North African teams disappoint again
North African teams struggled for the second straight time at
the African Cup of Nations, this time failing to advance past the
group stage as western teams continued their dominance.
Western African teams earned seven of the eight quarterfinal
spots, with host South Africa the only outsider in the second round
The North Africans also had difficulties a year ago in the
tournament played in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, with Tunisia the
only team to reach the quarterfinals then.
Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi, of Tunisian background, said
he didn’t expect the northern teams to disappoint.
”It’s a surprise that in the second round there will be no
North African team,” Lamouchi said. ”You have Tunisia not making
it through, and Morocco, which also had a very good team and didn’t
Algeria was the third North African team in this year’s
tournament and it also failed to progress.
The quarterfinals are Burkina Faso vs. Togo, Ivory Coast vs.
Nigeria, Ghana vs. Cape Verde and South Africa vs. Mali.
”There is talent in North Africa, certainly,” Algeria coach
Vahid Halilhodzic said. ”But it seems that we have to work a whole
lot harder to be able to reach the level of competitiveness that
the Western African teams are displaying right now.”
The central-south team of Zambia won last year’s title, but
before that, Egypt won three straight titles for North Africa in
2006, ’08 and ’10. Tunisia won another in 2004 in a final against
northern rival Morocco.
Egypt, not playing in South Africa, is the tournament’s most
successful team with seven titles.
Western teams Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast reached the final
in the last four editions. Didier Drogba’s Ivory Coast also played
in last year’s final against Zambia.
Egypt and Algeria made it all the way to the semifinals in 2010,
but last year Tunisia was the only North African team to advance to
the quarters, losing to Ghana.
Tunisia was close to reaching the second round again this year,
but a 1-1 draw against Togo in its final Group D match was not
enough. Tunisia missed a potential game-winning penalty kick in the
It had beaten Algeria 1-0 with a late winner in its opener and
lost its second match 3-0 to Ivory Coast. Tunisia finished third in
the group, behind the tournament-favorite Elephants and Togo.
Last in the group was Algeria, which arrived in South Africa
with high expectations as the continent’s second-highest ranked
team, behind the Ivorians.
It played well in the first two matches, losing late to Tunisia
and then falling 2-0 to Togo after missing several scoring
opportunities. It arrived at the final group match without a chance
to advance. The Algerians had a 2-0 lead against Ivory Coast but
conceded late equalizers to finish with a 2-2 draw.
”After two games it’s nice to have moved forward,” said
Halilhodzic, who has revamped the national team after it failed to
qualify for last year’s tournament. ”Confidence and experience is
what gets the job done and I believe that this team has a bright
Morocco, host of the 2015 tournament, left the tournament
without a victory. It drew with Angola 0-0, Cape Verde 1-1 and
South Africa 2-2. It was beating South Africa until the final
minutes before conceding the equalizer which ended its hopes of
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