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28.01.2006 Football News

Group of Death left wide open

By Reuters
Group of Death left wide open

PORT SAID, Egypt - The Group of Death at the African Nations Cup was left wide open on Friday after leaders Nigeria beat Zimbabwe 2-0 and Ghana revived their campaign with a 1-0 win over Senegal.

Nigeria found Zimbabwe more difficult than expected, eventually hitting them with two goals in four minutes after an inspired double substitution by coach Augustine Eguavoen.

An early strike from Bundesliga-bound Mathew Amoah gave Ghana the points against Senegal as they bounced back from their opening 1-0 defeat by Nigeria.

The results left Group D finely balanced.

Nigeria lead with six points from two games and need one more from Tuesday's match with Senegal to be sure of qualifying.

Senegal and Ghana, who play Zimbabwe in their final game, have three points each and will both need to win and keep an eye on each other's results.

Even Zimbabwe could still go through if they beat Ghana and Nigeria beat Senegal by a big score.

"We had a game plan and it was two defensive lapses which cost us a result today," said Zimbabwe's Charles Mhlauri, who at 36 is the youngest of the 16 coaches at the tournament.

Eguavoen said: "We know the next match is important but we are not going to lose sleep over it.

"We have a team to beat any other team on our day. We need one more point and we're going to work hard to get it."

Zimbabwe played some neat football in midfield and could even have gone ahead if their final passes had been better during the opening 55 minutes.

However, everything changed when Eguavoen brought on John Obi Mikel and Kanu for the disappointing Wilson Oruma and Julius Aghahowa.


Inside a minute Kanu had a penalty appeal turned down and within two minutes Nigeria had gone ahead, Italian-based Christian Obodo heading home from a corner.

Four minutes later, Obi Mikel, playing only his second international, scored his first goal for Nigeria, drilling home a low shot from the edge of the area.

Italy coach Marcello Lippi, whose side face Ghana in the first round at the World Cup, was in the crowd for their match with Senegal which opened the double bill.

Lippi had to wait around 15 minutes as officials tried to find him a seat, causing chaos in the VIP area.

Senegal, determined to make up for their failure to qualify for the World Cup, had begun the tournament with a 2-0 win over Zimbabwe and were keen to prove themselves against Ghana, who will be making the trip to Germany.

Amoah, who joins Borussia Dortmund after the tournament in Egypt, had other ideas as he scored from a tight angle in the 13th minute.

Both sides had a player sent off -- Ghan midfielder Laryea Kingston and Senegal fullback Habib Beye -- after a mass brawl in the centre of the pitch midway through the second half.

Senegal coach Abdoulaye Barr, who took off striker El Hadji Diouf surprisingly early in the second half, criticised his team's performance.

"The team did not present any danger to Ghana in the first half. They were badly organised and passive," he said. "We just weren't aggressive enough and Ghana won a lot of balls."

The tournament returns to Cairo on Saturday where hosts Egypt still need a point against already-qualified Ivory Coast to reach the last eight from Group A.

Morocco could still go through if they beat lightweights Libya in the other match and Egypt lose.