DAY 1 - The CAF Africa Cup of Nations kicked off in the most dramatic fashion as Mali came back from four goals behind in the final quarter of an hour to share the spoils with hosts Angola in Sunday’s opening game.
It was a remarkable first-ever match at the brand new, and imposing, November 11 Stadium in Luanda, and the hosts looked to be on their way to an emphatic start to the 2010 finals in front of 50,000 cheering supporters.
But with their collapse at the end, the match fell one goal short of the Nations Cup record of nine goals in a single match set in 1963 when Egypt beat Nigeria 6-3 in Kumasi, Ghana.
Goal of the day
Angola 4-2 Mali (Frederic Kanoute 87')
Just three minutes were left in the game when Seydou Keita floated a long cross into the penalty box right onto the head of the lanky Kanoute. Just shy of the penalty spot, the 32-year-old striker climbed above the defenders and headed the ball into the back of the net with the same velocity as if it had been hit with the boot from close range. Defender Zuela made an effort to challenge Kanoute for the ball, but the determination of the former African Footballer of the Year left Angola’s goalkeeper with no chance to set up the dramatic finale.
A needless spill by Angola’s new goalkeeper Carlos Fernandes from an innocuous looking corner set up the goalmouth melee from which Mali began their comeback. Several players had a swipe at the loose ball and the goalkeeper scrambled to recover, but it was Seydou Keita who forced it over the goalline. With 11 minutes left it seemed but a consolation strike, but in the end, it proved the turning point of a dramatic affair.
Flavio and Gilberto combination
Angola have not seen enough of the efficient partnership created over the years by Flavio and Gilberto. Injury in the main has kept them from recreating for their country what they had done season after season for Egyptian giants Al Ahly at club level. But Mali were witness to it when Gilberto floated in one of his left-footed crosses with characteristic pin-point accuracy, for Flavio to rise and head home a goal that put Angola into a 2-0 lead on the half-time whistle.
Celebration and remembrance
A colourful opening ceremony marked the start of the Nations Cup, depicting Angola’s history. Music and dance was integral and colour abounded as the country put its best foot forward to welcome the continent to the 2010 finals. But there was a poignant moment of silence too for the death of the two Togo delegation members in Cabinda on Friday.
What a start
There has not been such a goal feast in the CAN since 1998 when Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo drew 4-4 in the third-place match. The Burkinabe were 3-0 ahead with 14 minutes to go before the Congolese forced a dramatic comeback and went on to win the bronze medals in a penalty shootout.
Stat of the day
99 - The record number of goals scored at the last African finals in Ghana two years ago. The average was over three per match, but with eight goals in Sunday’s opener, could the teams break the 100-goal mark?
What they said
"In modern football you always have to believe. You have to be mentally very strong. At half-time our world was upside down, but we kept our cool to come back and share the points." Mahamadou Diarra, Mali’s captain.
Malawi - Algeria (11 Jan. 14:45)
Côte d'Ivoire - Burkina Faso (11 Jan. 17:00)
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