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

this weekend.

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

second half.

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

future ahead.”

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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