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AFCON openers at a glance

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Igesund: Didn't quite get it right

Igesund: Didn't quite get it right

South Africa made Africa Cup of Nations history once again when they were held to a draw by tournament debutants Cape Verde. The record: the first ever goalless draw for an opening AFCON match, a tournament that started way back in 1957.

Bafana Bafana started with Kaizer Chiefs strikers Bernard Parker and Lehlohonolo Majoro, who were on form for the first half of the country's domestic league, but their partnership on Saturday was as foreign as Luis Platini, Ryan Mendes and Heldon Ramos, who gave the Bafana back-four a torrid time.

In midfield the hosts lacked creativity and in defence there was no anticipation to the obvious attacking options of the Blue Sharks with Mendes and Ramos being fouled numerous times.

Ajax Amsterdam midfielder Thulani Serero proved why he should start ahead of veteran winger Simphiwe Tshabalala, but his little time on the field after coming on as a second-half substitute was wasted.

The island team celebrated their first-ever point with the enthusiasm of a winning side while Bafana walked off the historically proud National Stadium pitch drenched with disappointment.

This match may have set the tone for the next two group stage matches and gives the hosts and everyone else in Group A hope to get to the next round.

While Morocco and Angola failed to score in their Group A clash, they were more driven, more fluid, than their opening match opponents and provided the fans with some good football.

Morocco's playmaker Younes Belhanda was missing from the starting line-up but showed his worth when coming on, taking on players, getting in to the box but unluckily shooting wide.

Day two, and Group B's opening match seemed to be heading for victory for Ghana but the Democratic Republic of Congo made an emphatic comeback to earn a point.

Emmanuel Agyemang Badu had the honour of scoring the first goal at the AFCON finals and Kwadwo Asamoah doubled the lead for the Black Stars, and the tournament favourites seemed destined for victory before Tresor Mputu halved the deficit and Dieumerci Mbokani got the all-important equaliser.

This third game of the competition was a good advert for African football and more so the DR Congo who, just three days ahead of the game, apparently lost their emphatic coach Claude Le Roy.

Reports of players striking, Le Roy leaving and then appearing on the bench confounded the media, and talks that the Leopards would be slayed by the Black Stars flourished.

On the contrary, they showed determination and no signs of internal strife as they blasted any thoughts that Ghana would stroll through this group stages.

Kudos, though, goes to Mali - a nation going through a war crisis - and their captain Seydou Keita. At 33 he is probably at his last AFCON, but the midfielder showed the craft and patience that goes with being a match winner.

Niger knew about the former Barcelona player and kept a close eye on him, but his solitary strike six minutes from time gave them the lesson to never take your eye off the ball, or in this case the man.

The first win in this tournament is probably more deserved by this tiny nation who needed the respite more than the other nations at this specific time in the country's history.

What the other teams lacked is what the Eagles have, a match winner.

By Shahied Joseph

Posted: 21/01/13 13:38

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