For the Black Stars and the Elephants, it's national shame and a tro-tro ride home, but they can be happy i the fact that they've got some truly mental fans.