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African Cup of Nations heading for a photo finish – Semifinal preview

January 26, 2010

60 goals have been scored so far in the ongoing African Cup of Nations in Angola. Although it doesn’t look like the 99 goals scored in the last edition will be overtaken, it has been a fantastic competition so far. The story is far from over.

Two bitter rivalry dates
The Super Eagles of Nigeria and defending champions Egypt yesterday qualified for the semifinals of competition after beating Zambia and Cameroon respectively. They join Ghana and Algeria who secured their spots after wins over host nation Angola and Ivory Coast in that order.

The semifinals will serve soccer fans with two of the hottest football rivalries on the continent. Nigeria will clash with Ghana in an all West African affair and Egypt will lock horns with Algeria in an all North African affair.

Ghana vs Nigeria Preview
The game between Nigeria and Ghana will the first match of the day. Two time champions Nigeria, have a score to settle with Ghana, who have won the trophy on four occasions.

Games between the two have had no particular pattern and it could well be anybody’s game irrespective of their recent forms. However history favors the Stars who have won 18 times compared to Eagle’s 11 out 46 competitive matches between them.

In the last edition of the competition held in Ghana, a 10-man Blacks Stars dumped the Super Eagles in the quarterfinals by 2-1. Ayegbeni Yakubu gave the Nigerians a lead from the spot kick. Micheal Essien headed a Quincy cross in and off the post to level the scores just before half time. A late goal by Junior Agogo shattered a semifinal dream of the Eagles and handed the ticket to the Stars.

Is it revenge time for Nigeria? I’m not sure. However they face a new Ghana side who despite the odds have gotten this far. This time around they do not have the luxury of the services of Michael Essien, Junior Agogo and Sulley Muntari who made a difference in that game. Nigeria do have some very big names on the pitch but were unconvincing in the game against Zambia. In the case of Ghana, they still have a team which is just beginning to find it rhythm.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria (Photo Credit:REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Egypt vs Algeria Preview
This will be the second match of the day and promises even more fireworks. Head-to-head statistics favor the Algerians. They have won 8 games while Egyptians have won 5 out 22 matches played between them.

The Pharaohs will be understandably very bitter when Algeria booked a spot at South Africa 2010 World Cup. The tale started when Egypt forced a playoff after beating Algeria by 2-0 goals to draw the teams level at the top of the table in their last group match. New Hull City striker Amr Zaki who is not part of the team this time got Egypt off to a dream start when he scored in the second minute. A dramatic yet sensational late goal by Moteab secured a playoff to the relief of the Egyptians.

Egypt however failed to qualified as they lost narrowly to Algeria in the playoff at Khartoum, Sudan. It was a stunning first-half strike which came of the boot of defender Antar Yahya in the first half that made difference.

Is it revenge time for Egypt? Well, we would have to wait to see who gets to play in the finals. What we know is that, Egypt has a 100% record in the tournament and they set to retain the title they won in Ghana two years ago. We have also seen the Algerian team improve after their 3-0 humiliating defeat to Malawi in the first game. They bundled out pre-tournament favorites, Ivory Coast in spectacular fashion.


The Desert Foxes of Algeria (Photo Credit:AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

More to follow (Watch out for the match previews)

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