Author: Mark

AFCON 2017: The Quarter-Finals

Blimey. The best of the four AFCON 2017 finals’ groups, Group B, will be unrepresented in the semi-finals. The worst, Group D, could yet provide the finalists. Mark Murphy tries to explain… Burkina Faso 2 Tunisia 0 Aristide Bance. Christian Benteke in a grated-cheese wig. But a Burkinabe cult hero before becoming a real one to consign Tunisia to a fifth (FIFTH!) consecutive defeat in an AFCON quarter-final. The “England of Africa,” you might say, but don’t. Bance’s impact may be the abiding memory of AFCON 2017. The sparse Libreville crowd were no collective shrinking violet. But the sight...

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AFCON 2017: The Story So Far

“Mixed” puts a fractionally positive spin on the last week-and-a-half’s AFCON football in Gabon (and a huge spin on the football BY Gabon). And must hope for rather than expect the on-pitch spectacle to improve. Largely because there has been a direct correlation between quality of pitch and match. On paper (possibly a better surface than Port-Gentil), Groups B and D were of comparable quality. On Port-Gentil’s crumbling sand (all-the-more-infuriating as it is the best of the four tournament stadia), Group D was horrible. On Franceville’s relative carpet, Group B was the best-in-show. Group B winners Senegal are thus...

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AFCON 2017: The Group Stages, Round Three

Gabon 0 Cameroon 0; Burkina Faso 2 Guinea-Bissau 0 Inches. Three times Gabon were inches from being one of the most unconvincing quarter-finalists in AFCON history. Their misfortunes would normally elicit huge sympathy from disinterested observers. But they produced too many uninterested observers as they plodded their way shapelessly through matches, especially against a stodgy Cameroon. Hopeless against ambitionless, with added nerves. Nil-nil was never more appropriate. Inches, though. On four minutes, the genuinely-talented Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang mishit Denis Bouanga’s mishit-shot-turned-great-cross inches wide, 90 inches from goal. On 94 minutes, the genuinely-luckless Bouanga struck the inside of the post with...

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AFCON 2017: Seconds Out, Round Two

Group A: Gabon 1 Burkina Faso 1; Cameroon 2 Guinea-Bissau 1 Gabon took seven minutes against Burkina Faso to match their display against Guinea-Bissau. Yet though the non-boycotting locals weren’t happy, Gabon are one win from a quarter-final, in a less-dismal group than once feared. Five substitutions were injury-enforced, including Jonathan Pitroipa’s early, potentially tournament-threatening, ankle-turn. However, on 22 minutes, replacement Prejuce Nkoulma, chased a proper hoof upfield, outfought one defender, took a heavy touch to beat another and was as surprised as anyone when it rolled into the net. He celebrated by sitting on the bench to which...

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AFCON 2017: Round One

The politics At one stage, at least three-and-a-third of AFCON’s 16 finalists were seriously threatening boycotts…because of money and facilities and the lack thereof, mostly. Uganda, DR Congo, Cameroon (their seven refusenik players being the “third”) and Guinea-Bissau were headline news for the “wrong” reasons. And few nations had a trouble-free preparation. Meanwhile, Gabon’s political opposition have organised an event boycott, not over-difficult if previous AFCON finals “crowds” are a guide. Its early success was masked by the small tournament venues. But reports of tickets sold for under £1 (cheap even at depressed economy prices) indicate such success. The...

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