SouthAfrica.info (Johannesburg)

31 January 2013

South Africa/Togo: Togo Into Afcon Quarters for First Time

Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Komlan Amewou of Togo battles with Jonathan Pitroipa of Burkina Faso.

Togo qualified for an Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) quarterfinal for the first time ever after playing to a 1-1 draw with Tunisia in Nelspruit on Wednesday to finish second in Group D behind Côte d'Ivoire - who had to come back from two goals down to draw with Algeria in Rustenburg.

With Group D completed, the quarterfinal clashes for Afcon 2013 have been confirmed. Hosts South Africa will face Mali in Durban on Saturday, while Ghana will take on Cape Verde in Port Elizabeth. The following day, Côte d'Ivoire tackle Nigeria in Rustenburg and Burkina Faso play Togo in Nelspruit.

Togo coach Didier Six was thrilled with his team's progression to the knockout stages of the tournament. "It was very important to qualify from a tough group and for a small team like Togo this is wonderful," he said. "I am sure out there in Togo, Lomé and other places, there are big parties now.

'We are happy'

"It was a very tough game, up against a good side with an experienced coach who has a lot of experience at Afcon. Togo played with guts, commitment and belief and we are happy that it paid off and we are still in the tournament."

Sami Trabelsi, Tunisia's coach, reflected on the match: "It was the game we needed to win and we dominated. We tried to go via the sides because we knew Togo was strong in the middle and in the air, but it did not work for us as we would have liked."

After brushing aside questions about the referee, Trabelsi added: "I think it was balanced and we were the better side in the second half and tried to control the game, even if Togo had their sharp attack and the chances they created. We believed up to the end we could win, but as l said, unfortunately it did not work for us today."

Late goals

In Rustenburg, Algeria missed a penalty, then slotted one and struck again six minutes later to lead 2-0 against Côte d'Ivoire. The Elephants, though, netted two goals within four minutes of one another with just 11 minutes left in the match to share the spoils.

For the Desert Foxes it was an unsatisfactory result, underlining what had been a disappointing tournament for the Algerians, who were ranked second on the continent behind the Ivorians before the event started.

"In this game, we did not show what we wanted to do. I wanted to end with a victory. Côte d'Ivoire are the favourites of the tournament," Vahid Halihodzic, Algeria's coach, said after the match.

"I had a discussion with the players about how I wanted them to win the match. We were not far from achieving it. We had two penalties; scored one and wasted the other.

'A good match'

"Overall, it was a good match," Halihodzic said. "Tonight, we were effective against the best team. However, we leave the tournament with huge sadness; this is not we expected."

Côte d'Ivoire coach Sabri Lamouchi commented: "We expected a difficult match. Algeria has opened the scoring from the penalty and we responded well. I appreciate the fact that my players fought till the end.

"Congratulations to my players for this spirit and also to both teams for a great game."

'A dangerous game'

At the Mbombela Stadium, Tunisia played a dangerous game with a very square back four, who were caught out badly twice before being made to pay. Unfortunately for them, Serge Gakpe was not blown up for being offsides - he was - in the 13th minute when he ran onto a delightful ball from Emmanuel Adebayor before beating goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifa with a left-footed shot into the far corner.

Adebayor could have made it 2-0 in the 20th minute, but failed to hit the target as the Carthage Eagles' defenders were caught out again.

In the 29th minute, Tunisia were given a chance to equalise when referee Daniel Bennett blew up Daré Nibombe for holding and shoving an attacker to ground in the Togolese box. Khaled Mouelhi duly dispatched the spot kick into the keeper's bottom right corner of the net to make it 1-1.

No penalty

When Oussama Darragi went down in the box, the referee opted not to point to the spot. He could easily have done so as replays showed the striker being kicked on the right foot from behind.

Just before the hour-mark, Adebayor was dragged down by Oualidi Hichri in the Tunisian box. It looked a clear-cut penalty, but Bennett again chose not to award one.

Tunisia forced a couple of good saves out of Kossi Agassa before their offsides trap was exposed again. Adebayor's header beat the goalkeeper, but struck the crossbar and the North Africans breathed a sigh of relief.

With 10 minutes remaining, Adebayor again went down in the Tunisian box under a challenge from the goalie, but Bennett was unmoved, much to the despair of the Sparrow Hawks.

Second penalty for Tunisia

Then, astonishingly, a clumsy challenge from Nibombe on Saber Khelifa led to the referee awarding a second penalty against Togo. Mouelhi went to the keeper's top left this time around, but his shot struck the post and the scores remained level.

Agassa needed to make a couple of good saves late in the contest to keep the score at 1-1 and ensure Togo's best ever result at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Adebayor, Floyd Ayite and Gakpe were superb for the Togolese up front, while Vincent Boussou directed the defence well.

For Tunisia, Mouelhi, despite his penalty miss, played a good game and always offered his side a target up front. Oussama Darragi tested Agassa with some good shots, while Saber Khelifa, too, asked questions of the Togolese defenders.

Good football, poor results

Much like in the 2010 Fifa World Cup, Algeria played decently enough without getting the results they were seeking. They hoped to atone for two earlier defeats in their final group clash against Côte d'Ivoire, who had already secured their place in the quarterfinals.

In just the sixth minute, the Algerians were awarded a penalty when Soudani Al Arabi went down in the box. Ryad Boudebouz took the spot kick, but his shot smashed into the bottom of the keeper's left hand post and away from goal.

Both teams threatened, but neither could manufacture a goal in the first half. After the break, though, both teams found a way through.

Opening goal

The Ivorians conceded a second penalty in the 64th minute when Arthur Boka was blown up for a hand ball, which prevented an Algerian cross into the centre of the box. Boudebouz was handed the responsibility for the spot kick again and this time he beat Daniel Yeboah high to the keeper's right.

In the 70th minute it was 2-0 when Al Arabi got onto the end of a pinpoint cross from the right and headed convincingly past Yeboah. It looked as if the Desert Foxes were on their way to victory.

Seven minutes later, however, Dider Drogba pulled a goal back for the Elephants with an emphatic header which left Rais M'Bohli with no chance of stopping it.

2-2

Shortly after that, the scores were level. Wilfriend Bony let fly from distance with a right-footed pile driver. When the shot took a deflection the keeper was wrong-footed and what had looked like a consolation win for Algeria was now a draw.

Drogba, though, had a chance to win it late for the Ivorians, but his shot from close range was far too close to the goalie.

Al Arabi, the scorer of Algeria's second goal, was a thorn in the flesh of Côte d'Ivoire's defenders all night, while Adlane Guedioura excelled on the flanks. Boudebouz showed some good touches, but his night was blighted by a penalty miss.

For the Ivorians, Drogba looked like the commanding striker he can be for the first time in the tournament, while Arouna Kone probed and probed without being rewarded with a goal. At the back, Kolo Toure, after some indifferent form earlier in the tournament, turned in a solid showing.

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