30 January 2013

Africa: The Cruel and Ungrateful Game Sees Katonga On the Bench and Traoré On a Stretcher

Nelspruit — Five things we learned on Day 11 at the Africa Cup of Nations

That top captains get dropped. Christopher Katonga was the player of the tournament as he skippered Zambia to their first Africa Cup of Nations a year ago. But he was substituted in the games against Ethiopia and Nigeria. He started the final Group C match against Burkina Faso on the bench. Zambia coach Hervé Renard justified the omission by saying no-one was an automatic selection.

It's a cruel game. Alain Traoré, the leading scorer of the tournament, was stretchered off after less than 10 minutes of the match against Zambia. You were brilliant while you lasted, Alain. The second goal against Ethiopia was top drawer.

West Africa is a-rising. Burkina Faso added their weight to the claim that the continent's power teams are from out west. Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mali are already through to the last eight. If Togo get past Tunisia on Day 12 then the evidence will be strengthened further.

We won't be seeing that shirt again. There's a sartorial setback to that west African dominance. Le Touchline Look is over for 2013. Whether it was a white shirt/black trousers or dark jacket over white shirt and black trousers, Zambia coach Hervé Renard was always an aesthetic delight as he chiselled his features to concerned or pensive. With Nigeria beating Ethiopia 2-0, the Super Eagles finished with five points along with Burkina Faso. Zambia and Le Look are on their way home.

The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Niceties. Ethiopian lads between the sticks need to gen up on their role. Perhaps take in a Wim Wenders film or chew over some Albert Camus on the plane back home. Ethiopia keeper Tasew Jemal was sent off in the first game against Zambia after he launched himself feet first at Lungu Chisamba as he tried to kick the ball. And against Nigeria in the final Group C game, Sisay Bancha was sent off for two bookable offences. Come on, you're not ordinary players, you're supposed to embody the fight against the anguish and alienation of the human condition. Maybe the ref's to blame.

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