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Cameroon and Zambia scrape through

January 21, 2010

African Cup of Nations Group D                        
21st January 2010

Cameroon 2                   Tunisia 2                                        Gabon 1            Zambia 2

Eto’o 47, N’Guemo 64   Chermiti 1, Chedjou 63 (o.g.)    Marcolino 83   Kalaba 28, Chamanga 62

Estadio Alto da Chela, Lubango                                     Complexo de Sr. Da Garca, Benguela

Cameroon equalised twice to draw with Tunisia and qualify for the quarter-finals on an eventful final day in Group D, while Zambia

Samuel Eto'o dedicates his equalising goal to God

pulled off a terrific performance to beat group leaders Gabon. Amidst the confusion that followed Zambia’s 2-1 win, Gabon celebrated believing they had qualified, only to learn they were mistaken. The competition rule book had to be studied carefully before the final standings could be confirmed, and to clear up the confusion, this is how it worked out; with Cameroon, Gabon and Zambia all finishing on four points (Tunisia had three) the next stage of deciding position is head-to-head records, but all three teams had beaten each other so goal difference had to be used, and, inevitably, they all stood on a goal difference of zero. So, taking away results against Tunisia (whom they had all drawn with), only goal difference against one another was to decide it. Zambia scored and conceded four, Cameroon scored and conceded three, and Gabon scored and conceded two. It all meant that Zambia won the group on goals scored, Cameroon finished runners-up and Gabon were out. They might as well have tossed a coin.

Tunisia made the best possible start in Lubango, taking the lead inside of a minute. Armine Chermiti took advantage of some slack Cameroon defending to head Khaled Souissi’s teasing cross past Carlos Kameni. Cameroon had now gone behind in all of their games. The Indomitable Lions again took a long time to get going but began the second half with more desire, equalising within two minutes of the restart. Clever play by Mohammadou Idrissou played in Pierre Webo who pulled the ball back for Eto’o to squeeze it inside the post. Although Cameroon were looking far more dangerous in the second half, influenced by Webo’s introduction, they went behind again on 63 minutes. Ben Saada, who was dissapointingly only used as a substitute again by Tunisia, miss-hit a cross into the

James Chamanga celebrates with his teammates after scoring Zambia's second goal

Cameroon box but a lack of communication between goalkeeper and defence saw Chedjou head past his own keeper. But a minute later Cameroon were level again; this time it was Celtic’s Landry N’Guemo who profitted from Idrissou and Webo’s guile up-front to apply the finishing touch. The game then settled as a stalemate, which was enough to see Cameroon, rather unconvincingly, reach the last eight. Tunisia, who were reduced to ten men when Ammar Jemal was sent off with two minutes to go, were sent home after three successive draws.

Zambia had surprised most people with their efforts against Tunisia and Cameroon, and were unlucky to only have a point to show for it coming into the final round of fixtures. Nonetheless they were unfancied to overcome a Gabon side which had not conceded a goal and only needed a point to go through. Zambia started the game brightly and deservedly took the lead just before the half-hour mark when a free-kick from the centre circle was met by Rainford Kalaba who then chipped the ball over Gabon keeper Ovono. A terrific performance by the Chipolopolo was confirmed by a second goal after 62 minutes when James Chamanga scored a tap-in after Jacob Mulenga had sent in a perfect cross. With seven minutes to go in another pleasantly open game Gabon pulled a goal back when Marcolino volleyed in from close range. This led to a late Gabon siege but Zambia got away with some nervous late defending to hold on to a famous win.

Zambia’s reward for winning the group is a game against one of the pre-tournament favourites, underperforming Nigeria. Cameroon will take on Group C winners Egypt in a mouth-watering repeat of the 2008 final. Paul Le Guen’s side will need to improve when they take on the only side with a 100% record in this year’s competition, because although I tipped them to reach the final, they have been unconvincing so far.

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