Ghana were Africa’s first-ever football medalists, taking bronze in Barcelona in 1992, but the Black Meteors will not be able to repeat those heroics 20 years on as they crashed out of the qualifiers for the men’s tournament at the 2012 London Olympic Games to Sudan at the weekend.
However, the Ghanaians are but one of two major casualties after the first round of the continent’s preliminaries, and they are joined on the sidelines by Cameroon, who were gold medalists in Sydney in 2000 but were stunned by Tanzania at the weekend.
Fifteen countries are through to June’s second round and will go into the pot for Wednesday’s draw in Cairo. Still to be decided is the tie between Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, to be played in Monrovia on 20 April after being postponed from the weekend because civil conflict in Abidjan did not allow the Ivorian Olympic team the chance to travel. The Ivorians lead 4-0 from the first leg played in Accra at the end of last month.
We managed the game well and although we both had chances, we were better organised and more determined to win.Algeria’s Olympic coach Azzedine Ait Djoudi after the win over Madagascar
Sudan and Tanzania will be joined in the next round by 1996 gold medalists Nigeria as well as Algeria, Benin, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Gabon, Mali, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia and Zambia. Congo and Tanzania needed penalties to advance while Egypt got late salvation in their tie against Botswana. It proved far easier for DR Congo, Nigeria, Algeria and Tunisia in the march to fill the three places Africa will have at the 2012 Games.
Cameroon had a slender 2-1 lead for the trip to Dar-es-Salaam, and after scoring early through Franck Etoundi, extended their aggregate lead. But Tanzania’s Kigi Makasi quickly pulled a goal back and then Thomas Ulimwengu scored midway through the second half to level up the scores. Extra time failed to produce any more goals, allowing the Tanzanians to go on and win 4-3 in the dramatic post-match penalty shoot-out.
Sudan’s progress over Ghana came despite a 1-1 draw in the return leg in Khartoum, where coach Mohamed Muhideen said the game had gone according to plan. “Our strategy was to score early in the game and we did just that,” he said in a reference to the early goal from Ramadan Al Agab after nine minutes.
Tunisia-based striker Sadick Adams had Ghana level with 25 minutes left but an elusive second goal, which would have put them through on the away-goals rule, failed to materialise. Ghana coach David Duncan blamed fatigue for his team’s failure, citing a congested domestic league programme. “Some [players] suffered a degree of burnout,” he insisted.
Nigeria posted the most convincing first round win by thrashing Equatorial Guinea 9-1 on aggregate. They followed up their 5-0 home win in the first leg with a 4-1 triumph in the weekend return in Malabo. A hat-trick from Ekigho Ehiosun ensured a rout, adding to the goal he scored in the first leg.
Algeria completed a 4-0 aggregate triumph over Madagascar by winning the second leg 1-0 in Antananarivo with a goal from Sid Ahmed Aouedj. “We managed the game well and although we both had chances, we were better organised and more determined to win,” said Algeria’s U-23 coach Azzedine Ait Djoudi.
Tunisia won 3-0 on aggregate against Malawi, and the Congo DR overcame Burkina Faso 5-2 on aggregate. One side that surprisingly did not have it all their way were Egypt, who were headed for a potential upset defeat in Gaborone when Bakang Moeng scored twice for Botswana to level the aggregate scoreline. But Egypt got a late winner from Mohsen Marwan.
The draw for the second round of qualifiers will be made at the Confederation of African Football’s headquarters in Cairo with the 16 teams paired into eight ties to be decided home and away in June. They will be seeded according to the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking with the top eight in one pot and the next eight in the other. The second round, first leg qualifiers will be on the first weekend of June and the return legs a fortnight later on the weekend of 17-19 June.