Dramatic day of friendlies in Africa
© AFP

High-flying Senegal were brought down to earth by a 2-0 home defeat to Morocco last night as a host of African giants took part in international friendlies. The Lions of Teranga have emerged as one of the continent’s form sides due to their performances in the ongoing 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, but showed an unexpected vulnerability against a clinical Moroccan side.

The match in Dakar was among 12 friendlies featuring African nations. Among the other highlights, South Africa impressed with a 3-0 thumping of Burkina Faso in Johannesburg, as did Gambia in seeing off the Congo DR by the same score.

Didier Drogba also crept closer to the 50-goal mark at international level after scoring the decisive strike in a 4-3 win for Côte d’Ivoire over Israel. Elsewhere, Guinea Bissau stunned 2012 co-hosts Equatorial Guinea with a 4-1 triumph in Lisbon, while Tunisia recorded a morale-boosting 4-2 win over Mali in Monastir and Zimbabwe won the ‘Battle of the Zambezi’.

Smiles in North Africa, for Drogba
Houcine Kharja and Youssef Al Arabi scored inside the opening 26 minutes for Morocco as Mbark Boussoufa controlled the midfield, and there might have been a third had Youssouf Hadji not hit the woodwork on the stroke of half-time. “We deserved the win, but it was just a friendly,” said Moroccan coach Eric Gerets, trying to temper any unrealistic expectations for his side with the Africa Cup of Nations finals now just six months away. “We played as a collective and the side have really become a family.”

Morocco's neighbours Tunisia came from a goal down to beat a fancied Mali side thanks to two goals from Bundesliga-based Sami Allagui. With a vital Nations Cup qualifier to come against Malawi, the result could provide a much-needed boost for Sami Trabelsi’s team.

We played as a collective and the side have really become a family.
Morocco's happy coach Eric Gerets

Drogba, meanwhile, is now just two shy of his half-century after he converted a penalty to help the Ivorians beat Israel in the seven-goal thriller. The Chelsea striker, who returned to international football in February after a six-month hiatus, scored his 48th goal in 73 appearances for his country as the Ivorians moved into a three-goal lead before ultimately having to hang on for victory.

Yaya Toure and Didier Ya Konan scored in quick succession on the stroke of half-time, and substitute Moussa Kone added a third in the 68th minute. However, Israel responded with two goals in the space of four minutes to fight back - only to concede a penalty when Drogba was brought down in the 81st minute and picked himself up to convert the kick.

Senegal-born Basil de Carvalho showed borders really do not exist in world football these days as he travelled from his club in Plovdiv, Bulgaria to Lisbon to score twice for Guinea Bissau in their 4-1 win over Equatorial Guinea. They were 4-0 up just after half-time before Equatorial Guinea’s Spanish-based star Rodolfo Bodipo scored a consolation. Equatorial Guinea co-host the next Nations Cup with Gabon, who drew 1-1 in France in a friendly with Guinea at Saint-Leu-la-Foret.

Bafana turn on the style
Bafana Bafana impressed with some splendid finishing to secure a 3-0 victory over Burkina Faso at Ellis Park as Katlego Mphela scored two fine goals for the home side, with Siphiwe Tshabalala adding the third with an excellent finish. 

South Africa scored after 14 minutes when Thulani Serero was fouled outside the area and Mphela unleashed a powerful set-piece. It was 2-0 five minutes later as Daylon Claasen teed up skipper Tshabalala, who struck a powerful left-footed shot from 15-yards into the corner of the net for a goal similar to the one he netted in the opening game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. Bafana’s third goal came seven minutes after the break as Serero produced an immaculate pass to play in Mphela, who duly netted his 21st goal for his country.

Tijan Jaiteh, Demba Savage and Momodou Ceesay were the scorers for a strong Gambia side, who started with just one locally-based player, and had surprisingly little trouble with the Congolese. Willard Katsande and Khama Billiat, who both play for the South African club side Ajax Cape Town, scored the goals as Zimbabwe beat neighbours Zambia 2-0 to proclaim themselves Kings of the Zambezi. Hard-tackling midfielder Katsande was named man of the match after scoring his first international goal in the derby at Harare’s Rufaro Stadium. He netted on the stroke of half-time and Billiat added a second two minutes later for an experimental home side.

Elsewhere, Angola held an under-strength Liberia to a goalless draw in Monrovia, and Botswana trumped Kenya 1-0 thanks to Moemedi Moatlhaping's penalty. Qualifying for the 2012 continental championship continues at the beginning of September.