Davy Lane analyses the fireworks in Ghana’s opening Group B match against DR Congo and looks at what the other group opponents Mali and Niger were up to as well as the other side shows.
No goals on Day 1, but they were flying in on Day 2! Great goals they were too: Agyemang-Badu’s box-busting team goal, Kwadwo Asamoah’s crafty back-post header (he’s only 5’8”), graceful Eto’o-like precision from Tresor Mputu, and the colossal Seydou Keita’s dramatic last gasp winner for Mali.
Ghana 2-2 DR Congo. The Leopards stalked Ghana early. They were cunning, calculating. Twice Ghana were cut open in brutal style. Ghana only escaped because of the crossbar Gods. The Black Stars elevated their game. Agyemang-Badu’s goal was football engineering at its finest. Ghana seemed to have ended the half in the ascendancy, but they had been wounded and the Leopards were planning a second half feast. Kwadwo Asamoah’s powerful back post header provided some Black Star insurance early in the second half. DRC Captain Trésor Mputu (who plays for African powerhouse club, Tout Puissant Mazembe) soon materialized in the Black Star box to finish off an attack of pulmonary proportions. Dieumerci Mbokani returned to the scene and scored a second from the spot. The Leopards were sated. It was said moments later Congolese parents named a new born child, Égalisation, meaning Equalizer. The game will also long be remembered for the ‘crazy’ Congolese cat between the sticks. Muteba Kidiaba’s haircut and celebratory dance have already rumbled the viral jungle.
This was an absorbing contest. Ghana boss James Kwesi Appiah chose to start the finest African midfielder of his generation, Kwadwo Asamoah, at left back (he’s in the generation after Yaya’s). I was shaking my head. At Juventus, Antonio Conte usually deploys him to great effect as a marauding wing-back, with three centre-halves behind him, but Appiah was asking him to play on the left of a flat back four.
But what a full-back he turned out to be, bursting into the box and teeing up Agyemang-Badu for the opening goal. Juventus fans have seen that goal before. Then he scored from a corner early in the second half. A goal and an assist from full-back for Asamoah. They say a great player can play anywhere.
Agyemang-Badu played higher up the pitch than I’d expected and looked a goal-threat throughout. Behind him, Derek Boateng was ponderous, and DRC’s Youssouf Mulumbu had a firm grip on midfield. Look for Anthony Annan to start Ghana’s next match in place of Boateng.
DR Congo were fearless and strong. This team just doesn’t know when it’s beaten and could go very far in this tournament on today’s showing. They failed to qualify for the last three tournaments, but they’re still two-time African champions and their players look assured of their own pedigree.
Tresor Mputu was everywhere, playing between the lines in the kind of fluid formation you rarely see nowadays from African national teams. Resolute and cohesive, DRC look to have a touch of Zambia 2012 about them.
Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany (his dad’s Congolese) was impressed:
We just wish he’d been playing at the heart of that DRC defence in Port Elizabeth, what a team they’d be.
As the game wore on, there was only one question everyone wanted answered: Why was Ghanaian rapper M.anifest – or someone who looked suspiciously like him – playing in goal for DR Congo? In the end, the man himself “confessed” under our interrogation:
Last word on Kidiaba’s bum bounce (for now). It’s nothing new toTP Mazembe fans – here he is at it a few years ago vs Brazil’s Internacional in the World Club Cup:
Davy Lane again on Mali vs Niger:
Mali 1-0 Niger. Mali’s Eagles were expected to win. They did, but perhaps less emphatically than some expected. Cheick Diabaté tested Niger early. Les Aigles had to thank Mamadou Samassa for a brave, point blank save to ensure parity. Mali pressed and probed either side of half time. Seydou Keita crashed a shot against a post mid way through the second half. The game was heading toward a frustrating draw for Les Aigles of Mali and a hard earned point for the Menas of Niger when keeper Kassaly Daouda dropped an innocuous cross in the 84 minute. Mali’s Seydou Keita, the celebrated former Barcelona veteran, was first to react. Allez Les Aigles. The Menas of Niger must play their next match without making one mistake. Even then, and judging from the striking performance by the Leopards earlier, they may find themselves on the receiving end of a mauling.
That winner was Seydou Keita’s 6th goal at Nations Cups, an extraordinary return for a holding midfielder.