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Football | Afcon

Afcon's best eight



The first round of games have been done - eight of them in all. As the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations readies for the second salvo, the wind of public opinion is blowing in favour of the less fancied side, which is a good sign that continental football is growing.

Gary Al-Smith chooses some of his preferred sides who have had the better stories in the first round.

Cape Verde

Let's begin from the first game, where Bafana played Cape Verde. Being the only first timers can be daunting enough, but the Blue Sharks' fiary tale continued on opening day. Thirty-nine times smaller than the capitals of Egypt and Nigeria, the islanders from the archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean exhibited cohesion and little fear as they played a draw with their hosts.

Ethiopia

Scoring their first African Cup of Nations goal since 1976, the Ethiopian have been liveliest bunch of players and fans so far. With frenzied cheering the whole game through, the fans fought their warriors for the title of the most hearty display.

Beaten just once since September 2011, resurgent Ethiopia finally got the respect they deserve when they outplayed holders Zambia - African champions - despite going almost an hour with ten men.

They lost their first choice goalkeeper to a red card on 36 minutes, failed to convert a penalty, went a goal down, yet battled back to earn a 1-1 draw. Brilliant.

Not so brilliant was TV cameras showing Ethiopian fans hurling missiles at the Zambian players. That was poor sportsmanship and their $10,000 fine is deserved.

DR Congo

Former Ghana coach Claude LeRoy was the difference against his ex-players, as he led the Leopards to a comeback. And 2-2 it finished in the competition's highest scoring game till date, as Ghana's midfield, vaunted and respected, was neutralized by a flank-happy DRC.

Ghana may have shown character in hitting two against the run of play, but the Congolese were inspiring in all out approach that led to a good ending for them.

Togo

Headlines on them had little to do with football before they could even kick a ball in Group D, but they played with heart against the overhyped Ivorians. Unpaid bonuses, a premature retirement of captain Emmanuel Adebayor (again!), and a plethora of niggling problems did not stop them from going a goal ahead.

Indeed, to think that Togo would be the first to score against an Ivorian team who have not conceded since February 2010 in an Afcon is wild enough to get what the goal meant to the Hawks. In the end, though, they lost, 2-1.

Gervinho's brilliant stoppage time winner was just that - brilliant. And there's little Kossi Agassa in the Togolese goal could have done to stop the volley.

Worthy mentions

Mali, for their story of keeping a cool head while the north of their country burns; Burkina Faso, for taking the fight to Nigeria until literally the last kick of the game. On Nigeria, they have an interesting tactically shape that could take them far, as do Algeria. But both teams need to work on the final ball and staying power for 90 minutes.

Any more you think we should mention?



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