by James Eugene and Joe Kennedy
NIGERIA 2-0 ETHIOPIA
The situation for both teams was simple: they both needed a win. But two teams who face off against each other cannot both win, so something had to give way. Nigeria’s performance has earned them a place in the knockout stages, conceiving a tasty clash against Ivory Coast
The balance of play seemed to tilt both ways at the very beginning. Ethiopia pushed well early on in the game, only to be met by an equal force from Nigeria,who found a lot of creativity through Chelsea star Victor Moses. The pace began to die down a little bit, as if both teams were content with a draw. This attitude changed later on in the game
Wasted Set Pieces
From corners to free kicks, both teams seemed to have wasted a lot of these valuable opportunities, with Ethiopia being the biggest culprits. Corner kicks that flew over everyone in the box and free kicks that could barely beat the first man seemed to be the two common problems experienced by Ethiopia. Barely any of their chances were even on target in the first half. For Nigeria, Victor Moses seemed to be the player who took all of the set pieces, assuming the responsibility of delivering both free kicks and corners. Nigeria were more efficient with their set pieces (that is, they actually got on the end of a cross) but seemed to find it difficult to covert anything into goals.
Bookings Were A Healthy Incentive
I won’t bore you with all the technical details, but with the score still jammed in a 0-0 stalemate, the only thing that differentiated Nigeria and Zambia to who will receive the 2nd place spot was the number of bookings. Zambia having less bookings than Nigeria meant that Nigeria were in 3rd place, almost providing full justification for a win against Ethiopia. Bookings against Ethiopia came in handy as well, as their goalkeeper Sisay had picked up two yellow cards, leading to him being sent off and relaced by another outfield player because the team had already exhausted all of their substitutes.
Converted Set Pieces
After the farcical events that transpired in the previous game for Nigeria when it came to penalties, Victor Moses, who decided to step up for both penalties, netting both of the in the process. The first one came from Moses himself being tripped up in the box, while the second was a result of Sisay committing a cardinal error, which subsequently led to his sending off. Composure is key when taking penalties and Moses radiated this as he slotted both of them away.
Ethiopia’s Final Push
Despite having 10 men on the field with a makeshift goalkeeper in between the sticks, Ethiopia continued to push in order to regain any pride that they felt they had lost during the game. Saladin Said had two chances to pull something back, but failed to do so on both occasions, complementary to the theme of Ethiopia’s entire evening.
SFG Man of the Match: Victor Moses
With John Obi Mikel missing his spot-kick against Zambia, it was crucial someone more clinical stepped up. Moses showed great cojones to pick up the ball on the 80th minute when he was fouled by Alula Girma, then showed the calmness to convert what was arguably a job-saving penalty for coach Stephen Keshi. He repeated the routine 10 minutes later to confirm Nigeria’s clash with the Ivory Coast.
BURKINA FASO 0-0 ZAMBIA
Just a year ago, the Chipolopolo captured the hearts of football fans from around the globe, their thrilling style and underdog story lit up the much-maligned international stage. Today saw them meagrely fail to retain their title, as they dropped out of group C in a miserable bore-draw with group winners, Burkina Faso.
Life’s a beach
The final day showdown of Group B got off to a flying start; both games saw goals flying in from the get-go, Group C was rather the opposite. Whilst commentators mused over the possible permutations and different rules regarding fair-play, there were two very notable features about the match being played out in their presence. The first – and most apparent – was the abysmal state of the pitch; with a virus affecting the grass, the field had been completely covered in sand. This didn’t just have the effect of slowing the ball down but ruined either side’s chances of sustaining fluidity in their play; the ball bobbled unpredictably for even the shortest of passes.
The second feature was the lack of such short passes. In a show of incredible tentativeness from both sides, the opening minutes saw the ball change hands with incredible frequency. Lumped long ball after long ball dominated the game, neither defence feeling comfortable enough in possession to bring the ball forward and attempt to build from the back. Perhaps fearful of being caught out by such a long ball, the teams’ positioning was equally stifling to the fluency of the game; neither side pushing up at the back and the fullbacks remaining rooted to their defensive positions, not daring to roam forward.
If Burkina Faso were nervous coming into the game, the sight of star man and tournament top-scorer, Alain Traore, being stretchered off the field after just 10 minutes will have done nothing to settle them. Burkinabe injury woes were matched by the Zambians just minutes later though, as Nkausu was replaced by Musonda, having failed to shake off an ankle injury inflicted by Charles Kabore.
In a game where chances are few and far between, the importance of those that present themselves is always heightened. Twice in the first half, the Chipolopolo were gifted opportunities due to a lack of diligence from Panandetiguir. The first time, the Burkinabe left back came wandering out of defence only to be caught in possession, Mayuka’s clever dummy opened space on the edge of the area for Collins Mbesuma, but the striker’s effort was straight at keeper Diakite. The second opportunity was the result of poor marking freeing up Rainford Kalaba; the winger was well placed to head home a cross from the left side, but his tame effort wasn’t enough.
As the game drew on, the same tentative football prevailed from both sides. With Nigeria still failing to break down Ethiopia, it seemed a draw would be enough to see Zambia through, so it was only with 10 minutes left – as news filtered through that the Nigerians had taken the lead – that Zambia started to seize the initiative. As they pushed more bodies forward, Burkina Faso brought more back; content to protect their clean sheet and unwilling to risk defeat for the sake of an unlikely winner. The closing moments saw a handful of half chances fail to threaten Diakite’s goal and tears roll down the faces of Chipolopolo fans in the stands, their tournament was over.
Stallions stumble through
Amid the celebrations at fulltime, there’s little doubt most Burkinabe fans will have struggled to forget the Alain Traore shaped hole set to remain in their side. In a team that seems to lack any forward presence without him, his importance cannot be understated and having soldiered through to this stage with an injury, the damage today appeared to signal an end to his tournament. So, whilst the Stallions’ group-topping antics may have enabled them to side-step Cote D’Ivoire, they shouldn’t be getting ahead of themselves just yet. Their quarter final will see them pitted against the Group of death’s runners up, whether that’s Togo or Tunisia they’ll have a tough task in store and it’s hard to see them going much further.