Story: Kwame Asare Boadu in Kumasi
& Zakaria Alhassan in Tamale
EQYPT and Cameroun yesterday emerged the top nations in Group C at the ongoing MTN 26th Africa Cup of Nations tournament to ensure their places in the quarter-final round of the competition.
But at the end of the day, it was Camerounian striker Samuel Eto’o Fils, who cut a significant slice of football history as he eclipsed Ivorian legend Laurent Pokou to become the Africa Cup of Nations all-time leading goal scorer after scoring twice in the Indomitable Lions’ 3-0 victory over the Sokoor Al-Jediane of The Sudan at the Tamale Stadium.
His goals, one in each half of the match, took the striker’s tally to 16, two goals more than the 38-year-old record held by Pokou who achieved the magical 14-goal mark at the 1970 Nations Cup in Sudan.
Cameroun’s emphatic victory not only propelled the team into the quarter-finals stage of the tournament but also sent The Sudan packing home as the only team which failed to score a single goal in the tournament after losing all group matches.
It was a double celebration for the Barcelona striker who was voted MTN Man of the Match and also became the tournament’s leading scorer with five goals. His record-shattering goal came in the 25th minute through spot kick after team-mate Achille Emma was heavily brought down in the penalty box.
Cameroun’s opening goal appeared to have unsettled the Sudanese who subsequently lost focus and succumbed to intense pressure after conceding an own goal in the 34th minute when the ball bounced off Mohammed Alikhidir.
The well-composed Sudanese defence, built around Kuku Damar, Lado Jastein and Hado Yousif frustrated the hungry Lions attackers who were on the prowl in search for more goals.
Determined to redeem their battered image in the tournament, Sudan resumed the second half more strongly but failed to utilise the scoring chances that came their way as they paid dearly for poor shooting and hardly troubled Cameroun goalie Idriss Kameni.
In the dying minutes of the game, Eto’o raised the bar even higher with his all-time 16th goal after capitalising on a counter-attack to fire home Cameroun’s third goal.
Sudan’s only consolation was the Samsung Fair Play award won by Mustafa Karar.
And in Kumasi, hopes by Egypt to complete the group outings unblemished fizzled out as a determined Zambia held them to 1-1 drawn game at the Baba Yara Stadium last night.
The North Africans had plucked a first half goal and were coasting to a marginal victory when the Chipolopolo clawed back valiantly in the 88th minute.
But the Egyptians who topped the group on seven points would remain in Kumasi to meet the runner-up in Group D in the quarter finals.
A vociferous group of supporters from Cairo numbering about 100 and sponsored by Pepsi provided an inspirational back-up to the Pharaohs but that was not enough for the Egyptians to finish on a clean sheet. By the 10th minute it had become clear that the battle was going to be fought on an even keel.
Zambia were defiant even under excessive pressure, fortifying their defence and trying to catch the Egyptians on the break through the middle.
Lanky Zambian striker Jacob Mulenga and skipper Christopher Katongo kept showing signs of changing the game in their favour but persistently lacked the fire power to find a way past experienced Egyptian goalkeeper Esam El-Hadary.
Finding himself in firing range in the 21st minute, Mulenga attempted to deceive El-Hadary with a back flick but failed, while Katongo was denied in the box in the 25th minute by Wahed Said.
When they attempted to secure the wings, Egypt probed for the opener which came after 15minutes.
A sweeping move from the middle saw wing back Wahed Said released in space on the left , and he swung in a crosss for Zamelek striker Amr Zaky to whip the ball past Michal Poto in post for Zambia.
The pendulum remained balanced but it remained clear that Hosni, Abdrabou was missing the partnership of Mohammed Zidan who was kept on the bench by trainer Hassan Shehata.
The Chipolopolo’s game plan was to deplore more men on Hosni and whereas the Ismaily midfielder remained anonymous in the game, the Egyptians could harldy click.
Malian referee Coulibaly Koman booked Zambia’s Isaac Chansa in the 41st minute for a violent tackle as the Zambians tried to cut out the Pharaohs from all angles.
Amr Zaky came up with some unpardonable misses in the second part of the game and he was pulled out after 60minutes for Mohammed Abou Treka.
Zidan was also introduced into the game in the second half but his typical surging runs were absent as Joseph Musonda and Hmonde Hichani trapped him in his tracks.
Unconvinced by the Zambians inability to advance, Coach Patrick Phiri came up with substitutions and this turned the game in their favour. Substitute Phiri Adubelo who replaced Mulenga was industrious and the Egyptian backline found him difficult to handle.
The equalizing goal came two minutes to regulation time when Katongo who had dashed to the left trapped a long ball and turned his marker inside out before powering a right-footed angle shot past El-Hadary. It was a brilliant goal and the Egyptians attempt to fight back failed.