After a first round of matches that saw plenty of surprises, order seems to have been restored at the African Cup of Nations as all the heavyweights of the competition either bounced back or ensured that they would live to fight another day for passage to the knockout stages.
Perhaps the most impressive performance came from Cote d’Ivoire’s Elephants who found themselves in a must win situation versus Ghana and rose to the occasion by producing some fantastic goals on their way to an emphatic 3-1 win. Nevertheless, the rejuvenated Blackstars squad surely had plenty to be proud after an entertaining game which might have finished differently had they made better use of their chances.
The West African derby was full of energy and passion but was blighted by a bizarre two footed tackle from Emmanuel Eboue that resulted in a deserved straight red card. Such a needless challenge coming from an experienced player was strange to say the least, especially if one considers where it happened on the pitch. However, the player who really stole the show was Abdel Kader Keita who came on as a substitute to help put the game away for his country. He did just that and added his own brand of fancy footwork for good measure.
Another player who made jaws drop when he came off the bench was Egypt’s Mohamed Nagy Geddo who is currently the breakout star of the entire competition. If you include a pre-tournament friendly versus Mali, the offensive midfielder and support striker has scored in his last three games in a Pharaohs jersey.
Add to that the fact that every one of his finishes have been top class strikes and one can understand why there is so much buzz about the Ittihad Al Sakandary player at the moment. Needless to say, he’s already more than justified Shehata’s supposedly controversial choice of including him in the team ahead of Mido.
However, it has to be said that apart from Egypt and Cote d’Ivoire, none of the so called title contenders were all too impressive in their second outings. Watching Nigeria struggle mightily to defeat a crafty Benin side relying on the technical skills of Muri Ogunbyi and others was hardly reassuring with the World Cup around the corner.
Amodu was given an ultimatum to win or pack his bags and came out with three points but nothing more. He can thank the posts and crossbars for being kind to him and his side ahead of a game against a Mozambican side that already knows how to cause him trouble.
Another World Cup bound side, Algeria, dug themselves out of the hole created by the shocks of the previous round: A 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Malawi. After being thoroughly humbled, they looked much improved against a Malian team that continues to massively underperform despite having top class talent in its ranks.
Meanwhile, the Fennecs’ North African neighbors, Tunisia, continued their slate of disappointing results with a goalless draw against Gabon. They are now condemned to search for a win against the Indomitable Lions, a team they’ve never beaten at the African Cup. Nevertheless, the Carthage Eagles might take heart from the fact that Samuel Eto’o’s side needed a massive favor from Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene to even have destiny in their own hands.
Finally, the hosts must be commended for displaying incredible character by picking themselves up after their first outing that was undoubtedly one of the worst collapses in tournament history. The Palancas Negras have plenty to be proud of for that alone but now Manuel Jose’s men may go quite far in this competition after reviving their dream of lifting their first continental title.