Minnows soar as Zambia flop

2013-01-31 09:21:09

There was plenty of first-round drama at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations with debutants Cape Verde reaching the last eight and defending champions Zambia shock casualties.

Cape Verde, a 10-island nation of just 500 000 people and the smallest to qualify for the tournament, squeezed through thanks to a stoppage-time winner from Heldon against Angola.

Zambia could not match the 2012 heroics of Gabon/Equatorial Guinea and drew all three games to come third in a group won by rank outsiders Burkina Faso, who arrived with an embarrassing 17-match winless record at the tournament.

Togo were other shock qualifiers, finishing runners-up ahead of more fancied Algeria and Tunisia in a group predictably won by Ivory Coast, while hosts South Africa recovered from a dismal opening performance to progress.

We rate the performances of the eight teams who have made it to the quarter-finals this weekend, and the eight countries who have gone home to lick wounds.

QUALIFIERS:

BURKINA FASO

Far exceeded expectations to top Group C with a 4-0 rout of Ethiopia their first Cup of Nations victory since 1998. Huge blow that three-goal hot-shot Alain Traore will miss rest of tournament through injury.

CAPE VERDE

Proved shock qualifying win over Cameroon was no fluke by finishing ahead of former champions Morocco and regular participants Angola. No stars in this team - just dogged, disciplined players who wear the national colours with pride.

GHANA

Mixed showing as they surrendered two-goal lead againt DR Congo and should have beaten Mali by more than one goal before clicking against Niger with captain Asamoah Gyan scoring one goal and creating the other two.

IVORY COAST

A five-star showing against Tunisia after 'golden oldies' Didier Drogba and Kolo Toure were axed sealed first place with a game to spare. Started tournament as favourites and they remain the team to beat.

MALI

Desperate to do well and cheer Malians involved in a struggle back home against Islamist militants, but Seydou Keita and his team battled to overcome Niger, were outplayed by Ghana and wasted chances in a draw with DR Congo.

NIGERIA

Were 11 minutes from elimination when Chelsea midfielder Victor Moses came up trumps, converting two penalties against Ethiopia to take the Super Eagles through at expense of Zambia. Have battled to convert possession into goals.

SOUTH AFRICA

Lucky to hold Cape Verde before 80 000 wet, cold, disillusioned supporters, Bafana Bafana improved to beat Angola and came back twice to hold Morocco. Have rediscovered scoring touch, but centre-backs look vulnerable.

TOGO

After pre-tournament drama over whether captain Emmanuel Adebayor would play, the Sparrow Hawks came within two minutes of holding Ivory Coast, beat Algeria and held Tunisia to secure a first last-eight appearance.

NON-QUALIFIERS

ALGERIA

Failure to convert chances, including a penalty, proved undoing of a team who arrived ranked second on the continent behind Ivory Coast. Officials support coach Vahid Halilhodzic, but media calls for him to go are intensifying.

ANGOLA

A major disappointment with just one point from three games and no goals for much-hyped Spain-based goal-poacher Manucho. Had a chance to sneak through at the death, but blew it by conceding two late goals against Cape Verde.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

French coach Claude Le Roy saw his six Africa Cups record of always reaching the knockout phase end after the hot-and-cold Congolese drew all three matches. Brilliant at time against Ghana, but could not score against minnows Niger.

ETHIOPIA

Walias Antelopes held Zambia with 10 men, conceded three goals against 10-man Burkina Faso and contained Nigeria for 79 minutes before conceding two goals off penalties. Used three goalkeepers and two were red carded.

MOROCCO

Eliminated after hat-trick of draws - the 2-2 thriller against South Africa in Durban was a first-round highlight. Highly rated Younes Belhanda failed to sparkle, but young midfielder Abdelaziz Barrada is one to watch.

NIGER

Ultra-cautious Nigeriens almost took point off Mali and did take one off DR Congo before crumbling afer conceding an early goal against Ghana. Among weakest sides with little to offer going forward.

TUNISIA

A late penalty miss against Togo cost them a quarter-finals place they hardly deserved. Carthage Eagles coach Samir Trabelsi can have no complaints as they were lucky to defeat Algeria and came off second best against Ivory Coast.

ZAMBIA

Coach Herve Renard continued with his lucky white shirt and denim jeans combination, but it did not rub off on a team that failed to beat 10 Ethiopians, were lucky to hold Nigeria, and could not find the spark to sink Burkina Faso.


AFP
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