Ola Angola! 16 teams started the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations hosted by Angola. Now only 8 remain after the completion of the group stage of the competition. The tightest of the groups was undoubtedly Group D which had Cameroon, Gabon, Zambia and Tunisia. It was an exciting day on Thursday as all the four teams had a chance of making the quarterfinals. Zambia, though, stole the limelight on a day they started at rock bottom before finishing group winners based on goal difference.
The Copper Bullets have been trying to go past the group stage of the competition for the last 14 years. And their coach was understandably animated in his celebrations after the game, rushing to hug Kalusha Bwalya like a hero who had just scored a golden goal. Zambia will now face the Super Eagles of Nigeria on Monday in a tie that could go either way.
Here are the 8 teams that have qualified for the quarterfinals of the AFCON 2010: Angola, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Egypt, Nigeria, Zambia and Cameroon. Zambia are probably the biggest surprise package so far. Cameroon were pre-tournament favorites, but that title has now been taken by Egypt who have won all their group games and played some beautiful football.
Quarter Final 1: Angola vs Ghana
This is a very tight game. Angola will hope that their star so far, Flavio, will be back to fitness as they prepare to take on an inexperienced Ghanaian team. Even with the loss of Michael Essien to injury, Ghana still have a lot of quality. Kingston should be very busy in goal, though, on a day the Black Panthers, who have set their sights on a spot in the final, will be looking to please a 50,000 plus home crowd. What more, the President will be watching!
Angola should carry the day, even though just. A score line of 2-1.
Quarter Final 2: Ivory Coast vs Algeria
Both teams are headed for South Africa 2010. This is set to be a mouth-watering game. Algeria are avid defenders(they pipped African champions Egypt to the World Cup), the Ivory Coast are well known for their attack led by Didier Drogba. The return of Emmanuel Eboue should bolster the Elephants’ defence and also give them that extra bit of pace during their counterattacks.
I fancy the Ivory Coast to win this one by two goals. 3-1 looks likely.
Quarter Final 3: Zambia vs Nigeria
The Copper Bullets are on a high after qualifying for the last eight. Chamanga and Mweene, the goalkeeper, are the weak points of the team according to me. But the presence of the Katongo brothers and Jacob Mulenga more than makes up for this. Zambia are good at attacking and played some free-flowing football in their 2-1 win over Gabon. Nigeria’s defence lacks Joseph Yobo, the captain, who plies his trade at Everton. John obi Mikel is beginning to raise his game, and the return of Obafemi Martins provides more options in attack.
I think this one will go to a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes. Zambia should win on penalties and continue their love affair with AFCON 2010 into the semifinals.
Quarter Final 4: Egypt vs Cameroon
This is a repeat of the 2008 final. Egypt are the firm tournament favourites now and their captain, Hassan, has controlled the midfield in all their games so far. He is beginning to look very dangerous in front of goal as well. Mohammed Aboutreka, responsible for Cameroon’s defeat in 2008, is absent from Angola due to injury. But the man who set up his goal, Mohammed Zidan, is setting up other goals this year. He is Egypt’s most potent attacking threat available in Angola.
Cameroon’s Rigobert Song was removed from the starting line-up due to his slow pace. But the tactic almost worked against them when the man who replaced him scored an own goal. Idrissou should start as he did against Tunisia, he caused lot of problems for Hagui and was responsible for Jemal’s red card.
But still, I see another defeat for Cameroon, sorry they met Egypt this early. A 1-0 win for the Pharaohs will see them marching on for an unprecedented third straight title.
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