Mali scored four goals in the last 15 minutes to draw 4-4 and astonish the football world in their opening game against hosts Angola. Minnows Malawi made World Cup-bound Algeria look very ordinary by beating them 3-0 and sending shockwaves across North Africa. Then Gabon pulled off another extraordinary result: they sunk Africa’s top-ranked team 1-0. We thought we had seen it all.
The first two quarterfinals of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations have already produced two massive upsets. Last night, hosts Angola were sent crashing out of the competition by a young and inexperienced Ghanaian team. The nation was in tears. Then the Ivory Coast got their match in the form of slow starters Algeria in a thrilling 120 minutes, Algeria twice coming from behind to beat the pre-tournament favourites 3-2.
So the Ivory Coast, with their star-studded squad and despite Kader Keita scoring probably the goal of the tournament, are out of Angola 2010. A young Ghanaian squad missing Michael Essien, Cpt Stephen Appiah, Sulley Muntari, John Mensah, Paintsil and Larya Kingson has proved many of us wrong, including myself. This team which includes Dede Ayew, the son of African football legend Abedi Pele, is now confident enough to dream of winning the cup Ghana failed to win on home soil two years ago. Who will stand in their way? Is it Algeria, whose win over Didier Drogba and co has now justified their qualification for South Africa? Or is it the Pharaohs, marching to cross the Red Sea for an unprecedented third time.
Meanwhile, a war is looming in Angola. If Egypt put Cameroon on a flight back to Yaoundé, we will be in for a classic semi-final that will revive a North African rivalry: that rivalry which decided the final spot in South Africa 2010 for the host continent. Egypt will have a chance for revenge. Algeria will be cross-examined. In six hours, we will know if the UN has to send peace-keeping troops to Angola. Cameroon have the chance to stop a war, but are they up to the task?
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