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Angola and Algeria settle for draw to send Mali home

January 18, 2010

African Cup of Nations Group A                        
18th January 2010

Angola 0 Algeria 0                                           Mali 3                                                            Malawi 1
                                                                                       Kanoute 1, Keita 3, Bagayoko 85       Mwafulirwa 58

Estádio 11 de Novembro, Luanda          Estadio Chimandela, Cabinda

A tense final day in Group A saw hosts Angola go through to the knockout stages as group winners after a goalless draw with Algeria, who also progress. The draw meant that Mali were knocked out, despite finally producing a performance of real quality, because of their head-to-head record with Algeria. A goal for either Angola or Algeria would have seen Mali qualify but as the game reached its latter stages it was clear that both sides were happy to draw knowing Mali were ahead. For the final 20 minutes both sides shared the possession in a disappointing end to the game.

Angola and Algeria both celebrated qualification after a goalless draw

The game was not without chances though, as Madjid Bougherra or Karim Matmour could have scored for Algeria, both missing from close range. Angola’s best chance was a Ze Kalanga free-kick which Chaouchi tipped over the bar. The game was edgy from the start, and neither side could gain control of the ball in a tight midfield clash. When both sides had settled for the draw no clear chances were created and the game ceased as a contest.

Mali made the perfect start against Malawi in Cabinda, with Frederic Kanoute scoring after just 40 seconds. Malawi keeper Sanudi cleared the ball straight to the former Tottenham striker who duly converted. No surprise here then, goalkeeping blunders have become the norm in Angola over the past eight days. Within two minutes things got even better for Mali as Seydou Keita fired a sensational free-kick into the top left corner. Malawi crept back into the game though and pulled one back on 58 minutes when Mwafulirwa poked the ball into the net after a scramble in the box. Following this goal Malawi could have equalised but Mwafulirwa headed over from point-blank range, although Mali should have been awarded a penalty moments earlier when Keita was brought down in the box. With five minutes to go, Mamadou Bagayoko headed in Mobido Maiga’s cross to make sure of the win.

Seydou Keita's stunning free-kick put Mali 2-0 up, but the win would prove fruitless

However, the result was ultimately irrelevant as Mali were out, and Malawi, who started so promisingly with a 3-o win over Algeria, finished bottom of the group. Mali were left frustrated by the rule changes in this year’s competition; in previous years goal difference was used to decide group positions and Mali would have qualified ahead of Algeria based on that criteria. Angola, as group winners, are likely to avoid Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals and face either Ghana or Burkina Faso, who play each other tomorrow. While an Algeria – Ivory Coast clash in the last eight will surely be a walk in the park for the Elephants. Won’t it?

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