- Better to be cold-blooded than hot-headed. Côte d’Ivoire forward Gervinho apologised on day five for his slappy slappy strop off the ball with the Guinea
defender Naby Keita during their Group D match on day four in Malabo. The 27-year-old received the first red card of the 2015 tournament in the second half of the game while his side was trailing 1-0. The Ivorians are among the favourites to take the title and, despite their numerical disadvantage, they recovered to claim a 1-1 draw. No thanks to Gervinho. Probably with this in mind, the Roma star turned to his Facebook page to publicise his contrition. “I want to apologise to the nation, my team-mates, the fans and the African Nations Cup organisers for this gesture of anger,” he lamented. “It is not like me and it does not have its place on a football pitch.” Quite so and neither will he it seems. Gervinho will miss at least one game but organisers of the tournament, the Confederation of African Football, may extend it. A sending-off for violent conduct receives at least a two-match ban but it can be as high as four if the disciplinary committee considers a tougher penalty is necessary. Whichever way it goes, the 2015 extravaganza looks over for Gervinho.
- It’s going to be all about guts in Group A. Equatorial Guinea’s finest disappointed an expectant nation yet again on day five. The players could only draw their second match with Burkina Faso 0-0. In truth they were fortunate to escape with a draw as Burkina Faso had the better chances. But, for the second game running, the Burkina Faso strikers were just not ruthless enough. Still, everyone has a chance going into the final game. Because Congo beat Gabon 1-0, it means the Congolese lead the way on four points, Gabon have three, Equatorial Guinea have two and Burkina Faso prop up the group with one point. Final round of matches on Sunday pit the hosts against Gabon in Bata and Congo against Burkina Faso in Ebebiyin. It’s quite simple. Win and you go through.
- It’s been a long time coming. By beating Gabon 1-0, Congo notched up their first win at the CAN for more than 30 years. Their last victory was on March 5, 1974 against Zaire - now Democratic Republic of Congo. True, they got to the quarters in 1992 but that was under the old 12-team format when the top two from each group advanced to the last eight. Congo progressed to the quarter finals after drawing their games against Algeria and Côte d’Ivoire before losing in the last eight to eventual finalists Ghana. Prince Oniangué was the Congolese hero on day five and the 25-year-old Paris-born midfielder wasn’t even a twinkle in his daddy’s eye when the Congolese national football team last tasted CAN success. Well, Congo have a good chance of advancing to the last eight now. And if anyone can steer them into the latter stages, it’s the veteran coach Claude Le Roy.
- Experience counts at this level. On the subject of Le Roy, the 66-year-old French coach is a wily campaigner. He knew he was on solid ground when he went controversial about facilities just before Congo’s opening match against Equatorial Guinea. Le Roy ranted about the dubiously long journey to the stadium in a hot coach and the traffic jams that enveloped the team coach. His side arrived 55 minutes before kick-off and they did well to salvage a draw against Equatorial Guinea. Thanks to his creating a siege mentality, his team responded with a well executed game plan to snuff out the self-styled star of the CAN, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, in the game against Gabon. Le Roy has led six African teams over the course of his 35-year coaching career, including the 1988 CAN champions Cameroon. The review is officially launching a Congo watch.
- Potential is as ephemeral as the translucent Equatorial Guinean dawns.
After getting ontological on day three the review is seeking solace in the poetical. Yes, there is room for improvement. We therefore empathise with the plight of the Burkina Faso strikers of Jonathan Pitroipa and Alain Traoré. They were the scourge of defences during the CAN in 2013 in South Africa as the team surged to the final. Pitroipa and Traoré aren’t doing at all well here in Equatorial Guinea. They haven’t scored a goal in two matches. Woe, woe and thrice woe?