The 2008 African Cup of Nations got into full swing on Monday.
In Group A, 1976 champion Morocco took on Namibia in Accra, finishing up the first round of action in Group A after Ghana defeated Guinea 2-1 on Sunday.
Group B also got underway, with 1992 champion Ivory Coast took on two-time (1980, 1994) champs Nigeria and Mali taking on Benin in Sekondi-Takoradi.
Here’s a quick rundown of the action, complete with goal highlights from each match.
Namibia 1-5 Morocco
Soufiane Alloudi was the star of the day for Morocco, as his first-half hat trick led the Atlas Lions to an easy victory over Namibia.
The 24-year old Al Ain forward opened the scoring in the 2nd minute, when he was right on the spot to smash the ball into an empty net. Marouane Chamakh was unlucky to see his point-blank effort go off of the post, but collected the loose ball and laid it off to the onrushing Alloudi, who put it away.
In the fifth minute, it was Alloudi 2, Namibia 0, and after the relative newcomers to Africa’s soccer showpiece (only their second appearance) pulled one back in the 23rd, Alloudi finished off a superb hat-trick when he collected Porto man Tarik Sektioui’s cross and headed it home past keeper Abisia Shanangayamwe.
Sektioui got on the score sheet in the 40th minute when he slotted home a penalty, and the five-goal feast was wrapped up when sub Moncef Zerka scored on a header in the 73rd.
However, it wasn’t all great news for Morocco, as hat-trick hero Alloudi was carted off just after the hour mark with a right knee injury that could see him miss the next match.
As for that next match, it will be on Thursday against Guinea, who gave hosts Ghana all they had, but succumbed to Sulley Muntari’s late strike. It doesn’t get any easier for Namibia, as their next opponent is the host side, who they will face on Thursday night in Accra following the Guinea-Morocco tie.
Namibia 1-5 Morocco – Goal Highlights
Nigeria 0-1 Ivory Coast (match report here)
Chelsea’s Salomon Kalou scored the only goal of the match – and it was a brilliant one – to hand the Ivory Coast a victory over Nigeria in the Group B opener at Sekondi Stadium in Sekondi-Takoradi.
In the 66th minute, Kalou took an attempted clearance about 25 yards out and fended off multiple Nigerian defenders as he made his way into the box, setting himself up for a shot that he deposited home to complete a astonishing individual move.
Nigeria 0-1 Ivory Coast – Kalou’s wonder goal
Mali 1-0 Benin
It was double 1-0 scorelines in Group B, as Fredi Kanoute’s 49th minute penalty was enough to give Mali the three points.
Kanoute’s opportunity was created when Dramane Traore was felled in the box, and the Sevilla star calmly put the spot kick away.
Mali 1-0 Benin – match highlights
Group B action resumes on Friday, when the Ivory Coast take on Benin in the early evening matchup, and in the nightcap, Nigeria must get a positive result against Mali to keep their qualification hopes alive heading into their final group match.
Today will see Group C favorites Egypt and Cameroon face off in the early kickoff in Kumasi, with Sudan and Zambia squaring off afterwards.
And, in case you didn’t see it already, here’s a little extra goal goodness: Muntari’s winner – Ghana 2-1 Guinea