Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blue Sharks the toast of Africa


African soccer was all the rage on Sunday as the final round of qualifiers took place for next year's African Cup of Nations.

Cape Verde sensationally knocked Cameroon out to qualify for their first ever ACN finals, prompting wild celebrations in the Atlantic archipelago.

Senegal however are facing FIFA sanction as their match with Ivory Coast was abandoned following crowd trouble in Dakar, after the Ivorians went two-nil up through a Didier Drogba brace.

Cape Verde lost 2-1 in Yaoundé but the Blue Sharks won 3-2 on aggregate following a stunning 2-0 first-leg victory. Although the team has yet to register internationally, the nation of half a million people boasts some football heritage. Portugal's Nani and Switzerland's Gelson Fernandes are both Cape Verde born, while France's Patrick Vieira and Swedish legend Henrik Larsson both have a parent from the country.

Reigning champions Zambia made it through to defend their title alongside 2012's beaten finalists the Ivory Coast.

The most notable absentee from the finals lineup is Egypt, winner of three of the past four tournaments (2006, 2008 and 2010). The Pharaohs, managed by former USA boss Bob Bradley, were dumped out in the first round in June.

The now domitable lions of Cameroon will also be watching on television along with Senegal and two sides ranked in Africa's top ten - Gabon and the Central African Republic, conquerors of Egypt.

The finalists are thus, with their October FIFA World Ranking:

  1. Ivory Coast 16
  2. Algeria 24
  3. Mali 27
  4. Ghana 31
  5. Zambia 41 (holders)
  6. Tunisia 45
  7. Cape Verde 51
  8. Nigeria 63
  9. Morocco 75
  10. South Africa 76 (hosts)
  11. Angola 83
  12. Burkina Faso 91
  13. Togo 93
  14. DR Congo 103
  15. Ethiopia 108
  16. Niger 137
The 16-team tournament takes place in South Africa from the 19th of January to the 10th of February 2013.  The finals draw is in Durban on the 24th of October 2012.

Five of the stadia from the 2010 World Cup will be used, with the opening game and final at Soccer City, Johannesburg. 

Cape Town misses out however, with Durban, Nelspruit, Port Elizabeth and Rustenburg (pic) preferred.

In 2015 the finals visit Morocco with 2017 pencilled in for Libya.


-Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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