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13.10.2005 Sports News

What a saturday for African Soccer?

By Abdul-Rahman
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Saturday September 8th, 2005 will go into the history books as one of the most dramatic and exciting week-end for African Soccer fanatics. For Ghana, Togo, Angola, Cote d'Ivore and Tunisia this saturday is a blessing for it come them with a dream come true. However, for the other teams who fought so had to qualify and did not, the saturday is like an unwanted worse night-mare. Results of the World Cup qualifying series in Africa is an eye opener to the so-called African big teams like Nigeria, Cameron, and South Africa who prior to last saturday had constantly qualified for the world and as result had become complecent. Africa Soccer is matured. Gone are the days when a country could be easily be written off by an opposing country by virtue of previous world cup qualification, African Cup winning rate or fifa ranking. The just ended world cup qualification matches in Africa zone shows that every team in the continent is a potential world cup material. Of the five teams that represented Africa in the last world cup played in South Korea and Japan, only Tunia qualified. The remaining four (names above) are all new comers to the world cup. African supposed soccer giants such Cameron and Nigeria will be missing the German soccer trail this time arround. In the minds of soccer players officials of those countries they are ment to qualify for the world hence they could joke with ealier the stages of the competion and put more fire in the later stages and qualify. well, the just ended contest in Africa has shown that things don't always work that way.

A look at the five groups that contested Africa's slot for the fifa soccer world cup 2006 amply demostrates that the balance power in African football is shifting. In group One, The Togolese led from start to the end. They finished the group with 23 points, won 7 out 10 of their matches, drew 2 matches and lost a match. Their performace was the most impressive among all the groups. On head to head basis, the Togolese team stands superior to Senegal- They drew 2-2 in Senegal and defeated Senegal impressively (3-0) in Lome, Togo. Therefore Togo's qualification to next years World Cup is not just luck. But good display of football and a determination to write their name inthe pages of world soccer history.

When Ghana was paired against South Africa in the same group (2) many thought that it is easy passage for the South Africans. After failing to qualify for the CAN 2004, the Stars were least rated to win over South Africa. Black Star started their world cup campaign not so impressively. At the group stages Ghana lost its first Match against Burkina-Faso, played draw again Uganda, and DR. Congo. I remember after the DR. Congo Draw some had written Ghana pff in the campaign. In this regard I will give credit to the captain of the team Mr. Seven Appiah and the Coach. In several radio interviews the skipper gave he always assured the nation that our hope for qualification is not over. The Black Stars made an impressive come in the group. They Came from 0-1 lead by the Burkinabes and defeated them 2-1 in Kumasi. Motivated by their victory, the Black Stars went on and beated South Africa 0-2, Uganda 2-0, and finally Cape Verde Island 0-4. After defeating South Africa on their home ground the Black Stars of Ghana took control over the leadship of the group and maintained it until the end.

Group three was one of the dramatic groups in Africa. The Cameronian Indemitable Lions were tip to win the group. However, throughout the group matches it was cote d'Ivoire that led the group until they slip in their match against Cameron in Abidjan where they lost 2-3. Before that match the Ivoirean were two points ahead of Cameron. Having lost against the Indemitable Lions the Ivoireans nearly gave up their world cup aspirations. This was because they need Cameron to either lose or draw at home against Egypt in order to qualify. Playing at home, the Cameronians were perceived as having the best chance of winning. However, the Egyptians also needed a point in order to make it to CAN 2006. In fact before the match the Egyptian head coach had sent a warning to Cameron not to think that they are going to use Egypt as catalyst for their world cup qualification. True to his words Egypt was able to hold Cameron to a 1-1. This paved the way for the Ivoreans to sail through and qualify having beaten Sudan 1-3 in Sudan. In all the Ivoreans won 7 of 10 matches, drew a match and lost 2 matches. They finished the group with 22 points ahead of the Cameronians who by virtue of their draw finished with 21 points.

Group 4 is by far the most interesting group. It is the only group that the FIFA tiebreak rule was used to sellect a winner. The two tieing teams were Nigeria and Angola. Angola and Nigeria had the same points, however on the head to head basis Angola was superior to Nigeria, although it was Nigeria that had bang the most goals in the group. The Angolans defeated Nigeria 1-0 in Luanda, and drew 1-1 in Kano. This means that the head to head points is 4-1 agaist Nigeria. The head to head goals is 2-1 in favour of Angola. If Nigeria had won 1-0 in Kano or were able to 1-1 in Luanda, they and not Angola would have qualified because they have superior goals aggregade than the entire group. However, head to head points and goals are the foremost consideration before group goal aggregate

Group five is an all north African Affair. From the start almost everyone tipped either Morocco or Tunisia to qualify. The last match of the group was perhaps the toughest of all the groups. The two leading contenders (Tunisia and Morocco) met to decide who leads the group and qualify in Tunis. Before the last matches Tunisia is the group leader with 20 points followed closely by Morocco with 19 points. Tunisia need either a win or a draw to qualify. They managed to get the latter and qualify for Germany 2006. Tunisia's qualification is interesting as it was the only country in Africa that Played the last world cup and also qualified again.

Abdul-Rahman Welland, Ontario Canada Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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