How Ronaldo Set a Record as Portugal Held Off Ghana

“The eyes were drawn to Cristiano Ronaldo, even more than normal. Fans poured into Stadium 974 to cheer him and the Portugal team he has led for a generation. But mostly him. There may be no more ubiquitous jersey in soccer than Ronaldo’s No. 7, and on Thursday a good portion of that laundry seemed to have congregated inside a temporary arena dropped between a port and the highway to Doha’s international airport. …”
NY Times

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The Radar – The Athletic’s 2022 World Cup scouting guide


“Welcome to The Radar — the World Cup edition. Last year, for Euro 2020, we profiled 60 players that people were talking about — or would be by the end of the competition. Thirty-four of those players have since moved club. More teams means more players, so for the World Cup we’ve upped that to 100. The result is below, a carefully crafted guide to some of the best footballers on show in Qatar listed alphabetically by country — the heavyweight names, the rising stars and the under-the-radar players who could be coming to an elite club near you. …”
The Athletic

From Kudus to Gavi: eight players ready to break through at World Cup Federico Valverde, Gavi, and Rafael Leão.

“We pick the young stars well placed to shine in Qatar, ranging from Milan’s Rafael Leão to Real Sociedad’s Takefusa Kubo. … Rafael Leão (Portugal). A product of the Sporting academy, the attacker has become one of the most feared forwards in Serie A, helping Milan to their first title in 11 years last season and gaining a place in the league’s team of the year. In addition to height, the 23-year-old possesses plenty of pace and is often utilised on the flanks by Stefano Pioli. Leão is as adept at creating as he is scoring, making him a threat whether out wide or down the middle. …”
Guardian

World Cup 2022 Group H guide: Bernardo Silva the orchestrator and Uruguay’s last dance

“Does Cristiano Ronaldo hurt or help Portugal these days? What should we look out for from Uruguay? How do South Korea use Son Heung-min? The 2022 World Cup is nearly upon us and The Athletic has been running in-depth tactical group guides so you will know what to expect from every nation competing in Qatar. …”
The Athletic (Video)

World Cup 2022 Groups: The Predictions


“The 2022 World Cup is finally here, with the tournament in Qatar being the first held in the months of November and December since the first World Cup finals in 1930. The 22nd men’s FIFA World Cup tournament will see 32 teams battle it out in the group stage after qualifying via five different regions – Asia, Africa, South America, North America/Central America and Europe (no nation from Oceania qualified). From there, 16 will make it through to the knockout stages. …”
The Analyst

World Cup provisional squads explained: What are the rules and will they be made public?


“A month from today, it all begins. The World Cup in Qatar looms ever larger on the horizon and the countdown is on to the first of 64 games that will crown a winner at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday, December 18. Doubts persist over the suitability of Qatar to host this World Cup, as well as its readiness to welcome more than one million visitors, but the biggest names in football are about to descend on a tiny Gulf nation that’s half the size of Wales and roughly as big as the US state of Connecticut. …”
The Athletic
The Analyst: World Cup 2022 Guide to Each Group

About That Game: Uruguay 1-1 Ghana (2010)

“Uruguay 1930, Italy 1934, South Korea/Japan 2002. One instance on its own could be dismissed as a coincidence, but these three examples expose a strange trend in the World Cup – the first time the tournament is played on a continent, the host country goes deep into the competition. So, when Africa finally landed the World Cup in 2010, all eyes were on the hosts South Africa. Connoisseurs of African football were sneaking glances at Cameroon, who were ranked 19th in the world. Hardly anyone gave Ghana a second look. The Black Stars had only qualified for their second-ever World Cup. …”
The Analyst

World Cup 2022 news round-up: Nkunku and Lewandowski shine as Argentina put faith in Scaloni

“Club football is back and with fewer than 50 days for players to find form and fitness before the World Cup kicks off on November 20, Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, Leandro Trossard of Belgium and USA forward Ricardo Pepi laid down a marker at the weekend. Off the pitch, coaches are already being rewarded before the tournament kicks off with Wales extending Rob Page’s contract and Argentina set to keep Lionel Scaloni as head coach until the 2026 World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico. …”
The Athletic

World Cup 2022 power rankings: how the 32 look with two months to go

“With most teams having played their final matches before the tournament in Qatar, who appear most likely to lift the trophy? …”
Guardian

World Cup health check: The issue each country must address before Qatar


“The September international break is normally relatively relaxed — a chance to tweak tactics and focus on formations. Not this time. For almost all 32 competing nations, this is the final set of international fixtures before the World Cup begins in Qatar on November 20. So that you can go into the break feeling prepared, The Athletic has identified one issue every team need to try to fix this break…”
The Athletic (Video)

Soccer capitalism


“Soccer academies are springing up across Africa with remarkable speed, evidence of the immense popularity of the sport and the many aspirations it arouses. These academies—institutions that at their core combine a sportive and an educational system—first arrived in Africa from Europe in the late 1990s, following three interrelated processes: (1) the mistreatment by unscrupulous agents of young African players who migrated to Europe; (2) the Bosman ruling of 1995 that further increased the migration of African players to Europe; and (3) the introduction of new transfer regulations by FIFA in 2001 that aimed at curbing the abuse of young migrant players by making it harder for clubs to sign players under the age of 18. …”
Africa Is a Country

Nigeria’s troubles are reflected in its football


29 March 2022: Angry Nigerian football fans invade the pitch after the Super Eagles’ loss to Ghana at the National Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria.
“The ugly reaction to Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the Fifa World Cup highlighted frustrations of the nation that go beyond the disappointment of losing a football match. The response to their elimination by West African arch-rivals Ghana was immediate as home fans at Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja invaded the pitch at fulltime. In a bid to create as hostile and intimidating an atmosphere as possible for Ghana, tens of thousands of tickets had been given out free. …”
New Frame

The 2022 World Cup draw analysed: ‘The Group of Dark Arts’, favourites France and that song


“Cringe-inducing cartoon meant to engage with no youngster we have ever met? Check. Song-and-dance routine combing local colour with avant-garde twist? Check. A massive advert for the official ball (the fastest ever, no less)? Yep, we had that, too, and several speeches, a first performance of the first song from the official Qatar 2022 album and a very contrived moment with France manager Didier Deschamps and a young lad who was in the crowd in Moscow four years ago. The 47 minutes of preamble before the draw for the 2022 World Cup at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre flew by! …”
The Athletic (Video)
NY Times – World Cup Draw Highlights: Matchups Let Teams Look Ahead to November
Guardian – World Cup draw: group-by-group analysis for Qatar 2022 – Jonathan Wilson
NY Times: World Cup Draw Brings Certainty. Now Comes the Hard Part.
The Athletic: With a marquee World Cup meeting vs. England, USMNT has a chance to change its perception writ large
BBC – Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022: What are the draw highlights? (Video)

The World Cup Draw Is Friday. Here’s How It Works.


“The World Cup field is almost complete. On Friday, soccer teams will learn the answer to the critical question they and their fans want to know: Who will they play when the tournament opens in November in Qatar? The World Cup draw — part gala, part pep rally, part math seminar — will deliver intriguing clashes of styles, testy political collisions and, if past events are any guide, a few uncomfortable moments. But given the stakes of the draw, it is also one of the biggest events on the global sports calendar. Here is a look at how it works. …”
NY Times
NY Times: Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup? (Video)
NY Times: Your World Cup Questions, Answered
The Athletic – 2022 World Cup odds: France, Brazil are co-favorites ahead of the draw; England, Spain right behind

‘We are Ghana and we have what it takes to win’


Feb 2000: A Ghana fan during the African Nations Cup in Nigeria.
“The build-up to the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers between Ghana and Nigeria, on 25 and 29 March respectively, has been typical of clashes between the two teams: lots of banter and assertions of superiority by everyone. The African continent can lay claim to some of the most colourful football rivalries, but few match the history and intensity of Ghana versus Nigeria, at least at international level. So after the fixture, when one of them will be celebrating their place in Qatar, the other will be cowering under the weight of trolls in a West African derby given a significant new dimension by social media. …”
New Frame

World Cup 2022: Algeria avenge Nations Cup failure in Cameroon


Islam Slimani celebrates his crucial goal in Douala where Algeria took a 1-0 first-leg lead
“Algeria inflicted a rare home defeat on Cameroon as the 2019 African champions took a crucial 1-0 lead from the first leg of their 2022 World Cup play-off. Playing in Douala, where Cameroon have been unbeaten since losing a Nations Cup qualifier in 2000, veteran Islam Slimani’s winner handed Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi the perfect 46th birthday present. Five minutes before the break, the former Leicester City striker rose to meet Youcef Belaili’s free-kick and power a header past Ajax goalkeeper Andrè Onana….”
BBC

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere


“There is a metaphor somewhere in Senegal’s first African Cup of Nations (Afcon) championship in its history. The 2021 Afcon, played last month and this week because of a postponement from last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ended Sunday with Sadio Mane, the Liverpool star, scoring the decisive penalty in the final. With that, a one-month-long festival of football by Africa’s men’s national teams and everything else that surrounded it came to an end. Most of the players now return to their clubs, where some of them are stars, mostly in Europe. There’s a metaphor in that too. …”
Africa Is a Country

Why Algeria imploded at the Afcon


20 January 2022: A dejected Youcef Belaïli of Algeria during the Africa Cup of Nations match against Ivory Coast at Japoma Stadium in Douala, Cameroon.
“If anyone ever doubted the power of a football match result, just show them Algeria’s 270 minutes in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) that led to people completely second-guessing the success of The Fennecs. Prior to the tournament, Algeria had a 35-match unbeaten run, easily disposing of Ghana in a pre-tournament friendly. They were justifiably dubbed favourites alongside hosts Cameroon as well as Morocco and Senegal, yet they were sent packing after just three group-stage matches. It is a serious blow considering that, in the new 24-team Afcon format, four of the best third-placed teams also qualify for the knockout stage. …”
New Frame

Africa Cup of Nations review: sorrow, anger and Mané’s redemption


“Our writers relive their highs and lows of a tournament completely overshadowed by the Olembe Stadium tragedy. … This Cup of Nations was played under a shadow from the moment eight supporters died outside Olembe Stadium a fortnight ago. There is no excusing what happened at a venue surrounded by vast spaces and the depressing sense remains that its causes will be swept under the carpet. After driving back to Yaoundé the following day and speaking with Romaric, who had been in the ground and encountered people who had been caught up in the crush as he left, the horror of what had occurred started to become clear. A subsequent visit to the emergency hospital brought some harrowing testimonies; these are, sadly, the words and images that linger. …”
Guardian
The Athletic – Cox: Italy-esque Senegal shackled Egypt with five men – they were deserved winners (Audio)
****An African Cup of Nations Primer
NY Times – Africa Cup of Nations: Soccer Tournament Offers Joy Amid Coups and Covid
AFCON 2021: The Review
W – 2021 Africa Cup of Nations
YouTube: Senegal vs Egypt | AFCON 2021 FINAL HIGHLIGHTS | 02/06/2022, Cameroon vs Egypt – CAF African Cup of Nations 2022 2:10:39

Fans from Burkina Faso, which recently underwent a coup, rehearsed their dances and drumming before Wednesday’s semifinal.

Predicting the AFCON 2021 Quarter-finals


“Senegal and Cameroon – they’ve each got about a 75% chance of reaching the AFCON 2021 semi-finals with dream quarter-final draws, but that’s about where the similarities end. We’ll start this off with one of those teams and end with the other while weaving through the remaining six sides with key numbers for each. A disclaimer before reading on: Teams playing attacking football (looking at you, Morocco) will be handsomely rewarded with more words. …”
The Analyst

Is that a “juju” man on Malawi’s bench?


“In Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa and much of southern Africa, the rains which start falling in November, the onset of summer, are a welcome respite after the preceding dry, winter months. However welcome the rains are, the relief is sometimes tinged with a measure of trepidation – especially among some rural communities. After all, rains come with lightning and thunder. It so happens that our region receives a disproportionate amount of lightning compared to the rest of the world. One reason for the phenomenon is the minerals extant in the rocks beneath us that draw the electricity from the sky. Nonsense, some will say – the real reason is African metaphysics. …”
New Frame

Africa Cup of Nations: A football celebration overshadowed by tragedy Published


Abandoned shoes were the only evidence that there had been a problem before the match.
“In our series of letters from African writers, Algerian-Canadian football journalist Maher Mezahi, who is in Cameroon to cover the Africa Cup of Nations, reflects on how the recent deaths of fans at a stadium has left him with mixed feelings about the tournament. …”
BBC (Video)

Comoros, Cameroon and the curious tale of no goalkeepers


Injured goalkeeper Salim Ben Boina sums up the mood in the Comoros camp.
“While the fairytale story of Comoros’s journey to the knockout stages of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations will some day make an inspirational feel-good movie, one suspects Disney’s scriptwriters will have to leave out some of the finer details on the grounds that audiences may find them just a little bit too far-fetched. Hailing from a financially impoverished archipelago with a population of less than one million people located off the east coast of the continent, Les Coelacantes pulled off something of a miracle in merely qualifying for Afcon but certainly weren’t expected to make it this far. …”
Guardian

The Most Exciting Sporting Event in the World Is Happening Right Now


“In March 1957, Ghana cast off British colonialism and became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve political self-rule. At its independence celebrations, the new prime minister, Kwame Nkrumah, offered a hopeful message: ‘We are going to create our own African personality and identity. It is the only way we can show the world that we are ready for our own battles.’ I was remembering that line last week as I watched the early matches of the Africa Cup of Nations, a tournament of soccer teams representing 24 countries from across the continent. This year’s competition is being hosted by Cameroon; it began on Jan. 9 and runs until Feb. 6. …”
NY Times

Africa Cup of Nations: Pépé caps Ivory Coast win to send dismal Algeria home


“Ivory Coast thumped Algeria 3-1 to send the defending champions crashing out of the Africa Cup of Nations finals following a disastrous Group E campaign. Nicolas Pépé’s fine solo goal early in the second half put the game out of sight, the Arsenal winger advancing into the penalty area and curling the ball into the far corner with his left foot. The Elephants led 2-0 at half-time thanks to Franck Kessié’s opener and an Ibrahim Sangaré header from Serge Aurier’s free-kick. …”
Guardian
Guardian: Africa Cup of Nations Group A,B,C,D,E,F

AFCON 2021: The Stats So Far No.2


“Each team have played two games at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations – some have already qualified for the last 16, some have very little hope of going any further. What have we learnt from the opening two matchdays so far? …”
The Analyst

AFCON is decolonization


“The 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations began today, Sunday, 9 January, in Cameroon. AIAC founder and editor Sean Jacobs joins Will to talk about the history of the tournament, its contemporary politics, and its relationship to the hegemony of European football. The most important question of all, of course, is who will win this year’s showpiece? Listen below for some predictions.”
Africa Is a Country 1:11:15 (Audio)

AFCON 2021 guide: The storylines, the underdogs and the games you won’t want to miss


“The latest Africa Cup of Nations is just around the corner. It’s been a long road to get here for a competition that has been moved around the calendar multiple times and, in the style of Euro 2020 last summer has the ‘wrong’ year in its official title, but 24 teams are now finally set to duke it out in Cameroon to become the next champions of Africa, with the tournament getting underway on Sunday, and finishing on Sunday, February 6. Here’s everything you need to know. …”
The Athletic (Audio)
NY Times: The Joy in Embracing the Unknown (Video)
New Frame: Behind concerns over Afcon is a culture of disdain
Predicting the Africa Cup of Nations 2021 Winner
GOAL – Afcon 2021 predictions: The contenders and the pretenders (Video)

Afcon 2021: Everything you need to know about tournament in Cameroon


“First scheduled to start in June 2021 but subsequently brought forward to January last year to avoid Cameroon’s rainy season, the tournament has been delayed to 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has faced criticism over the timing of its continental showpiece, and last month had to address rumours the tournament would be further delayed or moved following the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright said some of the negative media coverage has been ‘disrespectful’ and ‘tinged with racism’. …”
BBC (Video)

Africa Cup of Nations: Which Premier League players are going?


Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Edouard Mendy, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Maxwel Cornet and more will be gone for several weeks
“The Africa Cup of Nations begins next month, with over 30 Premier League players set to miss several weeks of the season as they head to Cameroon. Arsenal, Leicester City and Watford are each set to lose a league-high four players. Liverpool will lose three – including forwards Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane – as will Crystal Palace. Chelsea are going to be without keeper Edouard Mendy, who could miss the Fifa Club World Cup and league games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham, among others. …”
BBC

Aubameyang to Zaha: how Africa Cup of Nations will hit Premier League


“Only four top-flight clubs are in line to be unaffected by tournament that kicks off in Cameroon on 9 January. … Jürgen Klopp is not the only Premier League manager who will have Afcon on his mind over the coming weeks. With the delayed 33rd edition of the continental showpiece due to begin in Cameroon on 9 January, planning for the absence of up to 40 players from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Wilfried Zaha during one of the most intense periods of the domestic season will present a major headache for several. Much to the annoyance of Klopp and European club managers, the tournament was switched back to its usual mid-season slot after the 2019 Cup of Nations in Egypt was held for the first time during the European summer, because June and July are part of the rainy season in Cameroon. …”
Guardian
W – 2022 African Nations Championship
YouTube: AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS 2022 DRAW RESULT

World Cup roundup: Denmark thrash Moldova to keep up perfect record


Denmark thrash Moldova
Denmark maintained their 100% record in Group F, with a 4-0 win in Moldova. Andreas Skov Olsen opened the scoring before Simon Kjær added a penalty. Christian Norgaard and Joakim Mæhle were also on target. Austria won 2-0 in the Faroe Islands to keep up their slim hopes of overtaking Scotland, who beat Israel 3-2 in a Hampden Park thriller. First-half goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk gave Ukraine a 2-1 win over Finland in Group D. The West Ham forward Yarmolenko put the visitors ahead less than five minutes after kick-off when he drove home from 20 yards past the Finnish goalkeeper. Norwich City’s Teemu Pukki levelled for Finland in the 29th minute but Ukraine regained the lead minutes later with a goal from Yaremchuk. …”
Guardian

2015 Africa Cup of Nations Final


“The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations Final was a football match that took place on 8 February 2015 to determine the winner of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, the football championship of Africa organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). The match was held at the Estadio de Bata in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, and was contested by Ghana and Ivory Coast. Ghana qualified for the final by finishing as the winners of Group C and then defeating Guinea and Equatorial Guinea in the quarter-final and semi-final, while Ivory Coast qualified as winners of Group D, after which they beat Algeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The final finished 0–0 at the end of normal time, and there were also no goals in extra time, with few clear-cut chances for either team. Ivory Coast had the game’s only shot on target on 12 minutes, when Yaya Touré cleared the Ghanaian wall with a free kick, but his shot went straight to Ghanaian goalkeeper Brimah Razak. …”
Wikipedia
YouTube: Cote d’Ivoire vs Ghana Penalty Shootout HD 08/02/2015 African Cup of Nation 2015 Final

Why do African countries hire non-African football coaches so much?

“It seemed strange when in the run-up to Afcon 2013, Nigeria’s coach Stephen Keshi forcefully criticised African football associations for their preference for white coaches. That when Zambia, until this week the great success story of African football, had Hervé Renard to thank for masterminding their unlikely triumph last year in Libreville. Yet Keshi has a point. The success of Zambia under Renard should not obscure the fact that African football administrators have always failed to appreciate and make use of its own resources and talent. This is true of football as it is of Africa’s national economies.” Africa is a Country

Who Will Win the 2018 World Cup? SI’s Expert Predictions and Knockout Brackets


“The World Cup kicks off June 14 in Moscow with a meeting between the two lowest-ranked teams in the field, which, in some ways, is quite appropriate. The competition is meant to be a crescendo, one whose drama and defining moments don’t occur until the very end. With the way the draw and schedule worked out, that’s precisely how Russia 2018 is shaping up to play out. Russia vs. Saudi Arabia will be a massive 90 minutes for the host nation, which can set its tone for the tournament in front of its partisan crowd. But once it’s over, the focus will shift to the traditional powers and the individual superstars who figure to have plenty of say in determining the 2018 world champion. …” SI

At African Soccer Event, Games of Cat and Mouse


“CASABLANCA, Morocco — Standing just inside the lobby of Casablanca’s Novotel, Koly Koivogui was hard to miss. Dressed in a bright red zip-up track top bearing the insignia of the Guinean national soccer team, Koivogui, a large, barrel-chested coach, stood guard. He was making sure that uninvited player agents or scouts did not harass members of his team on the eve of the 16-team African Nations Championship, a competition for national teams with rosters made up solely of players who play club games in their birth countries. …” NY Times

2018 African Nations Championship: Group-by-group guide


“The 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Morocco is the fifth edition of the tournament that features only players plying their trade in their own domestic championships. The Confederation of African Football (Caf) introduced the tournament in 2009 when Ivory Coast hosted an eight-team finals that was won by DR Congo. In 2011, the tournament – hosted by Sudan – expanded to 16 teams with Tunisia emerging as winners before Libya lifted the trophy in South Africa in 2014 and DR Congo won again in 2016, when Rwanda staged the finals. The holders and record two-time champions will not be in Morocco however, after losing to Congo Brazzaville in qualifying. …” BBC

Afcon 2017: wider spread of talent makes winner impossible to predict

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Riyad Mahrez, Diedonnei Mbokani, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mohamed Salah are among the stars at the Africa Cup of Nations.
“The pattern has become familiar: a country wins the right to host a tournament and there is excitement, then come doubts about costs and readiness, but in the days before the event, the negativity falls away and excitement takes over. Not here. In 2015, Gabon stepped in to replace Libya as the hosts because of the conflict there but, as the 31st Africa Cup of Nations approaches, there is a clear sense a significant proportion of the country does not want it to happen.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Global Series | Top 10 African Players of 2015: Toure, Kidiaba and Brahimi feature

kidiaba-2016-1
“… 8. ROBERT KIDIABA Kidiaba is the veteran goalkeeper at TP Mazembe, is one of the most decorated African players in the game today. Kidiaba started off his career at AS Saint Luc, and his success there prompted the national team to take him to the AFCON in 1998. This brought attention to the young keeper, and he signed for Mazembe after the tournament. Ever since then, he’s been a constant in their side, winning league titles galore, and 3 African Champions League trophies as well.” Outside of the Boot

History of the BBC African Footballer of the Year award

yaya-toure
“Before the BBC African Footballer of the Year 2016 launches on Saturday, BBC Sport looks at all the previous winners. The prize started life as the BBC African Sports Star of the Year award in 1992, when Ghanaian footballer Abedi Pele was the inaugural winner. The format has evolved and now a shortlist of five players is announced following a poll of football journalists from every country in Africa – after which a public vote decides the best for that year. Names etched on the trophy include George Weah, Didier Drogba, Jay-Jay Okocha, Yaya Toure and Sammy Kuffour.” BBC

Political unrest in Gabon casts shadow over 2017 Africa Cup of Nations draw

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“No news, they say, is good news. Either that or it’s the result of a government blackout. The draw for the Africa Cup of Nations will be held in Libreville, Gabon, on Wednesday but yet again the buildup to a tournament has been dominated by doubts over where it will be staged as the aftershocks of Gabonese presidential elections continue to be reverberate.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

African players in the Premier League

hometown
“Peter Ndlovu was the first. Now 246 African players have played in the Premier League since it began in 1992, scoring 1,776 goals in 14,210 appearances. Chelsea legend Didier Drogba has scored the most goals (104), Kolo Toure has made the most appearances (349) while Nigeria (35) has contributed the most players. As the Premier League live fan park comes to Cape Town this weekend learn all you need to know about African players in the English top flight.” BBC, BBC – You can read an accessible version of this graphic here.

Ivory Coast win Africa Cup of Nations in penalty shootout against Ghana

SOCCER Afri_10
“Could there have been a more unlikely hero than Boubacar Barry? He was the reserve keeper, the relic of the past, the clownish figure so often blamed for Ivorian failure. Elevated to play in the final only because Sylvain Gbohouo had suffered a thigh strain, he seized his opportunity in a ridiculous, hilarious, remarkable way, saving two penalties and then scoring the decisive kick in the shootout himself.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

AFCON 2015 – the winners and losers
“The overriding theme of AFCON 2015 was undoubtedly one of Ivoirian redemption. Favourites for virtually every tournament across the last decade, Les Éléphants were perceived as being both fundamentally flawed psychologically and a disaster waiting to happen defensively. Yet under Hervé Renard – who in masterminding Ivory Coast’s victory becomes the first man to lift Africa’s most prestigious crown with two separate nations – they were a side reborn. The Frenchmen instilled both discipline and togetherness, alongside a sense of character that had long deserted the West Africans. A blend of youth together with the remaining fragments of the golden generation reaped dividends, as the previously much maligned Elephants visibly blossomed through the tournament’s progression – perhaps the seminal result, from a mental perspective at least, being a 3-1 quarter-final triumph over Algeria.” backpagefootball

Afcon 2015: Five lessons from the Africa Cup of Nations
“The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations came to a dramatic end on Sunday night when Ivory Coast sealed a thrilling 9-8 victory over Ghana on penalties. The win brought to an end a 22-year drought for Ivory Coast, and capped a tournament that was moved at the last minute and almost overshadowed by violence. But what did we learn? Here are five key lessons from this year’s competition.” BBC

Independent: In Pictures: Ivory Coast claims African Cup of Nations after epic sudden death 22 penalty shoot-out against Ghana

Avram Grant putting his shirt on Ghana’s Africa Cup of Nations chances

John-Boye-Ghana-008
Riot police shield Ghana’s John Boye and his team mates from objects thrown by Equatorial Guinea fans at the end of the first half of the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final.
“As the helicopter descended, Avram Grant glanced up, his face as cadaverous as ever, but seemed emotionless. Whatever he actually felt amid the violence that led to Ghana’s Cup of Nations semi-final against Equatorial Guinea being suspended for almost 40 minutes, his outward appearance was calm. When the smoke grenades cleared, fans were evacuated from two stands of the Estadio de Malabo and the bottles and other missiles were cleared from the pitch, the overriding sense was of the sang-froid with which Ghana had reacted.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Ghana players, fans pelted with missiles in win over Equatorial Guinea
“The Africa Cup of Nations semi-final between Equatorial Guinea and Ghana was suspended for almost 40 minutes on Thursday night after crowd disturbances that led to police evacuating part of the stadium with smoke bombs and a helicopter. In scenes that will colour what remains of the tournament, home supporters aimed bottles at Ghana players and supporters, and the visiting team were forced to leave and re-enter the pitch under cover of riot police shields either side of half-time. The crowd was largely dispersed, with reports that trouble continued outside the stadium after the match. Eventually the game was restarted in front of near-empty stands before the Gabonese referee, Eric Otogo, blew for full-time five minutes early.” Guardian

Allez Les Éléphants!

“Two of the teams I had huge hopes for in World Cup 2014 were Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana; sadly things didn’t work out as well for them as many of us hoped. But that’s why I’m super excited for this superclásico tomorrow, the final of the African Cup of Nations 2015!!! Judging from the record cover, back in 1984 Côte d’Ivoire must have not had the team that they have today; “La victoire est possible” is even more hesitant than the Mexicans’ “Sí se puede”; when you have to explain to your team that they *could* win, things might not be looking so good for you. But things are very different today, and I’m really hoping to see this golden generation finally get the big win. Plus, I’ve waited years for the right moment to share this record with you, this better be it! Allez Les Éléphants!!! La Pelanga (Video)

Are DR Congo’s leopards rising from a prolonged slumber?

“With less than half an hour remaining in their quarter-final duel with Republic of Congo, it seemed DR Congo’s less than flattering AFCON campaign was destined for an ungainly conclusion – having just witnessed their limited yet well drilled neighbours move into an implausible 2-0 lead. It was at that point however where the fixture’s landscape shifted, as Republic of Congo – who prior to this tournament hadn’t tasted AFCON victory in 40 years -seemingly froze in the face of the momentous accomplishment that was within their grasp. Within minutes Dieumerci Mbokani had halved the bewildered Red Devils advantage, as a DR Congo suddenly rediscovered an attacking mojo that had been non-existent up to that point.” backpagefootball

Ivory Coast survive wobble against DR Congo to reach Cup of Nations final
“Could it be that one of the longest waits in football is at last coming to an end? For a decade, Africa has expected Ivory Coast’s golden generation at last to reach fulfilment and perhaps now, as the Elephants approach their third final in nine years, the itch will be scratched. Yet perhaps this isn’t even the golden generation any more: after all, only four players remain from the squad that lost to the hosts in the final in Egypt in 2006.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Ivory Coast march on but this tale of two Tourés is far from pretty

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Kolo Touré / Ivory Coast
“The good news for Ivory Coast is that they’re through. They’re not playing with any great fluency or style, but they have made it through to the quarter-finals, where they will face Algeria, and there is at least about them a sense of purpose and defensive resolve. “We will fight like elephants,” said Kolo Touré after a second successive draw had left them needing to win their final game, against Cameroon, to progress and if that means presenting a solid barrier, absorbing blows before prevailing through a goal based on raw power, they did just that. Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Cameroon, a team who had beaten them 4-1 in qualifying, was classic Hervé Renard.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Guinea and Mali to draw lots for Africa Cup of Nations knockout place
“The final place in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals will be decided by the drawing of lots after Guinea and Mali drew 1-1. Both teams had played out 1-1 draws in their previous Group D matches, meaning lots will be required to decide who finishes second and will face Ghana. Every match in the group finished 1-1 except Wednesday’s other match, in which Ivory Coast beat Cameroon 1-0 to qualify. It is a remarkable set of circumstances and one not seen at the Africa Cup of Nations since 1988, when the drawing of lots sent Algeria through to the knockout stage at the expense of the Ivory Coast. Bizarrely, the draw will not be made immediately but at a meeting of Confederation of African Football officials on Thursday.” Guardian

Ghana’s loss to Senegal leaves Avram Grant in familiar territory

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“Avram Grant has faced enough hostile press conferences in his career to know that he got away lightly. The Ghanaian media was clearly disappointed by the 2-1 defeat to Senegal on Monday but it was relatively restrained in the way it dealt with Grant, who sat in familiarly morose pose as a bat fluttered back and forth above his head. Perhaps the gentle approach was born of a recognition that this was Grant’s first competitive game in charge, or perhaps it was simply that the poor performance wasn’t unexpected.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Afcon 2015: Star players, prizes and stats from Equatorial Guinea
“The opening round of group games at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations has delivered penalty misses, last-gasp winners, no goalless draws and some man-of-the-match presentations with a twist. The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has given fans the chance to hand out awards to the chosen star man in fixtures, but have they gone to the right players? Here, we put forward the round-one stars chosen by you, our reporters on the ground in Equatorial Guinea and African football’s governing body.” BBC

Zambia 1 Tunisia
“Tunisia made the most of Zambia’s wastefulness in front of goal as they came from behind to win. Emmanuel Mayuka opened the scoring when he blasted home a cross from the impressive Rainford Kalaba. But Mayuka was injured when stretching for a chance to turn the ball into an empty net and moments later Tunisia scored against 10 men when Ahmed Akaichi scored from two yards out. Tunisia improved after that and Yasine Chikhaoui headed home a late winner.” BBC

Favourites Algeria dealt AFCON minefield

“The pot compilation of yesterday’s 2015 African Cup of Nations draw always meant a strong viability for a series of heavy weight assortments, yet for the majority of sides assigned a spot in Group C their hand represented the nightmare assignment. The inevitably dubbed group of death compiles the intimidating quintet of Algeria, Ghana, South Africa and Senegal. If Algeria – undoubtedly Africa’s standout outfit in Brazil last summer and the continent’s highest ranked side – are to clinch a first crown in 22 years they must now do it the hard way. That being said as arduous as Algeria’s examination might appear, for their three opponents the Fennec Foxes represent the worst case scenario.” backpagefootball

Africa Cup of Nations’ lop-sided draw promises intrigue if not high quality

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Democratic Republic of Congo fan – African Nations Cup
“Given the seeding pots, the potential for an atrociously difficult group at next month’s Africa Cup of Nations was always there. The draw delivered, spectacularly and brutally. Algeria, the top-ranked team in Africa, the only one of the Cup of Nations qualifiers to reach the last 16 of the World Cup, were the danger lurking in Pot 2 and Ghana the unlucky seeds. But worse than that, Ghana had already been grouped with Senegal – by some distance the best team in Pot 4 – and, from Pot 3, the side that eliminated the champions Nigeria in qualifying, South Africa, resurgent under Shakes Mashaba.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

At least there is a Cup of Nations for Nigeria to fail to qualify for

South Africa's Eric Mathoho, left, and Nigeria's Ahmed Musa
“Twelve days after the Akwa Ibom stadium in Uyo was officially opened, it is already a site of ignominy. Nigeria fought back with two late Sone Aluko goals to draw 2-2 with South Africa on Wednesday, but preserving their unbeaten record against Bafana Bafana in competitive games is little consolation. Congo, whom Nigeria had beaten 2-0 on Saturday to have even a chance of qualification, held their nerve to win 1-0 in Sudan and so eliminated the defending champions from the Cup of Nations.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Uganda targeting history against Guinea

“In 1978 Uganda enjoyed their most momentous AFCON accomplishment, finishing runners-up to Ghana – back then nobody envisaged the cranes failing to grace Africa’s most prestigious tournament in the years subsequent. Those years of suffering could however be brought to an end on Wednesday night when Uganda visit Casablanca to take on Guinea, with a point from that fixture liable to secure the conclusion of their AFCON absence. Across recent history few sides have been closer to qualification without actually accomplishing it, with the Ugandans only missing the 2012 AFCON by a single point – Angola ultimately clinched the sought after qualification birth. That setback though was merely minor in the gut wrenching stakes given a year later only an epic penalty shootout defeat – 20 kicks in total – denied Uganda progression at the expense of 2012 champions Zambia.” backpagefootball

The Post-Mortem: World Cup 2014 – Colombia

“Brazil 2014 was Colombia’s best ever World Cup for several reasons. For the first time the team reached the quarterfinals of the tournament and, in doing so, delighted fans both at home and abroad with their exciting brand of football, their skill and their talent. Not only did Colombia have the top goal scorer, James Rodríguez, they also won the Fair Play award. When things became difficult, the Colombians picked themselves up and rose to the occasion. They went out fighting and without relinquishing their style of play. It was a most fantastic time for Colombian football. The doubts that had crept-in over the previous months were quickly washed away by the dazzling pace of the Colombian attack, the team’s confidence and its prolific goal-scoring. Memories of the tournament will endure for decades in the Colombian mindset.” Just Football

The Post-Mortem: World Cup 2014 – Ghana
“An impressive 2-2 draw with eventual winners Germany in what was touted one of the best games of the tournament had seemingly shot Ghana high up the favourites list for a round of 16 spot, after a 2-1 loss to the USA in their opener. And Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal were to be the patsies. However, a lacklustre showing twinned with a series of camp agitations at the Estadio Nacional meant the Black Stars would be heading home at the group stages for the first time, following a 2-1 reverse.” Just Football

It starts here… Africa Cup of Nations 2015 – 2nd round qualification preview

“In early May the long journey towards Morocco and the Africa Cup of Nations 2015 began for the sizeable percentage of African sides – indeed for Mauritania that voyage started way back in April with a preliminary round fixture against Mauritius. Before Africa’s elite, including champions Nigeria, endure the rigors of qualification the rest must be whittled down to just seven – having seen 14 sides depart during May’s first round, that number will be halved once again in the second round.” Just Football

In Bronx, Joy and Agony for Ghana’s World Cup Match

“The faithful filed into a tiny back storeroom of the Malata African Market in the Bronx, making their way past the bins of giant yams and the freezer of dried fish, and took their seats in rickety rows. A 46-inch television, propped on a shelf next to 50-pound bags of white corn meal, was tuned to the only soccer match that mattered there: Ghana versus Portugal in the final group play match of the World Cup’s Group G.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Argentina 1-0 Iran

“The two teams could not have been further in reputation, Argentina being one of the favourites to challenge for the World Cup, and Iran being one of the ‘favourites’ to get knocked out in the group stages. It was most definitely a David vs Goliath situation. But still, the match had attracted quite a lot of build up considering both the teams’ contrasting strengths. Argentina’s mighty attack versus Iran’s extremely pragmatic approach was always going to be an entertaining contest.” Outside of the Boot

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Germany 2-2 Ghana
“Today, after a first 45 minutes of two sides feeling each other out, we saw a brilliant 2nd half which ultimately failed to separate the two sides. In fairness a 2-2 draw was probably a fair result as it highlighted Germany’s ability to penetrate Ghana’s defense but also rewarded Ghana’s sharp counter-attack and punished Germany’s lack of pace on the back line.” Outside of the Boot

Talent Radar: Mario Götze improves his defensive contribution in Germany’s 2-2 World Cup draw with Ghana

“In what turned out to be a hugely attractive encounter in one of the most open and end-to-end 2014 World Cup games, Germany & Ghana played out an enthralling 2-2 draw with fast paced counter-attacking football at it’s best. The two sides had met at the previous World Cup as well with the Europeans getting the win, but this time it seemed more likely that we’d witness an African triumph until the legendary Miroslav Klose turned up and scored his record equaling 15th World Cup goal.” Outside of the Boot

An Enduring Touch Proves as Essential as Ever
“The shaky front flip was not vintage Miroslav Klose, but the critical goal that led to it was definitely a classic Klose poach. Even if he is now an injury-prone, 36-year-old substitute, playing for Germany still brings out the essential man in Klose, and less than two minutes after he trotted onto the field in Fortaleza, Brazil, he smelled a chance and pounced. The far post has been one of his happiest hunting grounds through the years, and after his teammate Benedikt Höwedes flicked on a Toni Kroos corner kick, Klose was already moving toward empty space near the goal line, a half-step and a fully formed thought ahead of the closest Ghana defender.” NY Times

World Cup 2014: Germany Ties Ghana as Miroslav Klose Ties Goals Record
“Ghana held Germany to a 2-2 tie on Saturday in Fortaleza, Brazil, although the veteran striker Miroslav Klose came on as a substitute to match the World Cup scoring record with the tying goal in a highly entertaining Group G match. Klose has 15 career World Cup goals, equaling the mark set by the former Brazil star Ronaldo. Klose scored the equalizer in the 71st minute, less than two minutes after coming on, when a corner by Toni Kroos was flicked to the far post by Benedikt Höwedes, and Klose slid in to knock the ball in.” NY Times

The End of Ghana’s Golden Generation

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“As exhilarating as Monday’s 2-1 World Cup victory was for United States supporters, it must have been equally as heartbreaking for Ghana supporters. Having clawed back to tie the match 1-1, and appearing to secure a minimum of a point after allowing a first-minute opener to Clint Dempsey, the Ghanaian team now face an uphill battle to qualify for the knockout stages of this World Cup. FiveThirtyEight suggests that Ghana’s loss dropped their chances of making it through Group G down to just 11.0 percent. (The United States, meanwhile, now have a 67.2 percent chance of advancing [the number has been updated since Nate Silver’s post yesterday].) Even worse, if Ghana are eliminated, it will likely bring the run of their golden generation to an end. It will take a while for a Ghanaian team this good to make it into the World Cup again.” Grantland

John Brooks and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very American Win
“Imagine if I told you before this match that America’s best pure striker and main offensive target would leave with a leg injury 20 minutes in. And that one of our best centerbacks would also be forced out with an injury at halftime. And that our most dangerous player would have his nose broken and not be able to breathe well out of it for the rest of the hot, humid game. And that our all-around best player would turn in a horrible performance. And that our passing style would for the most part resemble that of a co-ed adult league team, lower intermediate division. Knowing all that, you’d probably be OK with a 2-1 win against the best team in Africa in one of the most important matches in United States World Cup history, right?” New Republic

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Ghana 1-2 USA
“Coming into the World Cup, all the talk for the US National Team was the exclusion of all-time leading World Cup scorer, Landon Donovan. Many felt that even if he weren’t going to be awarded a starting berth, his experience off the bench and in training would be effective on getting the best out of the players, in what would be his last ever World Cup. For Ghana, it was a case of avenging their quarter-final defeat from the previous edition. They would have to start off against the Americans who they’ve defeated twice in the last two World Cups, knocking them out of the competition. Expectations were high for both sides, and given Portugal’s defeat earlier to Germany, these two sides knew they could take a massive step at progress from the first-round with a win at Estadio das Dunas.” Outside of the Boot

USA vs. Ghana in GIFs
“Revenge, at last. The U.S. faced a must-win situation in its first match against old nemesis Ghana, who eliminated the Yankes from the last two world Cups. Jurgen Klinsmann and his men had to deliver. And they did, in the most dramatic of fashion. Here are some unforgettable GIFs.” Fusion