You all saw it right? The games last night? The goals, the excitement? No? What do you mean you wait for the daily Tales report and get everything you need to know and let some other mug do the donkey work? Well this mug can well and truly say the tournament kicked off with a bang.
Hello readers and welcome to Day Two of AFCON 2017 and what a read this will be for you. Honest.
So to kick off, let’s start with the host’s match against Guinea Bissau. This was a a game that Gabon were earmarked to win comfortably by yours truly. Oh how wrong I was.
The first half was a fairly dull affair with Guinea Bissau continually frustrating the hosts and dampening the party atmosphere in the stands. The Gabon faithful were expecting much more and finally the second half opened up. The hosts took the lead on 52 minutes through Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, slotting in a cross from the right hand side from Denis Bouanga’s cross. Enough of the boring match facts, I have a special note to the Guinea Bissau defence – always watch where the ball will bounce before attempting to head clear – comedy gold right there people, right there for you.
The Panthers had a great chance to seal the game seventeen minutes later however the usual prolific Aubameyang fired over. But Guinea Bissau continued to push. They pressed all over the pitch. They tackled everything in sight. Look away now Everton fans, look away for this next part tells you what you could have in that midfield today rather than shelling out £20m on Morgs. Junior Francisco looked good in the middle of the park. Is that laughter I hear from the red side of Merseyside? Honestly, he did. Better late than never, the party team got what they deserved. A free kick deep on the right was floated in met majestically by Juary Soares. It was a diving, nay, stumbling header that flew into the back of the net on ninety minutes. Oh the drama, oh the silence. This was no more than they deserved. On the final whistle the host’s supporters showed their disappointment with loud boos all around. The party continues for Guinea Bissau, though. As hoped for, there were a few comical moments but the best had to be Gabon’s Merlin Tandjigora. Clearly only magical in name, his attempted clearance only to miss the ball and instead wipe out Francisco Junior was golden. The rumours that Tandjigora is a disgruntled Everton fan are unfounded.
The second match of the day saw Cameroon take on Burkina Faso. Now my prediction of a three-win to Cameroon was slightly out, ok completely out. This match was much more open than the host game previous and the deadlock was broken on 35 minutes. A fantastic free kick by Benjamin Moukandjo sailed, curling viciously into the keeper’s right hand corner. There were chances for both teams throughout with the best falling to Cameroon’s Clinton N’Jie. The Tottenham player, currently on loan at Marseille, could only shoot wide from six yards. Stop smiling at the back, they wanted a DVD out today you know.
Burkina Faso continued to threaten from set pieces and a goal looked inevitable. All Cameroon needed to do was not give away any free kicks. Just don’t give away any free kicks! Oh. A free kick on the left hand side of the box was whipped in at pace which seemed to confuse goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa. All Ondoa could do was parry the ball back into the danger zone and, after some pin ball wizard, the ball popped up for Issoufou Dayo who headed home from close range.
It was a good game overall yet the Indomitable Lions will be disappointed not to win the three points with the chances they had. One thing is for sure, the Stallions look a danger from set pieces. Almost Tony Pulis-esque in their approach. Where’s Rory Delap when you need him?
Today we have Group B kicking off with Algeria against Zimbabwe. Now I have seen many so called pundits tip Zimbabwe as dark horses. But the more I look at their team the more I think this is nothing more than AFCON crazy talk.
Algeria have a strong squad and it’s time for Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez to put his disappointing season so far behind him and step up to the plate. When you think Leicester only paid £400,000 for him in 2014 that is some bargain. It’s almost like shopping in Aldi. You pick up a tin of beans, realise they are from some far distant country. Decide at 18 pence what could possibly go wrong and low and behold they taste like nectar. Sheer shopping delight. With Islam Slimani also of Leicester this should be a comfortable win, on paper, for The Desert Foxes. But someone once said the game isn’t played on paper. I expect Algeria to win.
The second match is a game I am very much looking forward to watching as Senegal have a really strong team. Liverpool’s Sadio Mane is in great form and could terrorise the Tunisian defence. They have an excellent starting eleven and will score goals against most teams, especially Tunisia. However, Tunisia do boast a strike force that they hope will not let them down. Now I’m not including Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri in that before there is uproar. However 10 goals in 27 matches is not a bad record. How Sunderland could do with some of that on his return to the Premier League. It’s got all the ingredients for a 3-2 win for Senegal which probably means it will be a drab scoreless draw.
In other AFCON news; Just in case this tournament wasn’t enough, low and behold in AFCON style we had the draw for the 2019 qualifying groups. I, for one, don’t quite understand why this has taken place on the eve of the current tournament. I started to look at the groups and I have to be honest, I felt like I was cheating on AFCON 2017. It felt dirty, wrong and very cheap. Ah who am I kidding? I will have a good old look tomorrow.
There was also more injury news and Morocco midfielder Sofiane Boufal is officially out of the tournament. They have called up Hearts player Faycal Rherras. I know, I’ve got no idea either.
So onto my predictions for today’s games. Algeria to beat Zimbabwe 2-1, with Mahrez completing an assist and running the show.
I’m calling a classic in the second game and I’m going 3-2 Senegal. Mane will surely get on the scoresheet and open his account. If Khazri gets on the scoresheet I will eat humble pie and not say anything disrespectful about Sunderland every again. Well, not until my next piece anyhow.
Finally, I have an AFCON question for you each day. Exciting, huh? It will be nice for us all to bond together and test our AFCON knowledge. I would say Google is banned but I have no way of checking. Only your conscience will know and we are all honest people, aren’t we? I said, aren’t we?
This is a nice and straight forward one to start.
Who has scored the most goals by a single player in a AFCON tournament?
Answers on a postcard! Actually, tweet @TalesFromTTF. That will work far better. I am not giving you lot my address.
Enjoy the games in Group B and, until tomorrow, au revoir. Who would have thought French is the official language in Gabon? Bang goes me trying to look clever.