Yesterday evening’s 1-0 win by Mali over Guinea marked the end of the first round of games in this year’s African Cup of Nations. With 15 goals in 8 matches the competition has already seen some surprise results. It has also courted controversy as Teodorin Obiang jnr, son of the Equatorial Guinea President, first suggested, and then fulfilled a promise for a $1m dollar bonus for Equatorial Guinea’s players following a win in their first game. Perhaps more importantly for supporters of the host nation, EG’s win over Libya puts them second in Group A on goal difference to Zambia, who defeated Senegal in one of the shocks of the opening group games.
Senegal’s unexpected loss to a well-drilled Zambia team caught commentators (ahem, this one included) by surprise. But it hasn’t been the only unlikely result. In a north African battle in Group C Tunisia defeated outside favourites Morocco 2-1 to leave perspectivesonafrica’s ‘final’ prediction looking less and less likely. Ho hum. At least the competitiveness of this years tournament appears to have improved, even if world-class quality has been somewhat lacking in the opening fixtures.
In other results, the Group C match between Gabon and Niger ended in a win and a strong performance for the tournament co-hosts. Group B contenders Angola and Ivory Coast secured victories in their opening matches against Burkina Faso and Sudan respectively. Meanwhile in Group D Ghana joined Mali on three points after a hard-fought win over competition minnows Botswana.
With none of the cup’s strongest teams firing on all cylinders in the first round it’s everything to play for as we head into the next set of fixtures.
Games to watch out for:
Today: Equatorial Guinea v Senegal- Senegal desperately need a win to stay in the competition following their shock opening defeat. EG will be buoyed by a home crowd and their winning start versus Libya.
27/01/12: Niger v Tunisia- Tunisia are clear favourites for this game and could move clear at the top of Group C should Morocco beat Gabon.
27/01/12: Gabon v Morocco- After a good performance against Niger and being the only side to win by two clear goals, defensively sound Gabon might fancy their chances against a Morocco side who were outside favourites at the start of the competition. Morocco must win to stay in with a chance of reaching the quarter finals.
28/01/12: Ghana v Mali- Probably the most exciting game of this round see’s Group D’s joint leaders Ghana and Mali face each other in what should be a tight clash in Franceville. The winners of this tie are likely to head the group come the final stages and would be contenders for the tournament.