Image: Football Soccer – African Cup of Nations – Burkina Faso v Cameroon – Stade de l’Amitie – Libreville, Gabon – 14/1/17. Burkina Faso celebrate scoring a goal. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
OYEM, Gabon (Reuters) – The African Nations Cup produced a meagre total of one goal in two matches on Monday as the pre-tournament favourites continued to struggle with holders Ivory Coast held by outsiders Togo.
The Elephants had to settle for a 0-0 draw in the opening match of a double bill played in stifling conditions at the Stade d’Oyem.
In the second game, Morocco coach Herve Renard, the Frenchman who led the Ivorians to the title in 2015, saw his side suffer a 1-0 defeat against Democratic Republic of Congo, who joined Senegal as the only team to have won a game.
Four of the first six matches at the tournament have been draws with Cameroon having previously been held by Burkina Faso, hosts Gabon by debutants Guinea Bissau and Algeria by Zimbabwe.
Togo, captained by clubless 32-year-old Emmanuel Adebayor, looked sharper in attack against the Ivorians.
But the game delivered just a handful of half chances, the best falling to the Ivorians two minutes from time as substitute Max Gradel’s cross was headed narrowly wide by Serge Aurier.
DR Congo’s Kazakhstan-based Junior Kabananga took advantage of poor Moroccan defending to score the day’s only goal in the 55th minute of the second game.
DR Congo clung on after substitute Joyce Lomalisa was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 81st minute and their goalkeeper Ley Matampi made a superb point-black stop from Youssef El Arabi’s header in the dying minutes.
Off the pitch, the controversy continued to rumble on over the refusal of a number of Cameroon players to play for the Indomitable Lions at the finals, including Liverpool defender Joel Matip.
Liverpool withdrew Matip from their Premier League match at Manchester United on Sunday and said they were seeking “clarity” from FIFA over whether he could play for them while the tournament was taking place.
But soccer’s world governing body merely said on Monday they were “directing the club to the applicable provisions” of its players’ status regulations and warned that Liverpool could face disciplinary action if they violated them.
Meanwhile, Cameroon coach Hugo Broos said the four-times champions had to stop living in the past as they prepared to face Guinea-Bissau in Group A on Wednesday.
“This is the error that Cameroon have made over the last years, they are still speaking about 20 years ago when they went on the field and scored twice in the first half and had the games sewn up,” the Belgian said. “But it is no longer easy to win in Africa, even against the supposedly smaller teams.”
Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, just past his 44th birthday, will become the oldest player to feature in the tournament if he starts against Mali in Group D on Tuesday.
Uganda, who made their last appearance at the finals in 1978, meet Ghana in Tuesday’s other game.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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