Cameroon and Ghana qualify despite defeats
By Brian Homewood
ACCRA, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Cameroon and Ghana scraped into the African Nations Cup quarter-finals on Monday despite shock defeats. Cameroon, who boast a record four World Cup appearances and two Nations Cup titles, sank 1-0 in Kumasi against tiny Togo, whose coach resigned last week after a bitter feud with his directors.
Tournament co-hosts Ghana, able to afford to lose by a two-goal margin against neighbours and bitter rivals Ivory Coast, duly lost 2-0. In fact, Ghana played the last minutes on the brink of a three-goal defeat which would have sent the Ivorians through at their expense. All four teams finished group A on four points and it was left to goal difference to decide the standings. Cameroon finished with plus two, followed by Ghana on none and Ivory Coast and Togo on minus one. Cameroon, who had looked the strongest outfit at the 16-team tournament, appeared distinctly uninterested against Togo and fell behind when Dutch-based defender Massamesso Tchangai scored from a rebound in the 19th minute.
Strangely, Togo, without German coach Gottlieb Goeller who stormed out after branding Togolese officials as useless, sat back and defended, apparently content with the feat of defeating a team made up of players from top European clubs. They survived despite Real Madrid's Geremi Fotso Njitap hitting the post in injury time. Four times champions Ghana had not beaten Ivory Coast in the competition since 1974, but were still expected to sail through after their opponents produced two uninspiring performances earlier.
The Elephants, however, were fired up by the huge rivalry between the nations, which came to a tragic head in 1993 when more than 20 Ghanaians living in Abidjan were killed in rioting which followed an African Champions Cup tie between club sides from the two countries. The Ivorians, who left Marseille striker Ibrahima Bakayoko and Inter Milan defender Cyrille Domoraud out of their greatly reshuffled team, stifled Ghana with some rough tackling early on. After Bonaventure Kalou shot Ivory Coast ahead on the stroke of halftime, the Ghanaians lost their nerve and allowed the Ivorians to create a host of chances in the second half. Substitute Donald-Olivier Sie scored the second in the 84th minute, having hit the crossbar four minutes before, and the home fans had to endure a tense finale as the Elephants continued to stream forward. Ghana survived, leaving Ivory Coast to rue their injury time third goal they conceded against Cameroon, but the team bus was given a military escort out of the stadium to prevent any attack by angry home supporters. "I want to say sorry to the Ghanaian people, there's no reason for what happened today," said Ghana's Italian coach Giuseppe Dossena.
Ghana's second place sends them to Kumasi for their quarter-final against South Africa if, as expected, they win group B on Wednesday. Cameroon are likely to play Algeria in Accra.