Mauritania made their entry at the Africa Cup of Nations in Suez. And they were soundly pasted by Mali. It finished 4-1. Adama Traoré scored Mali’s third in the 55th minute. Six minutes later the Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba decided he needed a rest and so he replaced him with Adama Traoré who scored Mali’s fourth in the 74th minute.
That could be the only explanation for Mauritania ending their inaugural game at the finals with 11 men. Eleven minutes from time the Mali striker Moussa Marega bore down on goal and the Mauritania keeper Brahim Souleymane came out of the penalty area and tripped him as Marega tried to go round him. There were no covering defenders. This was, on any other day in any other game, a red card. But referee Jean-Jacques Ngambo showed a yellow card. The munificence. The Malians, to their credit, didn’t protest too much. They were already 4-1 up. Had it been 0-0, there might have been an altogether different reaction.
There have been three matches at 16:30 so far. It is very hot at that time of the day and, surprise this, only one goal has been scored in the first-half. That was during the Uganda v Democratic Republic of Congo match. The solitary goals in the games between Morocco and Namibia and South Africa v Côte d’Ivoire came in the second-half. Not to say that there weren’t chances in the first period of these matches but the afternoon games have produced very few goals. They have appeared a test of endurance rather than expressions of creative football. Quite sad.
All hail the South Africa coach Stuart Baxter who fessed up after his side’s 1-0 loss to the Ivorians in Suez. He said his players didn’t create enough chances and so deserved to lose – since the other side had scored a goal. We also like his parlance. “Côte d’Ivoire are a good team and they defend well and they’re strong physically. You’ve got to be careful because they have very quick players who will hit you on transition if you overcommit.”
Speaking of parlance. Baxter’s Ivorian counterpart, Ibrahim Kamara, referred to those quick players as “les flèches” – arrows. How poetic. “On a du vent devant,” he added. This can be translated in many ways. But this heat is making us feel literal. How about … they go like the wind.