It’s been a cup of nations missing their big chances

2015-02-01 15:00

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The joint top scorers at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) – André Ayew (Ghana), Ahmed Akaïchi (Tunisia) and Thievy Bifouma (Congo) – have just two goals each so far.

That alone says it all about the tightness of the tournament, or perhaps strikers just failed to come to the party.

To say chances were not created would be far from the truth, as teams went all out to make openings – but they could not finish the chances that came their way.

This has been a tournament of missed opportunities, with South Africa’s Tokelo Rantie and Mali’s Seydou Keita having missed penalties.

Group D had to be decided by the drawing of lots to select who would join Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals because Mali and Guinea both finished on the same number of everything: goals scored, goals conceded and points.

The Council of Southern Africa Football Associations’ representatives, Bafana and Chipolopolo, created more chances than all the other teams, but scored five goals combined in their three games. And they paid the price, as both failed to advance to the knockout stages.

They have no one but themselves to blame for their misery. Bafana were their own worst enemy, particularly in their opening game loss against Algeria, which they should have won convincingly.

The same could be said of Zambia, as they fluffed their chances against Tunisia in their second game.

Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came to the tournament with high hopes of helping his country advance further, but the Borussia Dortmund striker could do nothing to prevent a first-round exit for his country.

After helping Burkina Faso to the final of the 2013 edition, Jonathan Pitroipa was a shadow of his former self, as he failed to reproduce the kind of performances that made him an instant hero two years ago.

It has been a tournament of draws – 13 of the 24 first-round matches ended in stalemates.

Cape Verde had to go home even though they did not lose any of their three games – but on the flip side, the Democratic Republic of Congo, which qualified as the best third-placed finishers, rode their luck from the qualifying rounds. They advanced on the back of having scored twice in the competition against one goal from Cape Verde.

It was all tears and heartbreak as some teams departed the tournament under bizarre circumstances.

The Cape Verde coach was left speechless by the manner in which they were knocked out – but conceded it was the nature of football.

Coach Rui Águas said: “What can I say? I’m very sad and disappointed with the result, but not the performance of my players. We missed a lot of chances in all three games. They [the players] gave 100%, but football is like this.

“Zambia and us were the best teams in this group and many expected us to go through. Three draws, no defeats, no wins. One goal makes a difference. Football is unfair and can be cruel sometimes.

“Unfortunately, it was our turn today.”

Hosts Equatorial Guinea celebrated their passage to the knockout stages as though they had won the World Cup. They had good reason to celebrate, as they came through as a last-minute replacement for Morocco, which had decided against hosting the event.

To make matters worse, their coach, Esteban Becker, was appointed a week or so before the start of the tournament and did well to take them to the last eight.

They were due to play Tunisia last night.

Gabon and Burkina Faso, with Zambia and Cape Verde, were the teams from the same qualifying groups to depart after the first round.

The two lowest-ranked teams in Group C, Senegal (5) and South Africa (10), were knocked out by number one-ranked Algeria and Ghana, which are fourth in the rankings.

Congo-Brazzaville were another surprise package of the tournament after also qualifying through the back door.

In the qualifiers, they had replaced Rwanda, which were disqualified after being found guilty of using an ineligible player. Congo-Brazzaville also happened to qualify for the finals as runners-up to South Africa. But then they successfully booked a place in the last eight.

The two Congos were due to meet last night.

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