We have played half the thirty-two games of the Nations Cup, and as yet, only one team cannot reach the knock out stages. Some teams chances are more than others though, and Senegal in particular have done a lot worse than expected, prompting their coach, Henri Kasperczak to resign his position immediately. It would have been little surprise had he been sacked before the third game anyway, and certainly he would have left the job soon after returning to Senegal empty handed, and probably now without a knock out game played. Kasperczak can expect to be joined by the majority of coaches whose teams lose out in the group stages, and a few others that go further but still do not reach expectations.
It is Group A that interests most Ghanaians, and the match against Morocco is key to their interests. As coach, Claude le Roy has been around long enough to know his job is not secure should he not get a result, but then with a dozen clubs already in his CV, no one would be surprised if he moved again, even if Ghana were to win the contest. His fellow Frenchman, Henri Michel is in a similar situation with the Morocco team. In the other match of the group, Guinea is expected to beat Namibia and therefore reach six points. Ghana already has six points, and so will go through (as group winners) and knock out Morocco if they win or draw. I personally expect Ghana to achieve this, and to go further in the tournament, but many of the locals are extremely nervous that Morocco will win, leaving three teams on six points.
In this case, the head to head counts first, hence should Morocco win by two (or more goals), they will win the group, Guinea (assuming a win) come second, and Ghana are out. A Morocco win by 1-0 means they will have scored and conceded three in the three team section, while Guinea have four (and therefore win the group), while Ghana have only two (out again). 2-1 also does not favour Ghana, but 3-2 leaves the possibility of the hosts and Guinea tied for second place – then the overall group’s goal difference comes in, and Ghana again look like losing out after only putting a single goal past Namibia.
The odd mathematical chance of Namibia qualifying would require that both they and Ghana win today.
Tomorrow, the better match will again be in Accra, where the Ivory Coast play Mali. The Ivorians were less then overwhelming in beating Nigeria in their first match, but then comfortably motored past Sudan. With six points, they are through to the next round, and a draw will see them confirmed as group winners. A group will also suit Mali, whose 0-0 draw against Nigeria was the dullest match of the tournament so far, but goes a long way to putting them through. Nigeria, who have been the most disappointing team so far, especially when the experience in the squad is reckoned with, should beat Benin, but this will only help should Mali lose their final game.
On Wednesday, action moves further North, with games in Kumasi and Tamale in group C. Egypt were stunning in the first game, and comfortable in the second and already have six points, like the hosts, they only need a draw against Zambia to be confirmed as group winners. Although, Zambia managed a good 3-0 win in their opening game, they came unstuck as their defence was broken by the Moroccans, showing a good spirit after their dispiriting opening game. Wins for Cameroon and Zambia would leave three teams on six points, wins for Egypt and Sudan would leave three teams on three – but I am expecting that neither of these scenarios happen, with Egypt not losing, while Cameroon will take the three points needed to go through.
I had to watch yesterday’s matches on TV, and I could not fail to be impressed by Angola’s second half demolition of Senegal; it seems that in signing Manuchno, Manchester United have picked up a predator with an eye for goal and a good header. Although given the choice, I think his strike partner, Flavio is an even better player; if you get the chance, look again at the Angola goal against South Africa and see the way Flavio controlled the ball before making the pass for Manuchno to head in Sadly for someone watching a club in League-1, I know we cannot match the wages Al-Ahli of Egypt can raise for him. South Africa, fortunate in getting a point against Angola, were then shown the door by Tunisia. On Thursday, Tunisia play Angola and a single point is the best result for both teams, this would put them both through with Tunisia winning the group. Should one team win, then the loser can only be caught by the team they did not beat yesterday, as head-to-head counts first in separating teams. Hence if Tunisia win, South Africa could come second by beating Senegal, but Senegal are out even if they win. If Angola beat Tunisia, then South Africa are out, but Senegal could still sneak through. Somehow, I expect a draw.
Post Match Footnotes
As it turned out, Ghana were too strong for Morocco, who offered less resistance in this game than they had against Guinea. The two goals were scored in the first half, with Essien reacting brilliantly to volley in a free kick from Muntari, and then returning the favour with a strong run, and then a pass for Muntari to score. In the other match, second half goals meant it finished 1-1, so Ghana go through with nine points, Guinea second with four, while Morocco and Namibia will go home