Ghana 1-0 Algeria
Quality of the Mongomo pitch affecting Algeria’s rhythm
The state of some of the pitches in Equatorial Guinea is perhaps a factor that many of us overlooked prior to the tournament. Many have lamented the quality of the games over the last few games, but it’s hard to ignore the standard of the pitches in Ebebiyin and Mongomo.
Players with pizzazz, such as DR Congo’s Yannick Bolasie, have had to endure a difficult time due to the ball bobbling up as they’re trying to execute their skills. The journey of simple passes from A to B have no guarantee of reaching their destination due to the bumpy ride, crosses on the run have been mishit or miscued far too many times due to an unexpected bobble, and several players have lost their footing as they go about their business.
Algeria, arguably the most technically able, or most reliant on a possession-based game and quick-passing moves in the final third, are undoubtedly one of the teams that has suffered the most. It may very well be that they are facing more well-drilled sides, but you can’t discount that the standard of the Ebebiyin pitch in both games has contributed to their uncharacteristic rhythm so far, particularly of their attacking players.
Game decided by brilliance, but Algeria’s lack of pace came to the fore
It was a game short on quality where neither side ever looked like scoring. Drawing inspiration from South Africa’s performance against Algeria, Ghana had clearly targeted the cumbersome Algeria defensive core.
Yet, unlike the Bafana Bafana, who mixed up long balls with quick transitions from defence into attack, the Black Stars were too predictable in their approach, simply resorting to long balls to Asamoah Gyan for much of the first half.
In the end, it was a hopeful punt – or a good pass, if you like – by Mubarak Wakaso and a moment of sheer quality by Gyan which settled it. It was the sort of goal that Les Fennecs, with their low block, would never have conceded at the World Cup, but did again expose the lack of pace in the centre of their defence.
As I have previously stated, it is a debilitating deficiency and, even if they progress from this group, it’s difficult to foresee them winning AFCON with such an Achilles heel given the sides they will be facing on their route.
Senegal 1-1 South Africa
Mauritanian referee Lemghaifry Ould Ali seemed to have left his cards at home tonight. The tackles were flying in thick and fast from both sides, especially South Africa in the first half. Some of the tackles featured studs up and in addition to this there were a number of accidental head collisions, it is fair to say this was a feisty encounter.
Despite this it took the referee nearly 80 minutes and 25 fouls between the two teams before he dished out a yellow card. Dean Furman was the unlucky recipient and he can consider himself hard done by considering some of the tackles earlier in the game that went unpunished. While his tackle was tired and sloppy it wasn’t as dangerous as some of those that came before.
South African set piece defending
South Africa struggled with a lot of the Senegalese set-pieces tonight. They were lucky at times that the delivery wasn’t as pin point as it should have been. In the second half the quality of the delivery began to improve and South Africa began to really flounder.
After 57 minutes the ball hit the back of their net after a mistake from the keeper but they got a reprieve when the goal was chalked off for offside. They failed to learn their lesson and three minutes later a long range free-kick was floated to the back post Mbodji leapt highest to power in the equaliser. South African defender Eric Mathoho will be disappointed at his contribution as his ball watching gave Mbodji the opportunity. There were scares towards the end when Senegal could have snatched a winner, South Africa will have to work on their organisation if they want to go far in this tournament.
South Africa still lack killer instinct
South Africa put in an excellent performance against Algeria in their opening game but their lack of a clinical edge cost them and they ended up losing the game. Those same problems cost them again tonight.
While they failed to carve open Senegal on a regular basis they did manage to create some good chances that were fluffed. They had 12 shots in the game but only 2 on target which is a terrible ratio whatever way you look at it. They were lucky that Manyisa kept his composure to get their goal on the board because it is hard to see where it would have come from otherwise.