Underdogs outsmart Cameroon, Tunisia held

2010-01-14 11:51

GABON became the latest underdogs at the Africa Cup of Nations to

punch above their weight when they claimed the scalp of continental giants

Cameroon with a 1-0 win yesterday.

Later, in Lubango, the 2004 champions Tunisia were unable to

capitalise on Cameroon’s slip up when they escaped with a 1-all draw against

Zambia to leave Group D wide open.

Angola 2010 is fast earning a reputation as a tournament of upsets,

with Angola squandering a 4-0 lead to draw 4-4 against Mali, Algeria going down

3-0 to Malawi, and Ivory Coast held by Burkina Faso.

Egypt, the six-time champions, are the only side to do themselves

justice in the opening week with their 3-1 defeat of Nigeria on Tuesday.

On paper Cameroon, officially rated the best side in Africa, should

have taken Gabon to the cleaners. But Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto’o and his

teammates were unable to respond to Gabon’s Hull City striker Daniel Cousin who

produced the only goal of the match to go top of Group D.

Veteran Cameroon central defender Rigobert Song became the first

player to play in eight Nations Cup tournaments, but he would have surely traded

his place in history for a different result.

“We weren’t great,” conceded Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen. “But

above all we can’t become destabilised, the last two first round games can allow

us to qualify.”

Eto’o noted a striking parallel to their experience in Ghana in

2008. “Two years ago we were in the same situation (having lost their opener and

then facing Zambia, whom they meet on Sunday, in their second match).

The former three-time African Footballer of the Year added: “Losing

today is not a big problem but we have to win our next game against Zambia on

Sunday.

“We controlled the match but could not find the net.”

Gabon coach and former France star Alain Giresse said: “We are very

pleased we got a win in the first game. Our system worked well and technically

we were very good.

“Even if we finish second in this group we will be happy. What we

want is to qualify for the quarterfinals.”

Tunisia must have fancied their chances of seizing the initiative

but they found themselves trailing after 19 minutes when James Chamanga, who

plays his club football in China, charged down the centre and found Jacob

Mulenga on his right to score.

Tunisia avoided embarrassment when five minutes before the break

teenage striker Youssef Msakni tore the Zambian defence apart down the left,

cutting the ball back to Zouhaier Dhaouadhi who slammed it into the roof of the

net.

Zambia coach Herve Renard reckoned his side had let slip maximum

points, especially after Gabon’s win.

“This was two points lost,” said the youngest of the five French

coaches in the competition. “We started well but after the goal we didn’t show

enough discipline.”

Renard added: “Gabon put up a magnificent performance against

Cameroon. Cameroon lost their first game, but they did the same in 2008 and that

didn’t prevent them going all the way to the final.”

His Tunisian counterpart, Faouzi Benzarti, commented: “We could

have won the game with our second half performance, but the draw is fair.”

Today sees the second batch of matches in Group A in the capital

Luanda, with Angola facing giantkillers Malawi while Mali tackle Algeria.


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