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Friday, January 30, 2015

Huge Controversy ahead of 2015 Asian Cup Final

The 2015 AFC Asia Cup final will bring together two teams who have contrasting records as hosts Australia battle two-time winners South Korea.

The duo meet this Saturday at a sold-out Stadium Australia in Sydney in a best defence versus best attack affair. Hosts Australia have scored the most number of goals (12) in the competition while South Korea have the meanest defence which hasn’t conceded a single goal in 5 matches.

South Korea head into the match as slight favorites having beaten the Socceroos 1-0 in the group stages, Lee Jung-Hyup scoring the solitary goal in that clash. Australia scored 8 goals in the group stage, a 4-1 win over Kuwait followed by a 4-0 demolition of Oman, a team the Reds of South Korea could only beat 1-0.

Both teams won their quarterfinal duels 2-0, Son Heung-min and Tim Cahill both scoring a double against Uzbekistan and China respectively, before a similar scoreline win, Australia over UAE, and South Korea over Iraq gave the two teams their tickets to the final.

Uli Stielike’s South Korea have won the cup twice, 1956 and 1960, while Australia are making only their third appearance but they have reached the final on two occasions.

However, there’s a cloud of controversy surrounding the inclusion of Australia in the Asia Cup Federation (AFC) with some Gulf nations reportedly mobilizing a movement that will ensure they are kicked out. “There are indications that prove that such desire exists among the confederations of West Asia to evict Australia (from AFC),” said Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa.

Australia were recruited to the federation in 2006 but has since been accused of receiving more than they give. They are the region’s reigning club champions, have won the female Asian Championship and have qualified to the World Cup twice through the federation.

Meanwhile a brace from Ahmed Khalil helped the United Arab Emirates (UAE) claim the third spot with a 3-2 win over 10-man Iraq. 

UAE took the lead at the quarter hour mark, Khalil drilling home from close range only for Iraq to get the equalizer 15 minutes later through Waleed Salem. Iraq took charge of the match with their second just before the interval, Amjad Kalaf finding the back of the net from a rebound.

However, a resurgent UAE drew level through Khalil before Ali Mabkhout converted from the spot to give UAE the win and perhaps hand himself the golden boot award.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Africa Cup of Nations: Ghana, Tunisia Show their Class as Bafana and Senegal Crash out

Former winners Ghana and Tunisia became the latest teams to book their slot in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations quarter finals after both won their crunch matches against South Africa and Senegal.

Ghana had to come from a goal behind to overpower South Africa 2-1 while Algeria had a far more comfortable evening beating Senegal 2-0.

With all the teams having a chance to enter the next round, only victory would guarantee progress and it was the four-time winners Ghana and the 2004 champions Tunisia who carried the day.

Avram Grant’s Ghana started their match against the Bafana Bafana on a wrong footing falling behind to an early goal from Mandla Masango. The Kaizer Chiefs midfielder was left unmarked outside the danger area and he managed to wrap his foot around the ball before hitting a sublime volley past a stranded Brimah Razak in the Black Stars’ goal with the clock hitting the 17th minute mark.

It was all Ghana thereafter with Shakes Mashaba’s side resorting to counter attacks. Andre Ayew was particularly lively putting the Bafana defence in constant check but it was towering defender John Boye who got the leveler drilling the ball between the legs of goalkeeper Nhlanhla Khuzwayo.

Kwesi Appiah saw his effort hit the base of the post before Ayew produced a magic moment, the Marseille man heading home in the 83rd minute for a 2-1 win.

Senegal had the least job to do in the group needing just a draw to progress but a goal either side of the half from Riyad Mahrez and Nabil Bentaleb saw Tunisia knock them out in a 2-0 defeat.

The last quarterfinal slots will be filled by Group D teams with nothing separating Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea and Mali who are all tied on two points.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

It’s Australia versus South Korea in AFC Asia Cup Final

Hosts Australia will play two-time winners South Korea in the final of this year’s edition of the AFC Asian Cup.

Maiden international goals from Trent Sainsbury and Jason Davidson steered the Socceroos to a 2-0 win over surprise campaigners United Arab Emirates at the Newcastle Stadium.

Australia who beat China 2-0 in the quarters courtesy of a second half brace from Tim Cahill got off to a dream start as center-half Sainsbury found the back of Majed Naser’s net with a header as early as the third minute of the game.

The drenched Newcastle pitch didn’t make it easy to play but the Socceroos looked pretty comfortable and after UAE hit the foot of the post, the hosts doubled their lead just before the quarter hour mark, Davidson finding the bottom corner with a low drive. 

Neither teams could find the back of the net after the interval as Australia put a halt to UAE’s progress and ensured they qualify for the final for the second time in their last three appearances.

Ange Postecoglou’s side will face South Korea who dismissed Iraq with a similar scoreline in the other semi-final. The two finalists will clash in Sydney this Saturday where new Asia Cup champions will be crowned, holders Japan having been bundled out by UAE.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Africa Cup of Nations: Equatorial Guinea Reach AFCON Last 8 alongside Congo

Hosts Equatorial Guinea advanced to the second round of the Africa Cup of Nations for only the second time in history after beating Gabon 2-0 in the last round of Group A matches.

Esteban Becker’s men had the full support of the majority of the crowd at Estadio de Bata who sang and danced from the off and were handsomely rewarded with a classy performance from the hosts.

Knowing only a win would see them avoid the unwanted record of being the first host nation to fail to qualify to the next round in 18 years, the Nzalang Nacional came off the blocks quicker than their more fancied opponents. They created the first two chances of the game before Gabon captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang spanned his team’s first real threat at goal, his header drawing a fine save from Felipe Ovono.

With the first half thin on chances, Gabon came out flying in the second half and created two early chances with Ovono called into action in both occasions. However, it was the hosts who took the lead against the run of play, Javier Balboa converting a penalty after Lloyd Palun was adjudged to have fouled him in the box.

Iban Salvador confirmed the hosts’ entry into the next round with a second goal four minutes before the final whistle.

Congo topped the group after beating 2013 finalists Burkina Faso 2-1. After a goalless first half, Thievy Bifouma opened the scoring for Claude Le Roy’s side 6 minutes into the second interval. The Burkinabe needed victory to advance and Aristide Bance gave them a fighting chance with an 86th minute equalizer but N’Guessi Ondama ensured the Congolese wouldn’t be denied restoring their lead immediately after the restart.

This is the first time Congo have progressed past the group stage since the 1992 Africa Cup on Nations edition.  

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Asia Cup: UAE Shock Japan, Iraq Edge Iran in Shootout Dramatics

The 2015 Asia Cup provided its most dramatic day yet after both Iran and defending champions Japan were bundled out at the quarterfinals level.

After playing to a stunning 3-3 draw after extra time, Iraq ensured their progress to the semifinals with a 7-6 win over their Middle Eastern rivals on penalties. The game was tied 1-1 at full time with Iran taking the lead from a Sardar Azmoun first half strike before they were reduced to 10-men following a Mehrdad Pooladi red card two minutes before the interval.

However, Ahmed Yasin drew Iraq level in the 56th minute but in spite of their one-man advantage, they were unable to find the winner with the game heading to extra time.

Younis Mahmoud put Iraq ahead for the first time in the match just two minutes into extra time but Iran restored parity with a Morteza Pouraliganji header in the 103rd minute. There however was still time for more drama with Pouraliganji giving away a penalty after hauling down Yaser Kasim. Dhurgham Ismail stepped up and converted to give Iraq a 3-2 lead with just four minutes before full time.

That goal would have sealed their fate but the Iranians wouldn’t bow out without a fight with substitute Reza Choochannejhad unbelievably making it 3-3 just two minutes later.

The tense shoot out saw all but Iran’s Vahid Amiry failing to convert his spot kick as Iraq made it to the semis, defender Salam Shakir slamming home the winning penalty.

Defending Champions Japan crashed out after going down 5-4 to United Arab Emirates in post-match penalties. Ali Ahmed Mabkhout gave the Gulf nation the lead but substitute Gaku Shibasaki drew the Blue Samurai level with just nine minutes before full time. With both teams unable to find the winner at extra time, the match went to penalties where UAE emerged top at sudden death.

UAE will play hosts Australia in the semis while Iraq will clash with South Korea to decide which two teams will contest to be the continental champions in the final set for Sydney’s Olympic Stadium on January 31.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Africa Cup on Nations: It’s Win or Bust for Bafana and Ghana’s Black Stars

South Africa's Thulani Serero. The Bafana Bafana will need to be up on their feet full time to avoid crashing out of AFCON
Pre-tournament favorites, Ghana and South Africa could be saying goodbye to the Africa Cup of Nations should they fail to get results against Algeria and Senegal respectively.

Both teams are on the verge of exiting the competition at its infant stage having both surrendered leads in their opening matches. South Africa conceded three goals in 15 minutes in their 3-1 defeat to Algeria having taken the lead six minutes after the interval.

Ghana surged ahead of Senegal with an Andre Ayew first half penalty but the Teranga Lions drew level through Mame Diouf before Fenerbahce attacker Moussa Sow completed the comeback with a last minute goal in a 2-1 win.

The defeats mean both teams must avoid a repeat of the same if they are to keep their hopes alive although getting a draw would spice up things further heading into the final group stage matches.

South Africa’s job looks tougher given Senegal’s recent form which has seen them lose only once in their last 14 matches in all competitions. Allain Giresse’s side have won all their last five matches keeping three clean sheets in the process and with a dangerous frontline headed by Diouf, Sow and Papiss Cisse, the Bafana defence will need to concentrate for 90 minutes.

Ephraim Mashaba’s South Africa created enough chances against Algeria and they could have claimed an easy victory but decadence in front of goal put paid to their hopes. It will be a contrasting game as far as player composition is concerned with all of Senegal’s 23-man squad plying their trade abroad while South Africa has 18 out of their 23 playing in the domestic league.

Top-ranked African team Algeria, will enter the quarterfinals if they beat Ghana.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Africa Cup on Nations: Congo Ends 41-Year Winless Rot

Stade de Reims midfielder, Prince Oniangue, scored the only goal for Congo as they ended a winless run in the Africa Cup of Nations that dates back to 41-years ago.

The 26-year-old fired home what would prove to be the winner against Gabon just three minutes into the second interval, a result that saw the Red Devils leapfrog Jorge Costa's men to the top of Group A. In a game of few clear cut chances, it was Claude Le Roy’s side who were patting each other on the back for a job well done as they denied Gabon a chance to qualify for the next round had Les Pantheres gotten the win.

However,  some defensive mix-up by the Gabonese backline presented Oniangue the opportunity to put his name on the goalscorers sheet which he duly obliged with a poacher's goal in Bata. The narrow 1-0 defeat of Gabon was Congo’s first win in the Africa Cup of Nations finals since 1974.

It also blew the Group A open with all the four teams capable of advancing to the Last 8 heading into the final matchday. The other two group members, Burkina Faso and hosts Equatorial Guinea, shared a barren draw.

Congo who last featured in the competition in the year 2000 lead the group on 4 points, one ahead of Gabon with Equatorial Guinea in third place, a point further adrift. Congo just need a draw in their last match against bottom side Burkina Faso to advance to the quarterfinals .

On Thursday evening, Zambia who won the title last time it was held in Equatorial Guinea, will take on Tunisia as Congo DR clash with Cape Verde in Group B. All the teams in the group are tied on 1 point.

And That’s thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Africa Cup of Nations: South Africa’s Bafana their Own Worst Enemy

The second matchday of the ongoing Africa Cup on Nations saw attention shift to the so-called Group of Death as four time winners Ghana took on Senegal in the earlier kickoff before Africa’s number one ranked team Algeria clashed with 1996 champions South Africa.

The Teranga Lions of Senegal had to fight from behind, Andre Ayew having put the Black Stars ahead from the penalty spot after Christian Atsu had been fouled in the box by goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul quarter way into the match. However, an equalizer from Southampton forward Mame Diouf and a last minute goal from Moussa Sow saw the Senegalese claim the three points in a 2-1 win.

That result meant there was all to play for in the second clash in the group pitting North Africans Algeria and their southern Africa counterparts South Africa. While the match was bereft of the explosive start and an early goal that underlined the previous encounter, it was highly competitive contest.

The Bafana Bafana threatened the most in the opening half but wasteful finishing and over elaboration of their play saw them waste three neat chances to score the opening goal. Dean Furman had his head buried in his hands halfway into the match after rattling the crossbar before Sibussio Vilakazi and Andile Jali were all culpable of wasting clear cut chances as the half ended barren.

Shakes Mashaba’s side would take a deserved lead 6 minutes inside the second interval, Thuso Phala finishing a delightful move that involved the troublesome Tokelo Rantie feeding Vilakazi whose backheel found Phala who finished from just outside the six-yard box.

Just two minutes later, Bafana Bafana were gifted an opportunity to extend their lead after they won a penalty. However, AFC Bournemouth’s Rantie aimed too high and hit the post in spite of sending the goalkeeper the wrong side. Mashaba’s side would create more chances but they tended to overplay when a little bit of decisiveness and willingness to shoot on goal would have bore dividends.

Thulani Hlatshwayo must have felt as the unluckiest man to grace the 30th edition of the tournament as he turned a header into the back of his own net to give the Desert Foxes a lifeline. Five minutes later, Napoli defender Faouzi Ghoulam doubled the South Africans’ pain when his left-footed strike somehow escaped the gloves of keeper Darren Keet. Two soon became three, Keet having another ‘oh boy’ moment after he allowed Islam Slimani’s tame shot to go past him with the clock reading 83 minutes.

South Africa’s loss, as unfortunate as it was, was all down to them. Time and again, they created chances but tended to go over the top when all they needed was to test the keeper. Rantie’s wild miss from the spot-kick summed up their evening. A low shot towards the far post would have made it 2-0 and perhaps allowed Mashaba to put a few more bodies at the back and see off the rest of the game as Algeria never created so many chances.

It was a bitter lesson for the 1996 Champions who now have to beat Senegal to have any chances of advancing past the group stages. Hopefully, by the time they face the increasingly impressive Teranga Lions, they would have learnt the simplest lesson in football; always take your chances.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!