Tue, 06 Jun 2023

If, as some head coaches keep asserting, there are no little teams at the Africa Cup of Nations, why are they asked if they are worried about upsets?

It is meat and drink to me

Yes, the coaches and players say the honeyed words about respecting the opponent, staying focused and concentrating. But that is because they want to avoid the very thing they say doesn't exist: the shock. But we really wouldn't be here in the group stages if it all equal. We relish the upsets. It is the beauty of the beast. They lead to permutations and ramifications. And there are plenty of them in the final pool matches.

Mensah for Mensa

Ghana are in a right old state. They go into their last game in Group C against Comoros on Day 10 in Garoua needing a win to have a chance of qualifying for the last-16 knockout stages as one of the four best third-placed teams. Defender Jonathan Mensah displayed acuity befitting the society for the intellectually well-endowed when replying to a question from one journalist who appraised him of the stain the issue of his loins would bear for a thousand millennia were the Black Stars not to beat Comoros. "We have the mindset to win," hoped Mensah. "But anything can happen. It's an all-out event. If we we win, we can progress. If we lose I don't believe it will be a disaster for our nation."

Measure for Measure Act I

Comoros coach Amir Abdou says he regards the game against Ghana as a way of gauging the development of the players in the country. And why not? Comoros harbours 900,000 souls and its land's players are competing at the tournament for the first time. "We have been working to be here and it is great to play a big team," said Abdou of the four-time champions. "Ghana have the pressure to win and we must make the most of their predicament."

Measure for Measure Act II

And what will become of Milovan Rajevac should Ghana not progress to the knockout rounds for the first time since 2006? Will he be sacked? Surely not. The 68-year-old Serb only started the job in September. The review urges munificence. More so because he talks a good game. And he's got history. He's the man who led Ghana to the 2010 Cup of Nations final and the last eight at the 2010 World Cup. "We lost to Cote D'Ivoire in the first game in 2010," he recalled. "But we still got to the final. Sometimes teams start slowly and you improve your form." A sentence comes to the review's mind involving the words "clutching" and "straws".

Cameroon finetunes

While Ghana grapple with their destiny, Cameroon finished top of Group A following a 1-1 draw with Cape Verde - who could rival Ghana for one of the spots for the best third-placed teams. Vincent Aboubakar banged in his fifth goal of the competition but Garry Rodrigues equalised in the second-half with a back-heeled flick. It was as much the finesse of the gesture as the farce that followed it. Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana and defender Collins Fai were so befuddled they clattered into each other and ended up in a heap on the goalline just in front of the ball nestling in the back of the net. Still, Onana and Fai will be on their merry way with a last-16 clash at the Olembe Stadium against one of those third-placed teams. And yes, it could be Ghana.

Originally published on RFI

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