Drama Looms At Africa Cup of Nations – Having the final round of pool matches, one of the main attributes of the African Nations Cup finals held in Equatorial Guinea was the failure of teams to keep onto a lead.
As we have now entered last-chance saloon for the 16 competing sides, keeping hold of what you have got becomes crucial.
But in the 18 matches played so far, only four countries have hit the front and managed to stay there, with the usual script seeing come-from-behind success for the opposition.
Only Gabon (vs Burkina Faso), Congo-Brazzaville (vs Gabon & Burkina Faso), Ghana (vs Algeria) and Equatorial Guinea (vs Gabon) have scored first and managed to hold onto their lead.
Three of those teams have been competing in Group A where Congo and Equatorial Guinea have now progressed to the quarter-finals.
It is a curious statistic, not in line with football norms, and suggests that the better-equipped teams on the day are the slower starters in the match.
Most frustrated will be Zambia, South Africa and Mali, who have all taken the lead in their two pool matches to date, but failed to pick up a win that would have put a completely different complexion on their tournament.
As teams play their final first round matches, the most interesting is Group D – containing Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Mali and Guinea – where four 1-1 draws mean there is the very real chance of needing to draw lots to decide who enters the quarter-finals.
If, for example, Mali defeat Guinea in their last game and Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire draw, then Mali would advance as pool winners but there would be no way to separate the Ivorians and Indomitable Lions.
The pair would have the same number of points, their head-to-head record would be equal, their goal-difference the same and the number of goals equal too.
Confederation of African Football rules for the competition state that if that is the case, the next step is to draw lots.
In other competitions around the world, the number of yellow and red cards would be taken into account as a tie-breaker, but not at the Nations Cup.
While drawing lots would provide high drama, it would also be a sickening way for a loser to exit. So the hope will be that two teams, whoever they may be, can take their remaining first round games by the scruff of the neck and provide a display that is decisive.
Posted by Hope for Nigeria
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