Over the weekend we found out the four best teams in Africa – Ivory Coast, Zambia, Mali and Ghana. The host nations were eliminated. The semi-finals will take place next Wednesday.
Zambia comfortably beat Sudan 3-0 but without any fireworks. Despite the high score, it wasn’t a particularly exciting game. Sudan, whose progress to the quarter-finals has been one of the biggest surprises of the tournament, hardly threatened their opponent’s goal. They were also reduced to ten men in the second half following a red card.
The Ivory Coast didn’t give Equatorial Guinea a chance and comfortably cruised through 3-0. Equatorial Guinea, who were playing in the ACN for the first time ever, stood no chance in the encounter with an experienced and star-studded Ivory Coast team, despite the wave of support from their fans. With every minute the Elephants’ superiority increased although it was evident they weren’t playing to their full potential. However, all they had to do was step up a gear for Guinea to be overwhelmed. Didier Drogba had a chance for a hat-trick but missed a penalty. However, he later made amends with two goals and Yaya Toure scored the third goal with a stunning strike from a free kick.
Mali beat Gabon after a penalty shoot-out and the game was a classic example of the old adage that if you don’t take your chances they will come back to haunt you. We had become used to exciting play from Gabon but this time there was no happy ending for them. The start of the first half was all Mali but Gabon started to assert their attacking threat towards the end. In the second half Gabon were still the stronger team and finally converted one of their many chances. However, they were five minutes away from an historic success as Mali equalized in the 85th minute. Extra time didn’t produce a winner and the game was decided on penalties. Gabon’s biggest star, Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang, missed his kick and the Mali players celebrated their success.
Ghana beat Tunisia 2-1 after extra time and in fact it was Tunisia who were the architects of their own downfall after an unexplainable mistake from the Tunisian goalkeeper. In extra time (the score being 1-1 after 90 minutes), while completely unchallenged, he spilled a cross right in front of a Ghana player who immediately took advantage. Despite the fact that the Tunisian players were at a disadvantage after a sending off, they kept going until the last minute.
Exciting semi-finals await us: Zambia v Ghana and Ivory Coast v Mali. Will we see the anticipated final of Ivory Coast-Ghana? We’ll find out on Wednesday.
The contenders for the golden boot, with 3 goals, are Dider Drogba (Ivory Coast) and Chris Katongo (Zambia). Houssine Kharia (Morocco) and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon) have scored the same number of goals, but have already been eliminated from the tournament.
By Marek Wajda.