Tunisia, Angola seal quarterfinal places

The 2004 champions Tunisia and Angola sealed the last two quarterfinal places at the African Nations Cup on Thursday.

The pair fought out a goalless draw in Tamale to head Group D which earned Tunisia, table toppers on goal difference, a quarterfinal tie with four time winners Cameroon on Monday.

Angola have an equally tough assignment against defending titleholders Egypt the same day.

Down in Kumasi, South Africa drew 1-1 with Senegal, a result that brought the curtain down on their respective Cup campaigns.

South Africa went in front after 15 minutes through Elrio van Heerden before Senegal equalised in the 38th minute through Henri Camara.

World Cup hosts in 2010 South Africa finished bottom with two points, the same as Senegal who enjoyed a better goal difference.

As their Nations Cup adventure ends, Tunisia and Angola have further business in Ghana.

They added their names to a quarterfinal programme comprising hosts Ghana, Didier Drogba’s Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Cameroon, five-time champions Egypt, and Nigeria.

While Tunisia are frequent visitors to the knock out stages Angola are entering uncharted waters having fallen at the first hurdle on the three occasions they’ve made it to the finals.

Angola coach Luis Oliveira Goncalves said his side’s showing at the finals had put the country’s football on the map.

”The best two teams in the group have made it. We’re happy to survive this round for the first time in our history. Now Africa knows that Angola is a football nation,” he said.

His Tunisian counterpart Roger Lemerre, the only manager to have won a European title, in 2000 with France, and the Africa Cup of Nations, with Tunisia, said: ”It’s a great feeling to be among the eight best teams.

”The most important thing was to qualify. We couldn’t be sure of anything before the game, as South Africa and Senegal were still able to overtake us.”

Lemerre, with an eye on Tunisia’s next step on the road to winning back their title, added: ”We’re going to have to prepare now to go as far as possible. Cameroon’s qualities are strength and force. Now it’s all or nothing.”

Tunisia and Angola had both issued declarations ruling out a cosy draw, the ideal result for both sides but that was what was produced in by no means the most enthralling game of the tournament.

In the crowd in Tamale to size up their quarterfinal rivals were Samuel Eto’o and the rest of the Cameroon squad.

South Africa’s Brazilian World Cup winning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said there were positives to take out of their lowkey campaign.

”We are not happy with the result but we go home with some positives. This is a new team and my young players learnt a lot about football at this level.”

Parreira added: ”We will carry on with these players for the 2010 World Cup. In two years they would have gained the necessary experience to represent the country well at the World Cup.”

Senegal coach Lamine Ndiaye said simply: ”We did our best but unfortunately we are going home now.”

Senegal were without El Hadji Diouf, Tony Sylva and Ousmane Ndoye, the trio handed a one match ban by caretaker coach Ndiaye as punishment for breaking a camp curfew and partying in a Kumasi nightclub this week.

Ndiaye stepped in to fill the void left by Henri Ksperczak who quit after the loss to Angola ”to kick start something in the team”, unfortunately the Pole’s dramatic gesture wasn’t enough to save Senegal.

This 26th edition of Africa’s equivalent of the European championships or South America’s Copa America is being acclaimed as the best to date, and the goal tally of 70 (compared to 54 at the same stage in 2006) supports the view.

The competition resumes on Sunday with a full house at the Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra for Ghana’s eagerly awaited clash with Nigeria while, in Sekondi, Côte d’Ivoire take on Guinea. – Sapa-AFP

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