Allegations of match-fixing approaches and resigning coaches have stole some of the headlines in the African Cup of Nations over the last several days, but while all of that’s going on, there’s a pretty entertaining football competition to turn your attention to at the same time.
The four groups are in the midst of wrapping up their final round of group stage matches, and several sides are still mathematically in the running to qualify for for the quarterfinals.
Group A has already wrapped up, with group winners Ghana and runners-up Guinea moving on to the final eight.
The hosts played it tight in their first two group matches, both one-goal triumphs, but had Monday’s match against Morocco wrapped up before halftime, as Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari found the net in the first half to lead the Black Stars to a 2-0 win and a perfect record in the group.
That result ensured that Guinea, who drew 1-1 with Namibia, would be going through to the quarterfinals.
After the first round of group matches, you could have made a case for Morocco to push Ghana in the group, after they routed Namibia 5-1 in their opener. But, two consecutive defeats to Guinea and Ghana mean elimination for the 2004 runners-up.
As for Guinea, their advancement doesn’t come as a surprise, considering that this is the third straight time that they’ve done so. But, they’re going to be staring down a tough quarterfinal matchup against the Ivory Coast, who, like Ghana, finished group play with a perfect record to top Group B.
Didier Drogba and Co. edged Nigeria in their opener, and then dispatched Benin and Mali to the tune of 4-1 and 3-0, so the Guinean backline is going to have a tough task in stopping the Ivory Coast, as anyone, even keeper Boubacar Barry, can score at anytime. Seven scorers accounted for the eight goals the team scored in their group matches, with only Drogba scoring more than once.
While the Ivory Coast ran away with a group win, it came down to Tuesday to determine who would move on with them.
Mali entered Tuesday with four points from two matches, and with Nigeria only taking one point from their first two, all Mali needed was a draw against the Ivory Coast or a Nigeria draw against Benin to go through.
Unfortunately, neither happened, as second-half goals from John Obi Mikel and Yakubu gave Nigeria a 2-0 win, and as mentioned above, the Ivory Coast whipped Mali 3-0.
So, two of the four quarterfinal matchups are set, as Ghana will take on Nigeria in Accra, and the Ivory Coast will face Guinea in Sekondi-Takoradi, with both matches on Saturday.
The other four quarterfinal spots are still yet to be decided, but unless some upsets happen in Group C, Egypt and Cameroon will advance.
The reigning champions have been firing on all cylinders in making easy work of Cameroon and Sudan, and just need a draw against Zambia today to go through as group winners.
The other spot will come down to Cameroon and Zambia, who are both on three points, though Sudan does have a slim chance of sneaking past both.
Cameroon have the edge, as they face Sudan, who have given up six goals in two matches, and are dealing with a side that put five past Zambia on Saturday. The door is open for Zambia, but only if the Indomitable Lions fail to get the three points against Sudan, and Egypt decide to completely take the day off.
In Group D, Tunisia and Angola have the inside track on qualification, as both have four points, while Senegal and South Africa have one.
A second-half brace by new Manchester United signing Manucho (three goals in two games) helped Angola overcome an early 1-0 deficit to beat Senegal 3-1 on Sunday and move into a favorable position.
That loss also sealed the fate of Senegal coach Henri Kasperczak, who resigned hours after the defeat.
All Tunisia and Angola need to do in their match on Thursday is play out a 0-0 stalemate, and both will go through to the quarters. But, if one side takes all three points, then Senegal or South Africa could have a chance to sneak in, depending on who wins each match and what the aggregate goal difference of the two matches is.
If Angola and Tunisia do draw, Tunisia will advance as group winners due to having scored more goals in group play. Then again, it’s not like you’re getting off easy by getting Cameroon, so there’s only so much either can be excited about winning the group.
For the full list of fixtures and results, click here.