2012 Cup of African Nations Logo
We’re back in Gabon, where just four teams remain. We’ll see how they did in their attempts to reach the Cup of Nations Final.
January 9th: Côte d’Ivoire vs. Morocco
Albert Holstein’s Côte d’Ivoire started this match strongly, with Kolo Touré getting their first good chance of the match five minutes in, with his long-range shot across the floor being palmed onto the post and out by Morrocan ‘keeper Ismaïl Kouha. In the eighth minute, the Ivorians had a penalty shout as centreback Medhi Benatia brought down their forward Kader Keita. In fact, it was almost certainly a penalty, but Ghanaian referee Alex Quartey refused to listen to Ivorian entreaties, and let play continue. It was only right that a brilliant shot should open the scoring in such a contentious game, so Nabil Baha, who had steered his side through the last round, duly delivered in the 14th minute, rifling a beautiful shot into the top-left hand corner of the Ivorian net. Striker Nabil El Zhar deserved a lot of the credit for the craft he showed in setting up the goal. In the 17th minute later, a long-range Yaya Touré shot tested Kouha, but the 28-year-old kept the ball out with an instinctive save.
Morocco’s luck continued as, in the 21st minute, they were given a penalty that many critics agree should not have been theirs. Following a throw-in, Nabil Baha and Abdoulaye Meïté met in a challenge. Baha’s jump for the ball, and subsequent fall back down to earth, was adjudged as a Meïté trip by Alex Quartey, who pointed to the spot. Leftback Rachid Chihab stepped up, and had no problems slotting the ball low into the right-hand corner. Just two minutes later, Morocco had the ball in the net again. This time, a cross from midfielder Jamal Kessab was met by the foot of Abdoulaye Meïté, whose misfortune continued as he put the ball right at the feet of Morocco’s Alharbi El Jadeyaoui. El Jadeyaoui sent the ball straight into the top of the Ivorian goal, giving Didier Dardon’s side a tremendous three-goal lead. This gave them the confidence necessary to see out the remaining 50% of the first half without so much as a sniff of an opportunity for their opponents.
Côte d’Ivoire came out strongly after the break, in an attempt to take Morocco down from their wave of confidence. Kader Keita put a stinging shot on target in the 47th minute, but Kouha held firm, sending the ball behind for a corner. The first of the Moroccan goals was reclaimed in the fiftieth minute, when Keita took Guy Demel’s cross and ran it the remaining three yards into the net. But this spark of intense Ivorian activity soon fizzled out, and they found themselves still two goals down with just three minutes to play. This was the point that Morocco began to reaffirm themselves for the second half, with a long-range shot from Baha stinging the fingers of Ivorian ‘keeper Stephan Loboué. Christian Romaric had a similar shot down the other end for Côte d’Ivoire in the 90+1st minute, with the same reaction, this time from Ismaïl Kouha. But nothing came of the corner, and as it turns out, that was the last Ivorian shot of the match.
Man of the Match: Alharbi El Jadeyaoui, ML, Morocco (8.0)
January 9th: South Africa vs. Mali
In comparison to the last match, this was the dullest game of football ever. It took a while for both sides to get going, and Lerato Chabangu got the first good chance of the match eighteen mintues in, sending his close-range shot at Malian ‘keeper Cheick Oumar Bathily. It could be said that Mali just about had the better of the first half, but their shots, although they were on target, were limp and from long-range, and offered Mikael Schøler’s side no real chance of taking the lead. The lead was taken by Matt Lepino’s team shortly after the restart, when Bryce Moon headed Kermit Erasmus’s cross into the net from close range. Mali responded with much of what they had already tried: long-range but accurate shots. This time, Frédéric Kanouté launched the attempt, which was tipped over the bar by Moeneeb Josephs. Mamadou Diallo had a similar shot twenty minutes later in the 75th minute, with more power, but once again it was stopped by Josephs. Seydou Keita’s identical attempt was also palmed behind for a corner. The time trickled away, although not quickly enough for the restless neutrals, while South Africa’s best chance to double their lead and book their place in the Final came through Steven Pienaar in the 84th minute, but his finishing let him down. Nonethless, a second goal wasn’t necessary, and South Africa advanced to the Final after a boring match.
Man of the Match: Bryce Moon, MR, South Africa (7.7)
So only two nations remain in contention for the Cup of African Nations. They’ll play the Final when we return to Gabon, and we’ll also cover the Third Place Playoff.