African trio back on track
Cameroon, South Africa and Cote d’Ivoire shrugged off their disappointing 2010 FIFA World Cup™ showings with hard-fought victories in friendly internationals as Africans teams got back to competitive football in preparation for the upcoming 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers that will commence in the first week of September.
The three teams were amongst a host of other African sides who were involved in friendly matches. While the trio blossomed, the perennial struggles of Nigeria’s Super Eagles continued as they experienced yet another defeat.
The big game
South Africa 1-0 Ghana
Goals: Mphela 42 (South Africa)
Pitso Mosimane’s reign as South Africa coach got off to a flying start in Johannesburg when Bafana Bafana pulled off a classic performance to dispose of Ghana’s Black Stars 1-0 on a chilly South African evening.
It was a sterling performance from the South Africans who enjoyed a monopoly of ball possession in the first 45 minutes. Striker Katlego Mphela scored what proved to be the winner three minutes from half-time after finishing off a sublime pass from Steven Pienaar. Mphela, though, was guilty of missing a number of first half opportunities – twice he was involved in a one-on-one situation with Ghana keeper Richard Kingson, but could not pick his spot. Credit though should go to Kingson who, on both occasions, narrowed the angle for the advancing Mphela.
It was South Africa who enjoyed the lion's share of the ball. The Black Stars shone in flashes, most notably the ever improving Dede Ayew who was involved in a midfield battle with Pienaar. However, Ghana went to the half-time without a shot on goal. In the second half, the Blacks Stars tried hard to push forward, however South Africa was simply more organised at the back and had seemingly worked at the shortcomings they showed during the FIFA World Cup. They looked more polished, comfortable on the ball and ruthless in attack. Ghana, on the other hand, tried to play using the flanks, but they were thwarted when going forward.
Poland 0-3 Cameroon (Szczecin)
Goals: Samuel Eto’o 30, 53; Aboubakar 65 (Cameroon)
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon exorcised the demons of an inauspicious 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign when they roared back to winning ways against Poland in Szczecin. Subjected to much scrutiny and doubts in his homeland, Samuel Eto’o led the Indomitable Lions from the front, netting a brace to inspire the west Africans to an impressive 3-0 victory against the Europeans.
Eto’o, the Cameroon skipper, broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark taking Cameroon to a 1-0 lead at the interval. Nine minutes after the break, the Inter Milan striker’s lethal boot came into play giving the Indomitable Lions a 2-0 cushion. It was the second goal that seemingly lifted Cameroon’s spirits.
They went forward searching for more and they were duly rewarded soon after with a third goal from forward, Vincent Aboubakar. It was a remarkable feat for the Cameroonians who went to the game with their backs against the wall following a poor showing at the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa. Exacerbating Cameroon's troubled preparation going to this game is that they travelled without a permanent head coach following the exit of former mentor, Paul Le Guen.
Korea Republic 2-1 Nigeria (Seoul)
Goals: Yoon Bit-Garam 17, Choi Hyo-Jin (South Korea) Peter Odemwingie 27 (Nigeria)
Stand-in Nigeria coach, Austin Eguavoen could not inspire his Super Eagles to victory as they succumbed to another defeat at the hands of Korea Republic in Seoul where they went down 2-1.
It was a deserving victory for the Koreans who went ahead as early as the 17th minute through debutant Yoon Bit-Garam. However, the Super Eagles came with a swift response through a header by Odemwingie who connected with Kalu Uche’s free-kick. The hosts though came back to break the deadlock through Choi Hyo-Jin.
The result sees Nigeria’s woes continue unabated and they will now have to search deeper as they prepare for the 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. The last few months have been trying for the Super Eagles and they find themselves in unfamiliar territory, where they have to claw back to the top again. Eguavoen had made changes from the team that participated at the FIFA World Cup finals in an effort to open a new chapter for the Eagles.
It was yet another confident display that confirmed the Pharoahs' supremacy in African football. The Egyptians went to the interval leading 4-1 and they managed to increase their lead by two goals in the second half, while Congo DR’s two successive goals could not mount a strong case to challenge the Pharaohs on the evening.
Italy 0 Cote d’Ivoire 1
Goals: Kolo Toure 44 (Cote d’Ivoire)
Despite a cloud that still hangs over their head coach position, Cote d’Ivoire recorded an emphatic victory when they defeated former world champions, Italy 1-0 in a friendly international in London. It was Kolo Toure's 55th minute header that brought prolonged misery to the Azzurri camp and ended new Italian coach Cesare Prandelli's debut on a sour note.
It was a well deserved victory for the Elephants even though they did so without key striker and captain Didier Drogba. The results will be seen as a morale-booster for the Ivorians who, despite a first-round exit at South Africa 2010, are still rated amongst the top sides in Africa.
Senegal 1-0 Cape Verde Islands
Senegal laboured to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the always challenging Cape Verde Islands on Wednesday night. While they will savour the victory, Senegal are aware that a lot of work lies ahead of they are to reclaim their previous status in the African continental championships.
Other results: Uganda 1-1 Zambia; Tanzania 1-1 Kenya; Saudi Arabia 1-0 Togo; Mali 0-2 Guinea; Burkina Faso 3-0 Congo; Benin 0-0 Niger.
Player of the day
Samuel Eto’o: His form might have deserted him at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but Eto’o once again silenced his detractors and proved his worth when he scored a brace against Poland.
Result of the day
Egypt 6- 3 Congo DR: While Cote d’Ivoire’s tenacious performance against Italy has been heralded, the nine goal thriller in Cairo between Egypt and Congo DR was remarkable. It was yet another polished performance from Africa’s highest ranked side.
What they said
“Of course we would have loved to win today, but credit should go to South Africa. They played well and closed us down quickly. However, this match was good preparation for us before we start the qualifiers.” Milovan Rajevac, Ghana coach
Have your say
After yet another defeat for Nigeria, can they bounce back in time for the 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations?