- Rules will get you. Much has been made – and rightly so – of the fiasco that was the lottery ceremony at the Malabo Hilton on day 13. Guinea got through at the
expense of Mali courtesy of the regulation which said that drawing of lots would separate deadlocked teams. That regulation replaced the rule which stipulated that if it were all square at the end of the group stages, the number of yellow cards would come into play. At the end of the Group D matches, five Malian players had been cautioned and two Guineans had been booked.
- The Guinea squad are in good spirits. The lucky lads had an early evening training session at La Paz stadium in central Malabo on day 14. They invited reporters and photographers in and were in fine voice during the practice routines. But they might have to sharpen up their shooting skills if they are to beat Ghana on day 16. Two shots from players who shall remain nameless to protect their shame went well over the cross bar, over the stadium wall and into the Malabo night.
- Ghana aren’t so open. Not at all gushy nor chummy. So, by contrast, we weren’t able to judge the accuracy of Ghana’s shooting skills. Their training session at La Paz stadium was closed. Alarmingly verboten. Since the stadium is spitting distance from the central market in Malabo, doubtless some local geezers knew a way in to have a peek.
- Tunisia are on alert. George Leekens, the coach of Tunisia, was in expansive mode ahead of Tunisia’s day 15 clash with the hosts Equatorial Guinea in Bata. He said his players were ready for the test. “They believe in themselves,” he boomed. “They are confident. And I am confident. If I’m not confident then how can I inspire confidence? You can win or lose, a ball hits the post, a penalty isn’t given – that’s the game. But we are now winners. We find the force to come back if we are behind.”
- There’s nothing lucky about Congo in the last eight. Is that a dig at Guinea? Not in the slightest. Just a slight paraphrase of Claude Le Roy’s sentiments ahead of Congo’s quarter-final clash against Democratic Republic of Congo. Le Roy twice coached DRC and says he knows the team well. His new charges in Congo, he says, have risen admirably to the challenge. “Even when we lost some qualifiers in the run up to this tournament, I said it wasn’t only about the result, it was about the quality of the relationship between me and them. And if we’re here at this stage of the tournament, it’s not because of chance. Now we have a difficult step because it’s a match against DRC. But we are ready.” What are the odds on a penalty shoot-out?