African Cup of Nations Update

Ghana star Michael Essien

PSP will have a lot of coverage of the Union’s draft today, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore the rest of the world. The Union may be our Lois Lane, but we always make sure the rest of the world is accounted for before we fly off at the speed of light to fawn over our one true love.

The biggest game of the opening rounds takes place today with Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire facing off in Cabinda Province. Ghana star (and the best midfielder in the world not named Gerrard) Michael Essien is doubtful for the match. Burkina Faso gets the day off since Togo was disqualified for observing three days of mourning after their team bus was brutally attacked by separatist rebels. I’ve already said my piece about the handling of this incident, so I’ll spare you my ramblings (this time) and instead bring you a brilliant excerpt from a rant by a more talented writer than I:

That countless shadowy figures, be they Angolan or otherwise, are more interested in getting rich off the Cup of Nations than honoring the Togolese dead, that the Angolan government was inadequately prepared to protect players in Cabinda Province (warnings not to travel by road don’t count) and could have spent their comparatively meager resources in wiser ways to improve the conditions of its citizens and the reputation of the country, that CAF is a heartless bureacracy – all of these things are true. Togo player Richmond Forson said of the attack that the guerrillas focused much of their assault on the lead bus in the convoy. Thankfully, that bus was filled with the player’s baggage rather than with the players. Maybe we football fans who live in developed countries ought to take a moment to examine our own baggage when it comes to how we think of Africa, when we bother to think of it as anything other than a talent pool for professional football.

In yesterday’s action, second half goals from Flavio and Manucho gave the host country reason to celebrate as the Angolans brushed aside Malawi. Coupled with Algeria’s 1-0 victory over Malawi, this puts Angola in great position to advance from the group stage; a tie with Algeria will see the Angolans through. The win came with heavy costs, however, with Gilberto and Flavio succumbing to injury. The severity of the knocks isn’t known, but those would be big losses.

Mali needs to beat Malawi in order to qualify for the knockout rounds. Their loss to Algeria puts them in a perilous position, one made worse by the loss of Mahamoudou Diarra to yellow card suspension and the apparent feud between coach Stephen Keshi and striker Frederic Kanoute which saw the big finisher dropped to the bench until the second half yesterday.

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