Goal drought marks slow start to Africa Nations Cup


Cape Verde’s Carlitos, right, fends off South Africa’s Siphiwe Tshabalala, left, during the opening match of the Africa Cup of Nations in Soweto. – AFP

Johannesburg: Unseasonably cold temperatures, hours of driving rain, uninspiring football and no goals marked a truly dismal opening day at the African Nations Cup on Saturday. The eagerly-awaited 29th continental tournament, which has grown from humble beginnings in 1957 to an event of global interest, began with a 0-0 draw in a poor game between hosts South Africa hosts and debutants Cape Verde Islands. The opener at Soccer City was followed by a better match between Morocco and Angola at the same stadium but that also finished goalless.

The only people who appeared genuinely satisfied with the first day, which most would rather quickly forget, were Cape Verde coach Lucio Antunes and his squad. He was delighted they finished the match with a real belief that they can get good enough results against Morocco and Angola in their remaining Group A matches to avoid an immediate return to their island country at the other end of the continent.

South Africa coach Gordon Igesund had a totally different perspective after a turgid, error-strewn game played in cold, wintry conditions with rain sweeping around the stadium. They also came closest to winning, almost taking the lead after 13 minutes when Luis Soares, better known as Platini, was guilty of a shocking miss his more famous namesake, former France great Michel Platini, would have converted with ease. The only other clear-cut chance came in the second half when Khune scrambled a header from Heldon away for a corner. The occasion was in stark contrast to the way South Africa started the World Cup here 2-1/2 years ago.

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