Day 11 - CAF Africa Cup of Nations Group C favourites Egypt and Nigeria secured places in the next round with shutout victories over Benin and Mozambique respectively.
Egypt, trying for an unprecedented third continental title in a row, will now play the runner-up from Group D on 25 January in Benguela, while Nigeria face the Group winners on the same day in Lubango. All four teams in Group D - Gabon, Cameroon, Tunisia and Zambia - can not only still qualify when they face in Angola Thursday, but they can all still win the group.
Egypt knew they had top spot in the section sewn up before their match and rested a handful of veterans, including Mohamed Zidan who is recovering from the flu. They did manage to maintain their unbeaten run at the Cup of Nations, which now stretches to 15 matches and all the way back to a 2-1 defeat to Algeria in 2004.
Benin was missing their influential midfielder Stephane Sessegnon through suspension, while Nigeria were able to welcome back striker Obafemi Martins. He came on in the 66th minute against Mozambique and showed no ill-effects from his recent operation or six-week spell off in nabbing a goal late in the game after John Obi Mikel's original effort had been parried away by the goalkeeper.
Headed in the other direction is probably Mozambique striker Manuel 'Tico Tico' Bucuane, who may have played in his final Africa Cup of Nations at the age of 36. The all-time leading scorer and most-capped player for the Mambas, he also represented his nation the last two times they qualified for the CAN, in 1996 and 1998.
Egypt 2-0 Benin (El Mohammady 8, Moteab 23’)
Nigeria 3-0 Mozambique (Odemwingie 45’, 47’, Martins 86’)
Goal of the day
Egypt 1-0 Benin, Ahmed El Mohammady (8’)
While one could argue that El Mohammady may have been lucky in chipping Benin number-one, Djidonou Yoann, from far out on the right side, there is no doubt that his effort was well-timed and the result of quick thinking. Upon receiving the ball, Al-Muhammadi lifted his eyes and spotted Yoann off of his line, and he then clearly drove the ball towards the top left corner to beat the Benin goalie with an unstoppable effort.
Precise Egypt strike again
Emad Moteab scored his second goal of the competition as he capitalised on a rebound from a brilliant save by Yoann, who had stopped Ahmed Raouf’s goal-bound header. With the Benin defence slow to react and come to Yoann’s rescue, Moteab benefited from the spill and calmly converted. The goal sucked the life out of Benin, who, until then, had pushed hard looking for the equaliser.
Eagles miss their prey
Knowing they only needed a draw to advance, Nigeria stuck to a conservative game-plan, but they still managed to score three goals and let pass two glorious scoring chances in the first half. In the 24th minute, Chinedu Obasi Ogbuke looked certain to bulge the net from a yard out with his head after Danny Shittu’s strong header back from John Obi Mikel’s free kick. But with goalkeeper Kapango off-balance, the lightning quick striker could only plop the ball right at the feet of the netminder. Fourteen minutes later, a miscommunication in the Mozambique backline left Yakubu one-on-one with Kapango, but the Everton man dwelled long enough for the retreating defence to dispossess him.
Taking target practice
With Nigeria controlling the pace of the match, Mozambique were left looking for quick counters to keep their chance of winning a place in the next round alive. This strategy came very close to working twice while the match was still scoreless, the first time just after the half-hour mark when Paito forced the best from Vincent Enyeama after streaking down the left and blasting a 25-yard effort. The second was even closer as Enyeama tipped Miro’s curling low shot onto the outside of the post. Three minutes later, Nigeria scored, showing how quickly the complexion of a game can change.
Rare appearance…at last
To be Egypt’s 'number two' goalkeeper must be one daunting task as Essam El-Hadary has enjoyed a monopoly on the starting spot for the past decade. However, reserve man Abdul-Wahid Al-Sayed got his chance with 15 minutes to go against Benin on Wednesday with victory looking like a foregone conclusion. As El-Hadary is unlikely to be topped in the foreseeable future, Al-Sayed must have savoured this moment.
A double on either side of half-time
Peter Odemwingie has been one of the brightest parts of Nigeria’s CAN campaign, and his two goals, separated by two minutes on the game clock, confirm his place as one of the most important Eagles come 2010. The first started from well outside Mozambique’s penalty area when he received the ball, and with fullback Campira waiting to see what he would do next, Odemwingie hit a thundering left-footed shot that squeezed inside the near post. For the second, his pace put him in a position to easily capitalise on Yakubu’s breakaway and cross.
169 – The number of caps now won by legend Ahmed Hassan after the match against Benin, which equals the record for Egypt held by Hossam Hassan.
What they said
"I'm happy for the team. We had a lot of pressure on us, but since the start of the competition we have worked hard and made progress." Nigeria's brace-scorer Peter Odemwingie.
Gabon - Zambia (21 Jan. 16:00 GMT)
Cameroon - Tunisia (21 Jan. 16:00 GMT)
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