Big names tumble in Africa
© AFP

The drama-filled 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers produced a number of surprise results this weekend and saw some of the continent’s biggest nations slide to shocking defeats as the groups entered a critical phase. No less than seven-time continental champions Egypt were conquered, as were Algeria and Nigeria, while Cameroon managed a lucky escape.

The Desert Foxes of Algeria, who could look at 2010 with some pride after competing in the FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa, had a day to forget when they lost 2-0 to the unheralded Central Africa Republic. The Low-Ubangui Fawns, as the Central African Republic national side is affectionately called, now top Group D despite being ranked 172th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking and having never qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations before. Algeria are now bottom of the table with one point, which came from a home draw with Tanzania in the first round of matches.

Even more surprising given their competition, Niger, 154th in the Ranking, orchestrated one of the decade's biggest upsets in African football when they upstaged three-time defending African champions Egypt with a 1-0 win at Stade General Seyni Kountche in Niamey. The Pharaohs were given a rude-awakening early on when France-based striker Moussa Maazou gave the home side the lead after seven minutes. Despite mounting a fightback, the Pharaohs never got back into the game and will return to Cairo with a lot of work to do in order to resurrect a campaign that is now hanging by a thread.

Egypt are facing the possibility that they will miss the Cup of Nations finals for the first time since 1982. After two games in Group G, they have only banked a single point thanks to home draw with Sierra Leone in September. With only one side gaining automatic qualification to the continent’s biggest showpiece and with South Africa, the incumbent Group G leaders, grabbing an all-important draw against Sierra Leone, Egypt are now three points off the pace.

Nigeria’s Super Eagles lost 1-0 in Guinea thanks to Kevin Constant's fifth-minute strike and the west African giants trail the Syli National by three points in Group B.

Black Stars stutter, Morocco bounce back
Ghana could not overcome a mediocre start as they limped to a goalless draw against Sudan in Kumasi yesterday in front of a packed crowd. The Black Stars struggled in the first 30 minutes of the game to get their rhythm and allowed the unfancied Sudanese plenty of room to roam. However, inexperience proved to be their Achilles' heel, and they were unable to punish Ghana despite some defensive lapses.

The draw was a bitter pill to swallow for the thousands who had gathered in Kumasi to see the returning FIFA World Cup heroes play their first match on home soil since their gutsy quarter-final display in South Africa. The Black Stars’ woes were compounded by the sending off of striker Asamoah Gyan ten minutes before the full-time whistle. It was a ill-timed blow for the home side, and after that they adopted a survival strategy against a Sudanese team gaining confidence with every minute.

Morocco did their best to get their campaign back on track with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the Taifa Stars of Tanzania in Dar es Salaam on Saturday. The three points have brought not only a sigh of relief for the Moroccans but also hopes of qualification from Group D. It was forward Mounir El Hamdaoui who scored two minutes before the interval to give Morocco a priceless three points which leaves them level with surprise package Central African Republic. The North Africans opted for a defensive approach in the second half against a Tanzanian outfit which is slowly gaining credibility on African soil.

Lucky lions, eager Eagles
Cameroon managed a fortunate draw in Garoua against DR Congo, falling behind to a goal from West Ham United defender Herita Ilunga after 37 minutes. The Indomitable Lions were then aided by an own goal from Miala Nkulukutu ten minutes from time. The result opens a back door for DR Congo, who lost their first match to Senegal 4-2 at home in Lubumbashi.

After a shaky start in their campaign, Tunisia received a morale-boosting 2-1 victory against Togo away from home yesterday. The Carthage Eagles were under tremendous pressure to get maximum results from this game with table-topping Botswana threatening to run away with the Group K.

Results

Group A
Mali 2-1 Liberia
Zimbabwe 0-0 Cape Verde

Group B
Madagascar 0-1 Ethiopia
Guinea 1-0 Nigeria

Group C
Comoros 0-1 Mozambique
Libya 1-0 Zambia

Group D
Tanzania 0-1 Morocco
Central African Republic 2-0 Algeria

Group E
Cameroon 1-1 Congo DR
Senegal 7-0 Mauritius

Group F
Burkina Faso 3-1 Gambia

Group G
Niger 1-0 Egypt
Sierra Leone 0-0 South Africa

Group H
Burundi 0-1 Côte d’Ivoire
Rwanda 0-3 Benin

Group I
Congo 3-1 Swaziland
Ghana 0-0 Sudan

Group J
Kenya 0-0 Uganda
Angola 1-0 Guinea-Bissau

Group K
Malawi 6-2 Chad
Togo 1-2 Tunisia