Perennial quarter-finalists (7 times in all!), England are hoping to make up for the disappointing non-qualification for Euro 2008 with a strong performance in South Africa. Pragmatic Italian© coach Fabio Capello has seemingly instilled a sense of discipline into a squad of (it must be said) spoiled, narcissistic underachievers (although considering Steve McClaren’s spectacular success with FC Twente in the Erdevisie, it remains questionable to what extent the coach was at fault for such a poor showing). Expect to see an England side operating through fear (at Don Fabio’s wrath), and attacking, or rather counter-attacking in an obvious Pragmatic Italian© style.
England’s historical football mindset has always been that of entitlement, as the game’s “inventors,” “Football’s coming home,” and such dreck, as the purveyors of a sort of “civilised” football. In recent years one may notice a marked blindness to national players’ on-field chicanery (Rooney’s numerous dives, Gerrard constantly winning free-kicks by barging into defenders and then screaming at the referee with his arms outstretched) while denouncing similar activity in foreigners. Adding to this warped perspective the constant pressure of suicidal national media attention, constantly digging up scandals, indulging celebrity ego-trips, have created a dysfunctional team of 21st century PR-non-humans, playing the sort of football that makes the eyes bleed. If England are to go anywhere in this World Cup it will be due either to the Iron Fist® of Pragmatic Italian© Capello, or the manic brilliance (and diving) of world-class striker Mr. Potato Head.
England won the World Cup in 1966 thanks to a “goal that never was,” and it seems as though they expected to win the thing each year ever since (or, at least, when they qualified). Paul Wilson suggests things are different this year. And if they fail, for the first time in 9 competitions, to progress beyond the group stages, it seems as though they’ve prepared their excuses in advance.
One of my most patriotic moments has to be seeing Big H.A.W.K. rapping in front of DJ Screw’s record store in a promotional video for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
The relatively star-less American side is one of the few American sports franchises that I can whole-heartedly get behind. Clint Dempsey, rapping above, grew up in a trailer park in southern Texas playing soccer with Mexican children. Fresh from another successful season at Fulham (where he scored this contender for goal of the season and became the first American to play in a European final) he will be sure to shine in attack, supporting Jozy Altidore, “the Haitian Didier Drogba” who endeared himself to the Hull City fans with his strength and work-rate last season, despite only scoring twice. Exciting new MLS Pichichi-to-be Edson Buddle (at 29 finally hitting his stride after an injury-ravaged career) may also have a breakout Cup, scoring twice in a friendly against Australia on Saturday to stake his claim at the head of the attack. Landon Donavan, the closest thing the USMNT has to a superstar (if being on Jimmy Kimmel once=stardom) seems to finally be hitting his peak form following a spectacular loan spell at Everton.
Defence will be the USA’s weakest link, as Onguchi “Gooch” Onyewu is struggling to recover form following a lengthy injury, while Carlos Bocanegra is decidedly B-List. The great Tim Howard in goal boosts the American defensive prowess somewhat.
This 2-0 win over European champions Spain last summer to reach the Final of the Confederations Cup (ending Spain’s xx-game unbeaten streak) could be the greatest moment of this generation of American players:
Being picked alongside England is perfect for the kind of post-colonial grudge match that makes international sports so wonderful. England vs USA should be a hot-blooded affair, hopefully evoking that great upset of 1950. Though the Guardian seem to have picked the least optimistic American fan for their Fan Network, I think we have a good chance at reaching the quarter-finals, hopefully embarrassing England along the way.
Walking around Paris last week, it seemed as if more Parisians were excited about Les Fennecs in the World Cup rather than Les Bleus. The French seem to realize that they don’t really deserve to be in the competition, and that they won’t win the thing. But for anyone with Algerian heritage/sympathies, its simply a pleasure to be taking part in the World Cup, since Algeria have in a way already won by qualifying for the World Cup at the expense of their hated rivals, Egypt (or as one French-Algerian I met would have it, the Egyp-chiens).
Algeria looked impressive, “cohesive” Steev said, as they knocked out the Ivory Coast in this summer’s CAN, before looking decidedly unimpressive as they got tonked 4-0 by Egypt in the semis. Algeria lack WC experience and are of unreliable quality, but if they can string together a few solid, organized performances, they could, uh, go through … I guess.
Players to watch: Karim Matmour’s got a nice touch, Hamid “Endless Boogy” Bougherra is “solid” in defense, Chaouchi is comical in goal, Ghezzal might score a goal, captain Mansouri will control the game in midfield, or at least appear as if he is controlling the game because he is wearing the captain’s armband. This will be Algeria’s 3rd WC, and they have never progressed beyond the group stages before.
Slovenia is the smallest country taking part in this World Cup (population: 2 million)! And apparently they are solid in defense (I know nothing about Slovenian football).
Robert Koren impressed at West Brom. “Beanpole striker” Novakovic is prolific in front of goal. At the other end Samir Handanovic only let in a few goals in qualifying rounds. Slovenia seem to be playing with a cohesiveness that other, stronger teams may lack. I’d pick them over Algeria to be the surprise team to go through from Group C.
Added drama (maybe) could arise from the apparent grudge-match-status of SLO-ENG after a controversial loss to England in a friendly last year:
Slovenia have not forgotten the manner of their defeat nine months ago, when Rooney stood accused of diving to win a penalty that led to Bostjan Cesar limping off and being sidelined for two months with an ankle injury. Koren insists there is no talk of revenge, despite Cesar vowing to make the rematch an “unpleasant experience” for Rooney, but a sense of injustice continues to burn.
Go Slovenia! Give ’em Hell!
I await Saturday with a feverish patriotism. “Final nail in the empire,” Dempsey scoring a hat-trick and lifting his shirt to reveal “I belong to Fat Pat,” Rooney to be sent off for cussin’, NEW WORLD ORDER. USA! USA! etc.! etc!
••• Official BOLAS & BANDEIRAS Qualifying Picks: USA, England
In less than an hour we’ll know who will face youthful Ghana in the CAN ’10 final! [POST-AFTERNOON COFFEE CORRECTION: the game will begin in less than an hour, we’ll know the other finalist at the END of that game—right? blargh] Obviously it’ll either be the Pharoahs (looking to be the first nation to lift 3 consecutive cups, and also to redeem their name after failing to qualify for this summer’s WC) versus Les Fennecs of Algeria (looking to humilate the hated Egyptians!). Pharoah’s striker Mohamed Zidan puts it all in perspective for us:
“This is a matter of life and death. For us it’s a chance to show the world that we deserve to be at the World Cup. If we win this we can watch the World Cup in peace. We’re the champions and we’re a better team than them. Everybody will see who is the better team.”
Simple as that! Here’s to hoping the enmity embodies itself as an attractive sporting contest today!
As always, I’m cribbing off Jonathan Wilson who reminds us that “Egypt are on a record run of 17 games without defeat in the Cup of Nations —the last team to beat them, six years ago tomorrow, was Algeria”. Put that friendly and conversational stat in your bong and fire it up! Here are some team sheets of dubious accuracy:
Algeria: 16-Fawzi Chaouchi; 2-Madjid Bougherra, 3-Nadir Belhadj, 4-Anthar Yahia, 5-Rafik Halliche; 6-Yazid Mansouri, 19-Hassan Yebda, 15-Karim Ziani, 20-Mourad Meghni; 13-Karim Matmour, 9-Abdelkader Ghezzal.
Egypt: 1-Essam Al Hadari; 2-Mahmoud Fathallah, 3-Ahmed Al Muhammadi, 6-Hani Said, 20-Wael Gomaa; 7-Ahmed Fathi, 8-Hosni Abd Rabou, 14-Sayed Moawad, 17-Ahmed Hassan; 9-Mohamed Zidan, 10-Emad Motaeb.
The players are out, and it’s time to disrepect one another’s national anthems! There are generous clouds of flare smoke wafting across the Benguela stadium…healthy amount of away fans, as promised, from both nations. My feed commentator says 3,000 Angolan police have been assigned to this game…let the HATE begin! (sorry)
10 min: Egypt looking silky & determined already…Algeria looking just plain determined. No way I am gonna be able to keep y’all updated on this game!
14 min: Vintage Aerobics fashion enthusiast Essam Al Hadari collects a dangerously in-swinging corner, then willfully headbutts an Anthar Yahia’s arm and dutifully rolls around clutching his face. At least wait til you’re up 1-0, Al Hadari!
17 min: Several dubious injuries, fakery/faqir-y already—otherwise, more evenly-tempered than you might think, though certainly the match has pace and intensity.
???: My eretofore commendable myafricanfootball.com stream has crashed on me…the server/satellite/etc was probably pelted with stones by Algeria AND/OR Egyptian hooligans.
HALFTIME! EGYPT 1-0 ALGERIA! OK, I am back in stream business here. No one is actually depending on this blog for a thorough account of the action, but here is a rapid summary anyway: penalty to Egypt, red card to Algeria, Chaouchi made several excellent saves but also apparently headbutted the ref in a post-penalty dispute! Sporadic updates & thoughts coming throughout the 2nd half…
63 min: Cagey stuff, but when Egypt go forward they flowwww like buttah—sorry. They’ve just wasted several nearly-golden chances featuring good breaks down the left…having trouble finding the open man in the middle amidst all the excitement.
65 min: EGYPT 2-0 ALGERIA!!! Scratch that…Zidan scores. He shucks and jives after receiving the ball at the top of the box, puts the ball onto his left foot and beats Chaouchi to his left. THAT should indeed by that…probably a bit far gone for 10-man Algeria.
70 min: Hate bubbling over here…the Pharoahs are flicking it about, lording it over the Algerians a bit. Ghezzal just kicked Hassan in the back of the leg and it’s CAN ’10 nadir for Nadir Belhadj as he goes in for a (HATEFUL!) two-footed tackle and is given a straight red card for his efforts. Algeria are down to 9 men.
74 min: Egypt are playing keep-ball here…the flare smoke is rolling in again (red flares, not green ones!)
81 min: EGYPT 3-0 ALGERIA! Evisceration time! Substitute Abdelshafi has been on the field for 2 minutes, and he’s already been teed up by Zidan. The Pharoahs are putting on a show…for their fans and also to give the Ghanaians a glimpse of what they’re up against.
88 min: RED CARD #3 for Algeria…oh dear. A great through ball plays in Gedo, he’s 1-on-1 with Chaouchi…possible whistled offside, but the Algerian keeper proceeds by just directing an angry kick at his leg. That’s his second yellow, so he’s off.
90+3 min: EGYPT’s 4th!!! Gedo finishes calmly after a quick passing move, weaving through the limited numbers of Algerians still on the pitch.
AND THAT IS THAT!!! Sweet revenge for that World Cup qualifier. Rafik Halliche’s sending off at 30 minutes set the tone of the game, but all in all the Egyptians just seemed to have too much class.
It will be EGYPT-GHANA in the final on Sunday. The Pharoahs team are 2-time defending champs, have scored 14 goals and only conceded 2, and have bags of experience…obviously not the case with the Ghana squad stripped of its stars. CAN ’10 has not been the most entertaining of tournaments so far, but things are getting yet more interesting. GET PUMPED for the final, and see you “all” Sunday!
Apologies to once & future BOLAS & BANDEIRAS readers for several days of radio silence. I know my gentle colleague Nathaniel has more pressing life obligations, and wish I had such an excuse! Rather, I think I burnt myself out with Sunday’s back-to-back QF coverage. Since that blessed day, we had Monday’s QFs, which saw Egypt (greatly aided by a calamitous Cameroonian defence as well as one extremely dodgy refereeing decision/plea for goal-line technology) and the Super Eagles of Nigeria (in a snoozefest with Zambia which finished 0-0 after extra time and finally generated some excitement via a penalty shootout) advancing to the semi-finals. Both semis are TOMORROW and they also both represent two of the most intense rivalries in African soccer…a West & a North African derby if you will.
EGYPT–ALGERIA is certainly the contentious contest freshest in our minds. The flames were generously fanned for their World Cup qualifying playoff match back in November, billed as a rematch of their 1989 “Match of Hate”. Media in both countries whipped their fans into a frenzy, and there was a lot of controversy in the choice of the neutral venue of Khartoum (Egypt’s preferred location, as opposed to Algeria’s suggestion of Tunis). Desert Fox fans flocked to Sudan to support their team however, with over 13,000 Algerians in attendance and ready for, well, war:
In the end, the Egyptian fans left Khartoum shaken but generally unscathed. The Egyptian health minister reported that 21 Egyptians had been injured. Nonetheless, back in Cairo, the escalation continued. The media ran stories of the Algerian government emptying its jails and transporting thousands of criminals to Sudan, of Algerian supporters chasing Egyptians with what Egypt’s English-language Al-Ahram Weekly listed as “knives, nails, daggers, switchblades, scalpels and heavy wooden sticks.” Crowds of indignant Egypt supporters tried to attack the Algerian Embassy in Cairo; dozens of policemen and fans were injured in the fighting and rock-throwing that ensued. Alaa Mubarak, the president’s son, called in repeatedly to TV talk shows to complain of the behavior of the Algerians in Khartoum and to call them “terrorists” and “mercenaries.” Elsewhere in the Egyptian media, Algerians have been described, en masse, as “uncivilized,” “violent,” and “sick.”
And of course, Algeria won 1-0. Despite the expense of travel and lodging in Angola (at least this match is in Benguela and not World’s-Most-Expensive-City Luanda) it’s expected that at least 1,000 fans from each side are set to fly down. Although Algeria have delivered more tactical compactness than aesthetic footballing thrills, surely if anything can fire to the next level it’s the intensity of this clash. It has to be said after exorcising their demons in their 3-0 loss to Malawi, Les Fennecs have looked more cohesive than any other side at CAN…except Egypt!
NIGERIA-GH★NA is a rematch of the match that sent home the Super Eagles in the quarterfinals of CAN 2008. These two West African footballing giants have a less violent rivalry, though it has a deeeep history, going back to the 1950s Jalco Cup competition held between the two:
The 1958 edition of the JALCO Cup was perhaps the most melodramatic. The Black Stars came to Lagos determined to avenge Nigeria’s first win on Ghanaian soil. The score was 2-2 when an unfortunate, if not scandalous decision by the centre referee almost completely ruined a match of outstanding quality. Hell broke loose as the Black Stars, captained by Ghanaian legend Charles Gyamfi, protested the “goal” vehemently. A furious wife of Ohene Djan stormed the field and slapped the centre referee, causing the match to be stopped for twenty minutes.
Sadly tomorrow will likely see the Ghana WAGs more sedate. Alas, despite Ghana’s massive injury problems they still might be seen as favorites. Nigeria has been downright soporific so far this tournament, and Ghana’s youthful side seem to be gaining in confidence. This humble blogger’s predictions have been less than revelatory throughout CAN ’10…so why not just watch the games yourselves! Hopefully our editorial crew will be around tomorrow for to illuminate & unpack as these semifinal clashes unfold. CYA THEN!
Welp, having wiped away the tears shed at the departure of the Palancas Negras from CAN ’10, it’s time to pull ourselves together in order to “cover” today’s other match: COTE D’IVORE v. ALGERIE. Les Fennecs are certainly being viewed as rank underdogs: they were lifeless in their last match against Angola (admittedly a game lifeless-by-design in the 2nd half) and they scored just one goal in the group stages (from a set piece). If the western media’s team news is to be believed, some key players will miss out through injury: Rafik Saif, the man who they desperately lean on for goals; the requisite re-nationalized Frenchman & mazy dribbler Mourad Meghni; and comedian-goalkeeper-bobblemaster Fawzi Chaouchi.
What about Les Elephants? Like Ghana, the fact that they only played 2 group stage matches makes them a bit more difficult to suss out. They reached an impressive level of team rapport when they beat Ghana 3-1, but have had more than a week’s rest since that match. They looked solid in that victory (against more talented opposition than they face today), with the midfield cohering around Yaya Toure’s leadership. Perhaps more ominously for the Algerians, the attacking trident of Kalou/Gervinho/Drogba were beginning to look dangerous indeeeeed. I am not really one for predictions, but I’m gonna put my as-yet-unconfirmed dignity on the line and say 3-0 Ivory Coast?
Sooo, here are the teams—Megni & Chaouchi are both indeed playing in goal for Algeria. Dunno if it’s mindgames or crap wire services, but the pregame news and team sheets have been wildly inaccurate so far this tourney! Ivory Coast’s only change from their win over Ghana is Hamburg rightback Guy Demel coming in for the suspended Emmanuel Eboue.
Ivory Coast: Barry, Tiene, Kolo Toure, Bamba, Demel, Zokora, Yaya Toure, Tiote, Kalou, Gervinho, Drogba.
Algeria: Chaouchi, Bougherra, Halliche, Yahia, Belhadj, Matmour, Yebda, Mansouri, Ziani, Meghni, Ghezzal.
OK, I’m gonna feast my eyes upon the sporting spectacle…watch this space!
2 Min: We have our first firm Algerian kick to Didier Drogba’s ankle!
4 Min: 1-0 Ivory Coast! Yaya Koure attempts a sexxxy backheel on the edge of the box…it’s blocked, BUT he ball ricochets fortuitously to Salomon Kalou, who slots the ball home!
22 Min: Algeria haven’t done much, but Ivorian keeper Boubacar Barry is starting to show his eccentric side. He’s looked composed so far this tournament but in the last 5 minutes he’s almost handled outside the area while sliding to smother a ball, and more dangerously just got closed down by a defender when trying to hack a backpass clear…luckily the ball rebounded behind for a goal kick.
28 Min: Algeria had a good 10 minutes there, improving there passing communication (“finding their feet” as my English commentator puts it). They’re chipping lofted balls into the box from 25 yards or so out, trying to test the Ivorian centerbacks. However, Ivory Coast move quickly on the break and immediately Algeria look creeeeeaky defensively.
32 Min: Boubacar Barry-watch™!!! The keeper comes off his line and makes an excellent diving interception of a threatening Algerian cross.
40 Min: Algeria 1-1 Ivory Coast!!! A long ball into the boxes bounces to attacking midfielder Karim Matmour, he controls from left to right, shimmies excellently and dispatches the ball into the back of the net! Seriously skillful first couple of touches and a really powerful shot…GAME PROVERBIALLY ONNN
45 Min: OMG seriously how FUCKING SEXY IS DIDIER DROGBA?! oh, sorry.
‘TIS 1-1 @ HALFTIME and MJ is bumping on the PA in Cabinda!!! To uncreatively lean on a cliche, it’s been a half of two halves. Algeria worked out some kinks and certainly looked dangerous on the counterattack. Gotta say though they are basically shitting themselves any time Gervinho is running at them on the wing or Drogba through the middle. 45 more minutes to play here!
MJ UPDATE! It wasn’t just blaring over the soundsystem, there was a phalanx of MJ IMPERSONATORS on the pitch! Sadly my PPV feed wasn’t giving them the camera time they richly deserved…the choreography seemed tight.
PATERNALISTIC JOURNALISM UPDATE!: If I am not up-to-minute enough for you and you’d like more whining about: a) what this whole CAN ’10 things means for English soccer b) veiled allusions to Lazy Africans c) criticisms of the pitch quality (why don’t they just rip it up and re-lay it at great expense like they did for the New Wembley pitch how many fucking times?!) d) blah blah blah, THEN BY ALL MEANS TUNE INTO THE BBC COVERAGE!
58 Min: Kalou jinks through two Algeria defenders and puts a shot about half a foot wide of goal…
60 Min: Algeria keeper Chaouchi is looking good in a snug American Apparel-manufactured GK’s onesy, with some classic white Pony hightops…
64 Min: The fans behind the Algerian goal get a welcome WHOOOOSH of air, as Didier Drogba whiffs an open chance at the far corner after Kalou floated in a nice cross…missed opportunity. He is still sexy as fuck though.
68 Min: Dang! CB Souleymane Bamba dithers over a backpass and is robbed by Matmour, who is then DENIED when 1-on-1 with the rapidly redeemed Boubacar Barry, making an excellent save to his left.
75 Min: Algeria’s meaty frontman are winning the physical battles with the Ivorians centerbacks. Ghezzal just had a chance about 4 yards out the he fired directly at Kolo Toure. Algeria clearly in ascendancy right now…
84 Min: Kader Keita comes on for Kalou, puts Gervinho through on goal with his first touch of the ball. Gervinho gleefully spurns the chance, putting over goal with a left footed shot. That shoulda been 2-1.
89 Min IVORY COAST 2-1 ALGERIA!!! During an Ivorian attacking move, the ball rolls to supersub Kader Keita who buries the ball into the upper lefthand corner of the net with his left foot…putting it WHERE THE OWL SLEEPS.
90+2 Min IVORY COAST 2-2 ALGERIA!!! MADNUSSSS here in Cabinda. Bamba definitely at fault as a cross from the left finds Madjid Bougherra totally unmarked at the far post…and he dutifully heads in to equalize!!! Extra time beckons…
ET 2: ALGERIA SCORE A 3rd! It’s substitute Hameur Bouazza, who heads in unmarked. Ivorian leftback Tiene thoughtfully regards a surging Karim Ziana, doesn’t think to close him down and he puts in a lovely cross…luckily for Bouazza his “marker” was Souleymane Bamba!
ET 5: I need a Gatorade or something. Zokora comes off, as Cote D’Ivoire add another attacker in Arouna Dindane.
ET 8: An unmarked Didier Drogba unleashes a forceful shot just inside the box, but Chaouchi is up for it…nice save.
ET 10++++: Chaouchi has seemingly injured himself while flailing about on the ground…but wait he’s OK! Good thing the clock was running during that whole episode.
ET 14: Just as I was about to call out “old-fashioned style center forward” Ghezzal for playacting, he’s up and dabbing away the blood oozing out of his head.
EXTRA TIME HALFTIME: Still needing a Gatorade here. Can’t really see Ivory Coast overturning this now, they looked mentally crushed…then again I said they would win 3-1!
ET 16: Uhhhh, insane pinball in the Ivory Coast box. A bit too much for me to cover…it should be like 5-2 right now. A cross found Ghezzal breaking away from his “marker” at the far post, put he elected to careen the ball of his inner thigh rather than finish for a goal.
ET 19: Ivory Coast are falling apart here, with Bamba in particular a fucking joke in defense. Sooo, this match has certainly made the Ivory Coast/Brazil/Portugal/N. Korea •Group of Deathhh• look markedly less deadly.
ET 22: Chaouchi in rolling-around-on-ground SHOCKER! It looks a bit seriously though…my insight-free commentator opines “I hope he hasn’t swallowed his tongue…”
ET 28: Looks like the Algerian dogs squad are going to go through…which could set up a tasty MATCH OF HATE against Egypt if they can conquer Cameroon. There are going to be 4 minutes of extra time, about ¼ of what Chaouchi wasted rolling around on the ground with sundry ailments.
ET 30+: Ivory Coast have a Kolo Toure equalizer DISALLOWED…incorrectly. BLIMEY!
FULLTIME! ALGERIA 3-2 IVORY COAST!!! A truly •••BONKERS••• match sends favorites Ivory Coast home packing. They were robbed of a totally legit equalizing goal at the death there, but it’s hard to pity them as they pissed away their chance to win this game. They were shocking in defense in the last 5 minutes of regulation, and ridiculously awful in extra time. Cheers to Algeria, who certainly looked like the more cohesive team.
Thanks for following along, if anyone actually did that! BEIJINHOS!
An East Coast bom dia to our hopefully burgeoning readership! It’s MLK day, so due to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s generous holiday schedule I am here to bring you coverage of the final day of Group A action. I need another coffee, but first let’s pay our respects (not just to coffee)…”that power that can make a way out of no way”:
If you want some CAN ’10 retrospective ruminations that don’t come from the BOLAS & BANDEIRAS inkwell, check out these two pieces by the Guardian‘s tactical boffin Jonathan Wilson: a look at which teams have gelled and which haven’t (with an eye towards Egypt) as well as an Angola-Algeria preview (employing a [justified?] Westerner-amidst-African-bureaucratic-chaos narrative frame).
OH LOOK! The squads have been announced already…what an excellent time to review some injury news!
ANGOLA: Carlos Fernandes; Jamuana, Mabina, Kali, Rui Marques; Zuela, Xara, Djalma, Gilberto, Ze Kalanga; Manucho
ALGERIA: Fawzi Chaouchi; Madjid Bougherra, Rafik Halliche, Abdelkader Laifaoui; Nadir Belhadj, Karim Matmour, Hassan Yebda, Yazid Mansouri, Karim Ziani; Hameur Bouazza, Abdelkader Ghezzal
So big news is defensive destroyer Stelvio is suspended for this game and 3-goal striker Flávio misses out with a knee injury (he’s on the bench however)—Flávio is replaced by Ze Kalanga. Angola’s other midfield powerhouse, Gilberto, is in the lineup despite being an injury worry.
Mali-Malawi is also kicking off at 11am EST, but that’s on the back burner for this intrepid journalist. Suffice to say I will keep you updated—Mali need to win and Algeria need to lose for the underperforming Eagles to qualify for the knockout stage.
EDITORIAL BIAS-WATCH: There’s no match commentary here on my stream, so I am soaking up the atmosphere—’tis THRUMPING at the Estadio 11 de Novembro in Luanda. Hopefully I haven’t picked the wrong game to watch: it’s Mali 2-0 Malawi 3 minutes into that game!!!
0-0 at HALFTIME! It was an alternately sleepy and scrappy affair out there, with both teams understandably cagey what with their qualification hopes being on the line. The only thrilling football to speak of: a crucial close-range save by Carlos Fernandes at 22′ and Angola gradually gaining self-confidence and engaging in build-up play which could someday yield a goal! Djalma had a tasty chance (but shot directly at the keeper when he should have scored) at ~43′ after a silky offense sequence sparked off by right wing-back Jamuana’s (i thiiiink Angola are playing a 3-5-2 formation?) flick-down of a long threaded pass. Aesthetic observation: I would love to sip a ginjinha with Maneul Jose…he seems like a highly entertaining and opinionated Old Cantankerous Portuguese Man!
In other Group A news, Mali still lead 2-0 over Malawi. Hmmm, a draw will see both Angola & Algeria qualify, gotta wonder what Rabah Saadane & Manuel Jose make of that? OOOOOK, cya y’all at the final whistle peep.
FULL TIME ANGOLA 0-0 ALGERIA! Well, I’d like that 45 of my life back, as both teams dawdled about and played for a draw. An utterly uninspiring 2nd half, as both Angola & Algeria qualify for the quarterfinals, with Angola winning Group A.
Though its MALI 3-1 MALAWI, Les maliennes are OUT!—Kanoute, Keita, et al. exit CAN ’10.
Like Algeria they had 4 points in the group, but with head-to-head goal difference the first tie-breaker, Algeria goes through owing to their 1-0 over Mali. As some angry comments on the internet have already stated, Algeria qualify having scored just 1 goal while Mali scored 7. The Malians are no doubt the sexier squad, but this editor is obligated to review some match footage of these combatants before arguing the ethics of qualification via aesthetic criteria!
Quarterfinals? Angola will play either Burkina Faso or Ghana (perhaps even Ivory Coast if Burkino Faso score a healthy win against Ghana tomorrow). Algeria will also…play one of those teams!
“Thanks for reading”/enjoy the holiday, where applicable!
So, all teams having played their debut matches, it’s time for the group stages to get gritty! A redacted pun involving the word “griot” Shall we review today’s CAN ’10 action in Luanda?!
After the humiliation of handing Malawi their first-ever win at a Cup of Nations, Algeria buckled down and got themselves organized. Mali looked as listless as they did in their first 70 minutes against Angola, and a somewhat insipid offensive display here yielded just one shot on goal. It was a game of destructive midfield play and consistent tactical fouling (Mali 25 fouls to Algeria’s 21—a lot!). Perhaps predictably then, Algeria’s headed goal came from a set-piece about 40 yards out, given after a Yacine Bezzaz was hacked down while threatening to bring down a long ball.
Freddie Kanouté started off the bench, and manage to brighten Mali’s star a bit when he entered the match an hour in—but clearly not enough to haul back an equalizing goal. Getting out of the group stages now looks slightly improbable for Les maliennes, and the task is none the easier as captain and Real Madrid benchwarmer M. Diarra is suspended for the final group match after getting his 2nd yellow card of the group stage. [WARNING: BACK OF ENVELOPE QUALIFYING CALCULATIONS] They need a win against Malawi this coming Monday and need Angola to beat Algeria (with whom they would lose the tie-breaker of head-to-head goal difference)—right? Your MLK holiday plans are thus set!
An-GOL-a continued to look spritely in attack, but managed to avoid a historic defensive/mental implosion this time around. Mabiná impressed in a wide role, Djalma again caused problems by taking on defenders, and captain Kali reverted to the commanding form he showed pre-meltdown against Mali. Angola’s 2nd came through a defensive error when Malawi captain and centerback Peter Mponda mponderously tried to dribble the ball out of the back. He was relieved of the ball by at the edge of the box by a hard-working Manucho, who calmly clipped over the keeper to make it 2-0.
Inauspicious signs for Angola however, as they lost defensive midfielder Gilberto to a reaggravated injury, and at 60′ Flávio went off on a stretcher with a tweaked hamstring. Djalma was also subbed after going down…if all these indeed turn out to be legit injuries, then Angola will find themselves stripped of some of their most impressive performers. [WARNING: BACK OF ENVELOPE QUALIFYING CALCULATIONS] A draw against Algeria on Monday will see them qualify, though a win will cement them as group winnners.
MEANWHILE IN CABINDA….CORRESPONDENT AUDREY GNASHES HER INCISORS YET DEEPER INTO THIS STORY!
Lara Pawson continues to be the best source of information on the events unfolding in Cabinda. Following her staggering suggestion that perhaps the attack on the Togolese bus was NOT the work of FLEC, but instead a plot by Angolans intelligence agents to frame FLEC (giving them an excuse to label the independence movements as “terrorist” in the eyes of the world) she brings us the news that the bus driver is actually ALIVE? And being hidden away somewhere? WHAT?! Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch reports that the Angolan government has begun indiscriminately jailing Cabindan civilians…
Ok, who knows if we will be able to keep the BOLAS & BANDEIRAS editorial fires as stoked with journalistic kindling throughout the whoooole Nations Cup…but for now let’s have a Day 2 wrapup!
MALAWI 3 (Mwafulirwa 17, Kafoteka 35, Banda 48)
Another shock result in the increasingly kooky Group A sees Malawi go top, earning 3 points. A poorly attended game, and sadly this match shed light on a sports-specific subset of Afro-pessimism: the stereotypes about incompetent goalkeeping which Algeria keeper Faouzi Chaouchi did little to dispel. Full credit to Malawi though, with Elvis Kafoteka’s thumping headed goal being the game’s aesthetic highpoint. A surprise loss will surely bring some bummed tweets from Les Fennecs—they’ve no points and a -3 goal difference (see tie-breaking criteria!) and have to mentally reorganize before facing Mali on Thursday.
IVORY COAST 0
BURKINA FASO 0
Sexxxy favorites Cote D’Ivoire looked disjointed against an extremely well-organized (the semi-patronizing compliment of choice when a team keeps a clean sheet, but does little else) Burkinabé side. Paulo Duarte got his tactics right, even if they did entail putting 10 men behind the ball for much of the game—but who can deny them the tactical right of the weak! Any theoretical marauding by Eboué on the right was smothered out, and I saw little from Drogba (only caught the 2nd half). The Elephants most dangerous threat seemed to be Gervinho, but only in patches of the game. Perhaps the most frustrating moment was Baky Kone blowing a clear chance at ’68, putting wide an excellent cut back from Gervinho, whose run had seemed to have fizzled-out.
So, Group B’s schedule is now a bit lighter with Togo out. Ghana will have to wait to make their debut on Friday, against Ivory Coast. Today’s 0-0 makes that game yet more INTENSE, with the Elephants desperately needing some points. Burkina Faso now presumably have a week off, until their showdown with Ghana next Tuesday.
Obviously being the host nation holds certain advantages, and the Angola team will play all of their matches in Luanda at the new 50,000 seater Estádio 11 De Novembro (named for the day when Angola declared independence in 1975 and the Portuguese fled the capital). The Palancas Negras are under the command of Portuguese coach Manuel José, who has spent the last 6 years leading Egyptian superclub Al-Ahly to a handful of league titles as well as thrice winning the African Champions League crown. He has only been in charge since May, but is a high-profile appointment for the modest Angolan national team (currently #95 in the admittedly meaningless FIFA ranking, running just behind Iceland, China, and Moldova). Just over half of the squad come from the Angolan domestic league, with 5 players from Luanda’s Angolan league champs Petro Atlético— surely a pumper-upper for the local crowd…that is if any local supporters can afford tickets/wrest them from the bureaucratic talons of FIFA’s African Suits. The opinion of various men in the street?: excitement about the domestic league players, cliches about having to WORK HARD, and a bit of doubt cast on the extent of the time the team had to gel & prepare pre-tournament:
The name most familiar to lily-white European ears is striker Manucho, one time Manchester United signing who is making a bit of a slow start of things in his new gig at Valladolid. Other notables include Ze Kalanga, another Petro alumnus whose performances in Angola’s shock 2006 World Cup qualification secured him a move abroad to Dinamo Bucharest. As one of those men in the street noted, Angola look good in the ponta da lança AKA man the in the hole department…but elsewhere?
Although Mali failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, on paper they would appear to be one of the strongest teams here at the cup. There is a particular wealth of talent to be found in midfield, inlaid with sparkly jewels Mahamadou Diarra (Real Madrid), Momo Sissoko (Juventus), and the more offensively-minded Seydou Keita (Barcelona). Up front they feature Sevilla’s Freddie Kanouté, the 2008 African Footballer of the Year who is pacy, 6’4″, and a business-like finisher. They’re coached by Stephen Keshi, who captained the Nigerian squad in their 1994 World Cup appearance, and whose only management experience came with Togo, who he guided to qualification for the 2006 World Cup.
Let’s just say that the Mali team must be strong, composed, and project their talent and experience as firmly as the Wassalou-style chanteuse seen above. What they don’t need is, as below, for Kanouté’s silkly skills to be smothered out by a soundtrack of insidiously pedestrian riffage and whining.
This is only the second time Malawi’s Flames have qualified for the CAN, and their hopes don’t look particularly sparkling considering the pedigree of some of their group opponents. In their six qualifying games they managed to not-lose just twice…although these included their sole win against champions Egypt and a 1-1 draw with Ivory Coast. Nearly all of Malawi’s players come either their own domestic league or the lower divisions of South African soccer. Their standout player is most likely Josephy Kamwendo, an attacking midfielder who moved from the Danish league to South African’s Orlando Pirates.
In order to sneak out of a difficult group, Malawi is gonna need to harmonize and embody the spirits of collaboration and individual creativity as ably as these dancers:
Les Fennecs won the 1990 Cup of Nations, but failed to qualify for the last two competitions in 2006 and 2008. They qualified for the ’10 World Cup in dramatic circumstances, dumping out hated rivals Egypt in a playoff.
The Desert Foxes have a highly technical team, with several prominent players (read: known in Europe) including Nadir Belhadj (Portsmouth), Hassan Yedba (Benfica/Portsmouth), and Karim Ziani (Wolfsburg). The team looks a bit striker-bereft, relying on goals from 34 year-old Rafik Saifi. They have recently called up the young striker Abdelmalek Ziaya, who has a prolific goal-scoring record in Algerian domestic soccer. Algeria may well be the favorites to get to the quarterfinals after Mali, and an impressive performance here could possibly even throw some buckets on the condescension conflagration in UK and hell even US press—certainly the former and mostly the latter have resisting seeing Algeria as possibly-troublesome groupmates come South Africa this summer.
One of many French-born Algerian players to be compared to Z******* Z*****is 25 year-old Mourad Meghni. After spending his youth in a balieue burning things, endlessly practicing his ball skills, and doing parkour style flips off the decaying concrete of failed modernism, he was finally granted bicameral accreditation as a Petit Zidane. He only made his debut for Algeria in August having represented France at youth level (including winning the 2001 U-17 World Cup).