By Ufuoma Egbamuno
On Wednesday, the race for the 15 available spots for the 2013 African Cup of Nations took off across Africa. It feels kind of odd, considering it is just at the tail of the 2012 AFCON that had The Chipolopolo of Zambia stunning the football world with a penalty shoot-out win… But the Confederation of African Football has decided to switch the hosting of the competition to odd years, and Africa is ready to take centre stage yet again in January 2013.
Here’s a wrap of the first round qualifying matches:
LIONS ROAR AGAIN
Aside Egypt who’ve won the Nations Cup 7 times, Cameroon and Ghana are the tournament’s joint biggest winners, with a record of 4 victories. Having missed out of the last tournament, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon were all out to prove a point. Facing a motivated Guinea Bissau side wasn’t going to be an easy task considering there are no more minnows in football. But Eric Choupo’s 40 yards solo run and goal put the Indomitable Lions one foot into the next round. It wasn’t a smooth ride for Cameroon as hosts Guinea-Bissau did find the back of the net but the goal ruled out for offside. So, Cameroon got a valuable win and most importantly an away goal, which is vital in a two-legged affair.
MASSIVE VERSUS HISTORIC WIN
Congo DR and Cape Verde recorded the biggest wins of the round spanking their opponents Seychelles and Madagascar 4 : 0 respectively. For Congo DR, a brace from Alain Kaluyituka Dioso as well as goals from Tresor Mputu and Basilua ensured The Leopards all but booked their place to the second round of the qualifiers.
In the other encounter, Cape Verde pulled off a shocker on Madagascar. The 4 : 0 spanking is just about Cape Verde’s most significant win ever in an official game. And when the FIFA rankings get published on the 7th of March, the tiny island would have made a huge leap to 63rd position in the world.
WASPS CLIP EAGLES
Nigeria’s Super Eagles is one of Africa’s biggest teams. However a combination of mal administration and lack of commitment from players over the years has dragged the country’s football backwards. But the appointment of former captain Stephen Keshi is seen as a right step in moving the country forward. However, hosts Rwanda were in no mood to allow Keshi maximum points in his first competitive game. In fact as Keshi noted in his post match interview, the Super Eagles were lucky to come away with a point. Already, the game is generating various reactions from fans. While some say Keshi shouldn’t be judged on just one game, others believe the team should have won the game.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Football Federation has pencilled down 5 foreign-based players to be blacklisted from the team. Although no names were announced, feelers from the football house suggest the players in question did not live up to expectations. Coach Keshi seems to be following the NFF’s steps as he plans wholesale changes ahead of the return leg.
” I will feature more hungry and committed players….”, Keshi said in an interview.
ADEBAYOR-LESS HAWKS LOSE
Togo and Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor may yet rue his decision not to play for his country as the Hawks succumbed to a 2 : 1 loss to the Harambee Stars of Kenya. Though Razak equalised for Togo after Kenya’s defender James Situma put the hosts ahead, Allan Wanga’s winner was enough for the Harambee Stars to seal a hard fought win. The Togolese FA will sure make everything possible to see Manu returns to the team to give the Hawks a cutting edge in attack.
CROWD TROUBLE IN THRILLER
Chad may have pulled off a 3 : 2 win over Malawi in their capital N’Djamena, but the game was overshadowed by some complaints from the visitors. Malawi claim their striker Atusaye Nyondo-who got both of their goals- was hit with an object from the crowd. President of the Malawian FA, Walter Nyamilandu in a chat with the BBC said, “we would like to see the Chad FA punished for this. We are not taking this lying down because this happened the last time we played in Chad.” While Chad awaits CAF’s decision, they must find a way to prepare for a hostile reception in June when the return leg takes place.
Burundi came through a difficult 2 : 1 home win over Zimbabwe. But hours later, their joy was cut short as Algerian born coach Adel Amrouche resigned sighting poor working conditions as his reason. “I am afraid I have to resign,” Amrouche said. “I can’t continue to train a team which can’t prepare for games. We don’t get to play friendly’s, we don’t get have enough equipment and I can only get access to some players on match day.” A pitiable situation. Burundi has got 3 months before the return fixture. Enough time to get a successor for Amrouche and plan extensively as they still hold a slender advantage over Zimbabwe.
BEST OF THE REST
In other games, The Squirrels of Benin frustrated Ethiopia and managed to pull of a goalless draw in Adis Ababa. Reacting to the result, coach of Benin Manuel Amoros told reporters, “I am very happy with the result. The Ethiopian players were good… But they were not able to penetrate our solid defensive play.”
Algeria’s Desert Foxes pulled off an excellent 2 : 1 away win over The Scorpions of Gambia. Liberia got a slim 1 : 0 victory over Namibia, Congo brushed aside Uganda 3 :1 while Sao Tome edged their battle with Sierra Leone by 2 : 1.
Image via Fifa.com