CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SUPER EAGLES AND FELLOW NIGERIANS!
Posted: Feb 11, 2013
By JOHN MASTOROUDES: What else do I say at this moment than to say congratulations to the entire team fellow Nigerians. It was a sweet victory indeed and I want to congratulate them for this laudable achievement.
Before the start of this tournament, nobody gave the Super Eagles any chance of going all the way and they didn't even start the competition well enough.
I guess those criticisms spurred the team on and right from the time we beat Ivory Coast, I knew we are destined to rule Africa once again. Burkina Faso really gave us a good fight yesterday in that final match but the fact that we were missing the service of Emmanuel Emenike was so evident on the night. We will talk on the significance of this achievement in the days and weeks to come.
For now, we should just savour this victory because I know what this victory mean to Nigerian soccer fans. I am really happy for Stephen Keshi and his boys. They have conquered Africa and it is important we enjoy the moment.
But we must not forget that the 2014 World Cup qualifiers is around the corner and we must seize this momentum to qualify in style and prove what being the African champions means. Once again, congratulations to fellow Nigerians!
FADING BLACK STARS
By JOHN MASTOROUDES: I was disappointed with Ghana in the semi-final clash against Burkina Faso on Wednesday. I must say the Burkinabes deserve to be in the final and if not for some questionable calls by the centre referee, the game would not have dragged to extra-time.
What contrasting fortunes Nigeria and Ghana have enjoyed in this competition. The Black Stars did well in the group stage and were touted as one of the favourites but could not keep up the momentum.
Nigeria on the other hand started poorly but improved as the competition progressed. Our own real show started from the quarter-final against Ivory Coast and we took our performance to another level against Mali in the semi-final.
As for the third place match today , I don’t think these two countries Ghana and Burkina Faso, will be enthusiastic about the game. It was difficult for them not to make it to the finals like it was a year ago in Gabon and Equatorial Guniea.
One could see that from their reactions after the game. I think they should just go there and give us a befitting game but i’ m not going to stick out my neck on who will carry the day.
Catch you tomorrow when i shall be focused on the title decider between our dear Super Eagles and the Stallions of Burkina Faso.
By JOHN MASTOROUDES: Gradually, the clock is winding down and we are looking forward to the final match of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Stallions of Burkina-Faso with high expectations. But one issue that has been bothering my mind and generating a lot of debate is the quality of officiating at this tournament. In that semi-final fixture between Ghana and Burkina-Faso, I witnessed some of the worst refereeing decisions since I started following the game of football. It was so clear that that the referee did everything to favour the Black Stars but in the end he failed. The performance of that Tunisian center referee was a big shame but it only adds to the poor showing of the men that have been officiating since the start of hostilities in South Africa.
Nigeria was also a victim in our second game against Zambia when a dubious penalty was awarded to the Chipolopolo out of nothing but that Ghana vs Burkina-Faso game was more terrible. The center referee gave some highly controversial cards and cancelled a legitimate goal and it was just a shame.
It is important for the necessary bodies to do something about officiating in the future. These things are not synonymous with Africa alone, it happens in other competitions too. For instance, at the last European Championship, we witnessed some bad officiating too but I don’t know whether they do those things intentionally or they were as bad as what we are seeing here.
The man that will take charge of the final game on Sunday must be someone whose integrity and competence could be vouched for; otherwise, the good works of the organizers and players will be rubbished.
TANTALISING EAGLES... WELL DONE BOYS!
By JOHN MASTOROUDES: What a sweet victory it was for the Super Eagles against Mali at the Moses Mabhida Stadium last night! We all watched with pleasant amazement as our darling Eagles soared above the Elephants of Cote d’ lvoire in the quarter-final on Sunday but what they gave us yesterday was more tantalizing against the Seydou Keita led Eagles of Mali.
Yesterday, I predicted ahead of the game that the Super Eagles will fly past the Malians based on what I saw on Sunday and the team never disappointed me.The initial fear was for them not to get too carried away by that success and they all realised that you don’t win a tournament by beating the favourites alone.
It is interesting that some soccer pundits are now calling our dear Super Eagles the ‘Barcelona of Africa’ based on their all-round display. But I think we still have to be very careful because there is still final match to be played.
The Malians could have scored against us from their first two corner kicks early in the game and that is one area we must work on before the final game on Sunday. Otherwise, it was a decent and perfect performance from the team.The understanding is now there but they must carry on with the same spirit until they achieve the ultimate objective which is lifting the 2013 AFCON trophy.
May be it’s a blessing in disguise after all that the team didn’t start the competition very well as that could have probably affected them. I must also commend the technical crew for doing a fantastic job on the players.Though I was not happy with the performance of our boys earlier in the tournament, but I was still hopeful that they will get it right because of the quality of players we have in that team. It is now there for all of us to see.
Keshi and his men should thank those who have been criticising them as that has made them to work harder. I want to say kudos to the entire team and congratulations to fellow Nigerians. For now, let us enjoy this sweet victory as we look forward to the final.
EAGLES FOR FINAL
By JOHN MASTOROUDES: I know most people out there might criticize me for not showing respect for our today’s semi-final opponents in AFCON- the Eagles of Mali but who cares! The Super Eagles lifted my spirit again with their superlative display against Ivory Coast on Sunday and I’m already tipping them to make it to the final. In fact, I already see them in the final.
Before the Ivory Coast game, the Eagles failed to impress and we were not happy with their performance. It looked a very disjointed team that struggled to make it beyond the group stage. But that is a thing of the past now after proving the doubters wrong and I see no reason why they cannot maintain that level of performance in our next game.
They should not relent now and thank God the hunger which seemed to be lacking in the beginning of the competition is now there. It is a chance for them to make names for themselves and I don’t think they will let it slip away by allowing complacency to set in. It’s just unimaginable seeing them do that at this crucial stage.
Having gambled a couple of times before getting the right selection in the game against Ivory Coast, Stephen Keshi should not make another mistake of tinkering with that starting line-up against the Malians. Ahmed Musa and Fengor Ogude should not start for us in that game and I hope Keshi and his men have realised that.
Ogenyi Onazi and Brown Ideye coming into the line-up really helped us against the Ivorians. And then the ‘Big Boys’- Mikel Obi and Victor Moses are now showing their class and maturity. It’s just difficult to see our boys toying away with the chance of winning the trophy now that it’s almost within their grasps. It’s a life-time opportunity!
GHANA FOR FINAL
The Black Stars of Ghana should join us in the final- all things being equal. Burkina Faso have done so well for themselves to have come this far but I don’t think they have what it takes to edge out Ghana at this stage. In terms of experience and quality, they [Ghana] have it in abundance more than the Stallions and that should give them the edge.
WEST AFRICAN SHOW
By JOHN MASTOROUDES: The only thing that is constant in life is change. That change is what we are now experiencing in African football. The last time a team from West Africa won the African Cup of Nations was in 1994 when the Super Eagles of Nigeria beat Zambia in the final played in Tunisia.
Ever since, despite the glut of talented players from countries like Nigeria , Ivory Coast and Ghana, it was the North Africans that have been dominating. Egypt in particular won three-back-to-back titles from 2006 to 2010. Cameroun won two back-to-back titles from 2000 to 2002 and South Africa also won in 1996.
This time around, we have seen teams from Sub Sahara Africa taking charge in South Africa.
Of the eight West African nations that qualified for the competition, seven made it to the quater-finals. Niger the only country that exited in the first round were unlucky to have Ghana and Mali ahead of them in their group.
Now, it is certain we are going to see a team from the sub-region winning this trophy once again. I just pray it is going to be our dear Super Eagles.
Without doubt, the West African teams have been the best in this competition. Morocco who I rated so highly before the start of the competition were utterly disappointing. The Desert Warriors of Algeria were the other team that people expected to do well but they faltered after two games. Tunisia started brightly but could not sustain the momentum.
I wouldn't want to say the North Africans or teams from the other regions are not good but the truth is that that others teams have raised the standard of their performances compared to what we saw in the past editions when countries like Burkina Faso, Cape Verde or Togo would have been easily sent out.
Some of the results we saw so far amply testified to that change in trend and standard.
Eliminating Cameroun must have played a key role in boosting the confidence of Cape Verde coming into the competition. Togo for the first time also made it to the knock-out phase while Burkina Faso are in the semi-finals- the second in the history of their nation.
All these countries have players plying their trade in Europe which has exposed them to what the big names enjoyed in the past. It is important to state that Burkina Faso have all their 23 players based in Europe.
Then, the draws and results also favoured some of the West African countries. In Group A for instance, Cape Verde were the minnows but in South Africa and Angola, you have teams that weren't at their best.
Ghana and Mali were the favourites in Group B that also included Niger and Congo Democratic Republic. It wouldn't have been a major upset if either of the two failed to make it to the next round.
In our group, it was to be us and Zambia but the Burkina Faso boys showed a lot of courage to scale through. The tonic for them was picking a draw against us. That was the result that made the it easy for them.
Pre-tournament favourites Ivory Coast didn't disappoint making it from their ‘group of death’ but unfortunately for them and fortunately for Nigeria, they failed to live up to their billing at crucial moment.
SUPER EAGLES OF HOPE
By JOHN MASTOROUDES: Up Nigeria. Up Nigeria, Up Nigeria....Those were the words that came out of my mouth moments after our inspiring but hard-fought victory over the Elephnats of Ivory Coast last night. My call before the encounter was all patriotic soccer loving Nigerians to rally behind our dear Super Eagles. I'm not sure how many of us did that but I thank God our boys didn't let me down at the end of the day.
Truth must be told, it was not the result that got me excited but the way the Eagles played. They played with character, passion and commitment. For the first time in this tournament and in a long time, we saw a Super Eagles that we were all proud of. In the first 20 minutes of the encounter, we controlled the game and kept the Ivorians led by Didier Drogba quiet.
After our first game, I never had doubts about our chances in this competition even though the team was not playing that well. But I saw great potentials in the squad it was just for the coaches to get things right in terms of tactics and players selection.
It was just as if the technical crew were listening to me. They made some few changes compared to the previous line-ups and tactics and the end result was there for all to see. I think Stephen Keshi and his men deserve kudos for this.
One of the major positives yesterday was the inclusion of Ogenyi Onazi in place of Fengor Ogude. On the day when we needed to play possession football and hold the midfield very well, he proved to be a good replacement for the Velaranga player. I saw Onazi play some games before this competition and each time we started without him, I kept wondering what the coaches were thinking about and if we are to make further impact in this competition he must be given more play time by the coaches.
Our attack too was perfect yesterday. Victor Moses, Brown Ideye and Emmanuel Emenike who scored that thunderbolt of a goal in the first half. I must say that the entire team did so well and we must continue to support them until we get there.
Where do we go from here? Now that we are so close to the trophy the boys should just remain focused If we can continue to play like the way we played against the Ivorians, then I see us lifting our third African Cup of Nations trophy here in South Africa. The quarter-final is now behind us, let’s look to the future and that is the semi-final clash against another Eagles that are not so Super like ours- the Eagles of Mali. I hope we will have cause to celebrate again.
LET’S RALLY BEHIND OUR DEAR EAGLES
By JOHN MASTOROUDES: How do I start this piece? Nigeria versus Cote d’ lvoire, the highly anticipated quarter-final game at the on-going 2013 African Cup of Nations will be played today. Pundits and neutrals have tipped the Elephants to trample over the Super Eagles. However, my years of experience in this game have taught me so many lessons, one of which is anything is possible in football.
Football is a game that is full of surprises and you can never say what will happen until the end of ninety minutes in some cases. What is important is for all soccer loving Nigerians to rally behind this team.They need our support at this crucial stage of the competition.
I would have loved to be in South Africa at the moment to offer my support to the team. I don’t like all these negative comments about the chances of the team against the Ivorians. Even though the team have not performed up to our expectations, it is imperative for us to still show our support.
Personally, I have expressed my disappointment with the displays of the players in all their three previous games but as a Nigerian, I still believe I have to offer my support for Keshi and his boys. I strongly believe we can upset Ivory Coast.
On paper, Ivory Coast have a stronger squad than us. There is Didier Drogba, Gervinho, Salomon Kalou, the big man Yaya Toure and a host of other guys to contend with, but we can overrun them if we raise our game and also have luck on our side.
To win this tie,our players must be determined on the field of play. They must play with passion, we have to use our natural strength upfront especially in the attack, when we have good strikers like Emmanuel Emenike, Victor Moses and Brown Ideye.
Despite the glut of exceptional players in the Cote d’ Ivoire squad, I believe they still have a weakness which is their defense.That is one area we must explore if we are to win today.
Even if we concede, we must be able to hit them back with our own goals too. I would like to see Ideye start alongside Emenike upfront. Both of them combined well in the first game and it is a surprise we have not seen that combination again.
Then, we need Moses to be at his best once again. He proved what he can do in the last game and I pray he maintains that superb form. I’m certain the Ivorian defence will struggle to cope against our forward men.
The message is clear we must rally behind our dear Eagles. They surely can do it and I ‘m charging them to go all out for victory.
THE BOYS HAVE BEEN SEPARATED FROM MEN (2)
By JOHN MASTOROUDES: In continuation of my analysis on the eight quarter-finalists at the ongoing 2013 Africa Cup of Nations with focus on the four teams that made it from Group A and B yesterday, we will now shift our focus to group C and D where incidentally all the four teams are from West Africa- Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Togo.
Our Super Eagles have not been all that impressive but they still managed to scale through the first round hurdle. Nevertheless, in all the three games they played, they were the better team and deserved to win but the truth is they didn’t play good football. The Eagles often look uncoordinated right from the defence line to the midfield and to the attack, yet they showed a lot of guts and determination to come through. And one player that played a crucial role in their success most especially when it mattered most is Victor Moses who won the two penalties against Ethiopia and also converted them brilliantly.
So far, the Elephants have lived up to expectations. They are a very solid side- a team that can punish you should they get the first goal in any game. They have a lot of quality strikers in their team; the likes of Didier Drogba, Gervinho, Salomon Kalou and all these guys can punish any defence that give them little space to operate. Then their big man, Yaya Toure, has been very influential in their play as expected. He has been carrying the team on his shoulders from his midfield position and will continue to be a threat to all oppositions.
Hawks of Togo is another team that has surprised me so far with their performance. I never expected them to qualify from their group that had the likes of Cote d’Ivoire, Algeria and Tunisia but the presence of their influential captain, Emmanuel Adebayor, really helped them to weather the storm. Those boys showed a lot of character by making it to the last eight despite narrowly losing their first group D game to title favourites Ivory Coast. They have a lot of self- belief and determination and it remains to be seen how they will fare coming up against gritty Burkina Faso who top our group against all odds.
I never believed they could qualify for the quarter-finals but they have shocked all of us with what they have achieved so far. Their main man Alain Traore has done so well for them because he is a very talented striker who can score from any angle. So far, they have been playing well and holding their own as I didn’t know much about them before the start of the competition; but they have make themselves known to all of us and I believe their main strength is their strike force. They have scored five goals and they have a solid defense as well.
THE BOYS HAVE BEEN SEPARATED FROM MEN
By JOHN MASTOROUDES: Yesterday, the last group games at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations were played. Now, the boys have all gone home leaving alone the men to slug it out for the ultimate title. At this stage, I think it would be necessary to look at the remaining eight teams left in the competition.
Today, I want to focus on the four teams that qualified from Group A and B. That is South Africa, Cape Verde, Ghana and Mali.
Bafana Bafana alongside the Atlas Lions of Morocco were my favourite teams to make it from Group A. Though the hosts qualified eventually, the kind of football they played in their three group games showed they don't have what it takes to excel in this competition.
When I saw them in the opening game against Cape Verde, I was totally disappointed with the performance of the entire team. From then, it was easy to see that they don't have enough quality in their squad .They improved in the second game against Angola and were just lucky to escape with a draw against Morocco..
They [Bafana Bafana] are probably still in this competition because of the massive support they have enjoyed from their home fans. I don't fancy them going far in this competition.
It was a miracle for Cape Verde to scale through the first round hurdle. It's one of the biggest upsets we have seen in the competition so far. However, I doubt if they will be able to go past Ghana in the quarter-finals. I think the youthfulness, freshness and the desire they have propelled them to this stage. The entire team and their coaches were eager to put their country on the football map and they have actually succeeded in achieving that. They also have few exciting players upfront who have done excellently well for them. That I believe is the secret behind their success.
Ghana, like I wrote earlier in this column have impressed me a lot even though I never gave them any chance of making any serious impact at the beginning of the tournament.
So far , they have not only played with discipline but with passion and commitment. I strongly believe they will go far in South Africa 2013.They have what it takes to emerge champions at the end of the day. They have clear plans on how they want to play and the players seems to be following it to the letter. It's just a delight to watch this Black Stars team play.
I don't really fancy the Mali team. They are yet to impress me so far in this 2013 AFCON. Seydou Keita has done well but they will find it extremely difficult to overcome South Africa in the quarter-final. They always struggle to create chances and make silly mistakes at the back.
I want to start by congratulating soccer loving Nigerians on the victory of the Super Eagles against the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia last night. It was a tough game for our dear Super Eagles as the Ethiopians played as if their lives depended on that game.
They were hell bent in pouring ‘sand-sand in our garri’. Thank heavens we were able to scale their hurdle.
Yesterday, I saw the best individual performance by a player in the entire tournament in Victor Moses. The Chelsea winger showed great composure and maturity in going for the two penalty kicks. It takes courage to do that with your team under immense pressure to qualify.
As a team, the Super Eagles failed to deliver once again. I was particularly disappointed with the performance of Ikechukwu Uche. I thought he could make the difference after starting his first game of the tournament but he simply failed to raise his game to the level expected of him and the man who came on for him, Ahmed Musa, was totally disappointing too. I'm never a fan of the CSKA Moscow star and I doubt if he will be able to raise his performance in subsequent games.
Also one player that should carry the team going by experience and position in the team John Obi Mikel was hugely disappointing. Mikel seems to have fizzled out after the first game against Burkina Faso where he was voted the man-of–the-match. In a game of such magnitude, you expect senior players like Mikel to give their all and instil confidence in the younger players but he was not just there.
Our defence after three games still looked uncoordinated and you wonder what they have been doing in training. I like Kenneth Omeruo and Godfrey Oboabona, but I just feel the understanding between the rest of the back line is not there yet.
I wouldn't want Yobo Joseph to come back into the team yet as it doesn't seems to fare better han the two guys but it is important for the coaches to ensure there is proper coordination among the defenders.
Going into the quater-finals against the dreaded Ivory Coast, I believe the Super Eagles have a very good chance of shocking the favourites. It will be first time we will be going into a game in the competition as underdogs and that could work in our favour.In our three group games, we were bookmakers favourites which I think weighed the team down a little bit. Now the Ivorians are going to be under pressure to win as everybody expected, so I see it as a positive sign for us.It is going to be a difficult game against the strongest team in the competition. We need to put our acts together and most importantly the senior players must raise their game. Irrespective what the pundits might say, I strongly believe we have a good chance of beating Didier Drogba and his men.Once again, I say congratulations to Nigerians while also urging them to stay positive ahead of Sunday’s quarter-final fixture against the Elephants .
THE DIE IS CAST AND THE EAGLES MUST FLY
The die is cast for the Super Eagles as they face the Walya Antelopes today in their final group game in Rusterburg. Nothing but a win will be good enough for Stephen Keshi and his boys and I’m expecting nothing but a win for the Eagles in this game.
Against Burkina Faso, we should have won, same thing in the second game against the Zambians.
To be candid, if we cannot beat Ethiopia, we should pack our bags and come back home. Fine, there have been a lot of surprises in this competition with some of the teams refer to as minnows giving the so-called super-powers tough time, but at this stage when the stake is very high, we should go for nothing short of a win. We are just condemned to win.
I have so much confidence that the Super Eagles will win not only because we have played well so far but because we are stronger than the Ethiopians, having watched them play against defending champions Zambia and Burkina Faso and I strongly believe they are beatable.
One key thing for us is how we approach the game. At this stage, I expect the coaching crew and the players to have learned from their mistakes in the two games they played so far. I think the way they approach the game from the start will determine the type of result we will get at the end of 90 minutes. I like the fact that our fate is in our hands instead of us relying on the result from the other game between Zambia and Burkina Faso. It will just be a total disaster if we fail to make it through.
Tactically, we made some mistakes in the first two games against Burkina Faso and Zambia. I’m still baffled that a player like Ahmed Musa and Fengor Ogude are playing regularly in this team while Ikechukwu Uche is always on the bench. It’s just unbelievable.
Musa in particular is not contributing anything to that team and should not be in the starting line-up today. We need the attack to be more coordinated and if we must achieve that, then, Uche is more intelligent than Musa who to me is ‘a boxer’ and not a footballer.
Then Keshi should consider playing Ogenyi Onazi in midfield. The young lad is energetic and he is the ideal man to occupy the holding midfield role in this team. I have seen him play in that position for his club SS Lazio this season. That’s his best position insteaad of that right back position he occupied in the team’s last fixture. It’s important that the technical crew find the right balance for this game. We must not play into the hands of our opponent by selecting wrong players for a crucial game of this magnitude. I’m trusting the coaches to get things right.
The Super Eagles defence I saw against the Chipolopolo of Zambia gave me a fresh hope for the future. The central defensive pair of Godfrey Oboabona and Keneth Omeruo performed excellently well against the defending champions. If I were to be Keshi I would continue with these two players in that position. Yobo for me should sit on the bench. The decision on who plays or who is on the bench lies with the coach but if one considers how the defence fared in the first game, then it will be very easy to arrive at a decision.
In the second match of the day, I don’t see Zambia overpowering the Stallions of Burkina Faso. The Chipolopolo have failed to impress in this competition and I foresee a draw which might spell a doom for the defending champions.
TWINKLE BLACK STARS!
If there is any team that has impressed me a lot at the on-going 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, it is the Black Stars of Ghana. I never gave the Ghanaians any chance of making an impact at the competition but Kwesi Appiah and his boys have proved me wrong so far.
That team has not only played with discipline but passion and commitment synonymous with the Black Stars of old. It is easy to say that they are not missing their old-guards. I was particularly impressed with the way they played in their last game against Mali and I see them going far in this competition. They should find it easy today against the Menas of Niger Republic who by now should be preparing to go back home. Upset are part of football, but I don't see the possibility of that happening today.
This Ghana team is well grounded, too strong to be trampled upon by Niger. The teams in Group A must be fighting hard now to avoid the Black Stars in the quarter-finals.
If they keep playing the way they did against the Malians, it will be very difficult for any team to stop them. Niger on their part have done well enough to have secured their first point at the AFCON finals. I think the experience garnered here will be vital for them in future. May be they will have a better draw next time.
While Ghana look sure of booking their passage to the knock-out phase, same cannot be said of the Leopards of Congo Democratic Republic and the Eagles of Mali and I'm not going to stick out my neck as to which of the two countries will win.
For the neutrals, they will have a swell time watching the game. Mali need a draw to scale through while the Leopards need a win. Claude Leroy's and his boys shot themselves in the foot by not converting the numerous chances they created against Niger but one thing that could work in their favour is the collective spirit in their team. Majority of their players play for local side, TP Mazembe which could be a huge factor here. Their talismen, Tresor Mputu Mabi and Dieumerci Mbokani, will also a handful for the Malian defenders.
Mali who finished third last time out in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea cannot be easily discarded though. In Seydou Keita, they have one of the best players in the continent and his experience will be vital to his team.
It's sad that one of these two teams will have to go home today. It's a crunch game for the two countries. I just hope they will give us a good game, one that will be a good advertisement for African football.
See you again on Tuesday when I shall be previewing Nigeria's quest for a quarter-final ticket.
CRUNCH TIME FOR BAFANA BAFANA, ATLAS LIONS
It's been fun watching the 2013 African Cup of Nations in South Africa.Very soon the boys will be separated from the men as the tournament reaches the crucial stages. The host, South Africa will no doubt face their toughest test in the competition when they square up against Morocco at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium later today.
Though the Bafana Bafana beat regional neighbours Angola in their last game, I'm still not convinced about their ability. The Moroccan team have really impressed me a lot in this competition, though it is obvious they are yet to reach their peak, there are lots of potentials in that squad.
This game is a must win for them and I believe they will go for nothing but a win.South Africa need just a draw to scale through which makes the game more interesting. I fancy a win for Morocco here. It is easy to say South Africa beat Angola but that Palancas Negras team is not a force to reckon with. They played a bad game and were just uncoordinated for almost the entire duration of the game.
Today's encounter is going to be a totally different challenge for the Bafana Bafana, different from the two games they have played so far.Morocco unlike Angola are better organised and have more quality and experience in their squad.
The Atlas Lions have their backs against the wall and there is no better time to prove their worth than now.Anything aside a win will be a total disaster for them.
One factor that will favour Bafana Bafana today is home support. Playing in front of your fans has both positive and negative effects. In the first game against Cape Verde, the players could not take advantage of that but used it to their favour in the second against Angola.
Morocco will take encouragement from the fact that Cape Verde who are not attending the African Cup of Nations, held South Africa to a barren draw.So, I don't think they will panic.
No doubt, this is going to be the most interesting game in this group.The South Africans will be shooting themselves in the foot if they think this game will be an easy ride for them.
I will really be disappointed if Morocco fail to advance to the quarter-finals. I have really been impressed with their performance and it will be sad to see them go out at this stage.
A win is also crucial for Cape Verde and Angola. Cape Verde however have a more realistic chance of progressing into the quarter- finals.All they need to do is win their game and no matter what happens between South Africa and Morocco, they will scale through.
However, I don't see them winning the game. I'm predicting a draw here.
Join me tomorrow, when I shall be previewing the tough group B battle between between Congo Democratic Republic and Mali
WIN OR BURST FOR SUPER EAGLES
Later today, the Super Eagles of Nigeria will square up against the Chipolopolo of Zambia in what every football fan expect to be a tough encounter for Stephen Keshi and his boys. Though I was not impressed with the overall performance of the team against Burkina Faso, I still believe the team can improve as the games progress.
Looking at the present Super Eagles team, you could see players with great potentials who will improve and get better with time.
However, it is very important for the Eagles to play more as a team against the Zambians. Against Burkina Faso for example, there was no proper coordination between the midfield and the attack. Also the defence line was in total disarray for the better part of that game. I expect the technical crew to have worked on all these lapses ahead of today's game. It is also important for the team to take their chances and not sit on a goal advantage until the end of the game which cost them what could have been a precious victory in that first game. The Zambian team I saw against Ethiopia is beatable if we approach this game with all seriousness. They [Zambia] also know the importance of this game to their aspiration of defending their crown and will want to win but I strongly believe the Super Eagles will carry the day.
A win here would also put us in good position to make it to the quarter-finals and I just hope our darling Eagles will rise to the occasion and make us happy.
Hope to see you once again tomorrow hopefully when will shall celebrating our first victory at AFCON 2013.
THREE POINTS AT STAKE AS STARS, EAGLES GO TO WAR
Heading into today's game against the Eagles of Mali, I believe Ghana must have looked at some of the mistakes they made in their first outing against Congo Democratic Republic. They were leading comfortably but for reason best known to them, they allowed the Leopards to fight back and equalize. How much that slip will cost them in their group standing as the games progress, we will all have to wait and see.
Nevertheless, today’s game is going to be a difficult one for the two teams. I don't see this Ghanaian side beating the Malians because just like I wrote in this column few days back, they don't have the kind of quality players they used to have in the past. Mali on the other hand had a good game against Niger but I don't think I would want to stick my neck on what the eventual score-line will be when they square up against the Black Stars. This is one of those games that could go either way depending on who wants it most.
With the exception of Ivory Coast who have a lot of quality players in their squad, all other teams are in the same kettle. It's very easy to see with the kind of results we have seen so far in the competition.
On paper, one could easily pick the Black Stars as the overwhelming favourites going by their antecedents in the Africa Cup of Nations but names alone don't play football these days. Ethiopia proved that to all of us by outplaying the defending champions Zambia despite playing with 10-men. Let's wait and see what will happen at the end of the game.
On the other hand, Congo Democratic Republic should have it easy against the Nigeriens who are still searching for their first win in the competition. I was impressed with the performance of the Leopards against Ghana and I strongly believe that they will earn their first maximum points against their less-illustrious West African brothers.
I hope you ‘ll continue to savour the excitement of this competition till I reach you again.
TIME FOR HOSTS BAFANA-BAFANA TO SHINE!
It's good to be back though getting my mind off the Eagles’ disappointing showing against Burkina Faso in their first group match has not been easy. But that is what football is all about. Today you are celebrating and tomorrow something else may happen.
Action resumes today in Group B where host South Africa are in a must-win situation against Angola. I must say that the Bafana-Bafana have a really difficult task on their hands today. Their performance in the opening game against Cape Verde was nothing to write home about. It was totally disappointing looking at the calibre of players they paraded and with that kind of performance, they have little chance of progressing from their group.
Skill-wise, they were terrible and tactically they were not there. It was just horrible football they played for the entire duration of that game. However, going by the fact that the game against Angola is a regional derby, I am tipping them to come out victorious in the end. Majority of their players are home-based and this should help them overcome the Palancas Negras. If they can win this game, it will be good for the competition. We want the excitement to continue and a win for the home team will no doubt be a boost in that regard.
The Angola team I saw against Morocco were too ordinary. They don't have a good team at all. They don't have anything in them that will make one think they can win against the South Africans. What the home fans need is to get behind their team as that could give them the much needed extra motivation to push for their first victory in the competition. It is very important for them to do that as that is the only way their team can do something meaningful in this competition.
Playing at home always provide an extra incentive even though it didn't reflect in the hosts’ performance in the opening game. This time around, they should play with less pressure and get the job done.
Morocco on the other hand should be able to beat Cape Verde in the other game even though they drew with Angola in their first match. They really impressed me in that game and they are the best team that I've seen so far in the competition. Though Cape Verde held South Africa to a barren draw , I still don’t believe they have what it takes to win this game and go far in the competition.
Have a fun-filled time watching all these AFCON games till I get back to you again! Cheers!
DISAPPOINTED BUT NOT HOPELESS!
Before the Super Eagles took to the field against Burkina Faso yesterday, I was asking myself: why the air of optimism about the team that is still in the process of evolving? Everybody seemed to be sure that they will beat the Stallions and also go far in the tournament. To me, I never really see anything special in this team that will make me to be so optimistic about their chances to win or even go far in the ongoing AFCON in South Africa. So I was proved right after 90 minutes of the encounter at the Mbombela Stadium last night.
To me, the team played badly as there was no coordination in their play. Though the midfield improved a little bit in the second half, but they could still not get a firm grip of the game as the Burkinabes were always in control.
Then you look at our defence line on most occasions, they were always jittery whenever the opponents were attacking. Overall, we really didn’t play very well in the game and I have been proved right about what I said about the chances of the team before the commencement of the championship. We all need to be realistic about the chances of this team rather than getting too optimistic.
Having said this, I still believe that the Eagles did enough to have won that game. It's total disappointment that they could not just hang ondespite having a player sent-off and with just few seconds to the final whistle. When you concede a goal towards the end of a game after fighting so much hard like that, you are bound to be disappointed.
So, I understand how the players will be feeling now but that was not the end anyway.OPTIMISMThough our Eagles failed to fly over Burkina Faso, I still strongly believe that we will sail through to the next stage in this group. The Zambian team that I saw against Ethiopia did not look like the one that won the last tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Honestly, putting this piece together has been pretty difficult me as I'm totally upset that we threw away the game we could have won after fighting so hard. It’s one of those things in football andwe just have to take it and be realistic about our chances as the games progress. And I wish the Super Eagles better luck in their next game against Zambia.Keep on enjoying the tournament and I hope to reach you again tomorrow.
By John Mastoroudes.
Today on Complete Sports
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