There’s a new sport in town
In the gleaming new era of 24 sides at the Cup of Nations comes a round of 16. The top two from the six groups advance automatically after the three matches in the pool and the four best third placed teams are thrown into the last 16 mix. Who those four will be is the stuff of permuatations, calculations and, of course, rules. On Day 11, Tanzania and Namiba absented themselves from the reckoning after both suffering their third defeats to Algeria and Cote d’Ivoire respectively. Kenya finished Group C in third place with three points but the 3-0 lashing by Senegal didn’t help their goal difference. South Africa, third in Group D, were just minutes away from a draw against Morocco before they conceded to lose 1-0. And so have three points and a nervous wait until the end of the matches on Day 12. The tension is better than some of the football.
1, 2, 3 viva Algerie
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you can take your pick of songs from the internet celebrating the wondrousness of Algeria’s football teams over the years. The current crop showed their juiciness on Day 11. For their final game against Tanzania, Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi made 1, 2, 3 changes to the side and they didn’t disappoint.They scored 1, 2, 3 goals.
Namibia boss Ricardo Mannetti didn’t mince his words after Cote d’Ivoire lashed his side 4-1. “For 30 minutes we made them look very, very average," said Mannetti. "And then they made us look like schoolboys. How do you get those two contrasting things in one game?” For a Manetti with the questions, the 44-year-old had the answers. “As far as I’m concerned it’s just immaturity on our side. Should we make it to the next tournament we have to improve our quality levels. We have to be more clinical. I’m very disappointed to have dominated a big part of the match and to go home with a 4-1 defeat.” Clearly, his players need to Mannetti up.
Migration, migration, migration
So off to Europe you fly young Africans. There you will learn and earn. We won’t talk about the earning. We will wonder about the learning. Namibia coach Ricardo Mannetti isn’t the only person at the tournament eulogising the benefits of a schooling in the European arts. We’ve heard a similar analysis from the Tanzania boss Emmanuel Amuneke as well as some of the players who ply their trade in Europe but then go back to the national squad and are among teammates turning out for less fabled sides. There are politicians in Europe who don’t like the idea of outside. But hey lads and lasses, its just a question of going in and taking something. It used to be called imperialism but now we can call it a football education.
Wilfred Zaha sat out Cote d’Ivoire’s dismal loss to Morocco on Day 8. The 26-year-old was restored to the starting line-up against Namibia and though he was one of the very, very average players for a while, he scored the third of his side’s four goals. Back home in Britain, Zaha is linked with a 90 million euro move to Arsenal. Still regarded as a big European team in some quarters. The Crystal Palace striker refused to talk about things south and north London while on national team duty in Africa. “All that’s on my mind is getting as far as possible with the team. My mind is here right now, nothing else.” Yeah, right, Wilf. But your bank balance is back in England.