African Football Challenge Collapses At London Olympics
The African football challenge at the London Olympics collapsed on the turfs of the Wembley and Old Trafford stadiums last Saturday when Senegal and Egypt respectively tumbled out of the tournament.
Senegal fought bravely but were beaten 4-2 by a resilient Mexico in front of an over 80,000 crowd, while Egypt were badly bruised 3-0 by Japan.
Both Senegal and Egypt were seeking to emulate the feats of fellow African teams of the past - Ghana (bronze medal 1992 in Spain), Nigeria (gold medal in 1996 in Los Angeles) and Cameroun (gold in 2000 in Sydney) - but their best shots stopped at the quarterfinals.
The assistant coach of Senegal, Aliou Cisse, reckoned they were a disappointment to Africa as he said after the match: 'This is a disappointing day for African football, to see two good African teams being eliminated at the quarterfinals stage.
'But I take it as part of our need to continue to work hard to close the gap with the other continents'
And the captain of the Egyptian team and arrowhead, Mohamed Aboutrika, couldn't agree more: 'We are not happy with the result, but Japan are a great team. At the beginning, we lacked concentration and that gave them an advantage.
'We hope we can use this experience to qualify for the next World Cup in Brazil and I believe there is a lot more to come from us'.
But it was Senegal who gave glimpses of a winsome team when they rose from two goals down to draw level and extend the game into extra time during which they blundered defensively in each half to concede two painful goals to ensure their exit.
Jorge Enriquez put Mexico on the winning trail by the 10th minute and Javier Aquino doubled their account in the 62nd to make victory appear sealed.
However, within seven minutes of an extraordinary display of resilience, Senegal scored twice, both through headers by Moussa Konate in the 69th minute and substitue Ibrahima Balde in the 76th, to push the game into extra time.
But two moments of carelessness in the defence area cost the Senegalese as Giovani Santos and Hector Herrera capitalised on the 98th and 109th minutes respectively to the Mexicans into the semi-finals for a meeting with the Japanese on Tuesday at Wembley.
In the other games,tournament favourites, Brazil endured some scary moments before despatching South American neighbours, Honduras 3-2 in their match, while host nation, Great Britain were shown the exit by Korea in a 5-4 penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 drawn game.
The Brazil versus Korea semi-finals tomorrow is certain to be a cracker at the London Olympics.