By Paul Bassey
There was this interesting but visibly annoying mail from Eric Ekanem addressed to members of the CAF media in the ongoing Orange Africa Cup of Nations. In it, Mr. Ekanem wanted us to explain to him why it is Zambia and not Cameroun that topped Group D.I believe what made me to react promptly was the Nigerian name.
I wrote.

My dear Ekanem,
There is no ambiguity whatsoever in the placings of the teams in Group D.
First of all, I want you to open your mind and follow the arguments being offered. With due respect, there are a lot of people who have already made up their minds to the point where no matter what you say, they refuse to be receptive. The Mali case comes to mind.

First of all the Article in question is Article 72.
72.1 deals with head to head which has been cancelled out because ALL THE TEAMS IN QUESTION  (Gabon, Cameroun and Zambia) have cancelled themselves out. Zambia beat Gabon, Gabon beat Cameroun and Cameroun beat Zambia.

72.2 talks about the “…best goal difference in the matches between THE TEAMS IN QUESTION” You will notice here that the matches involving these teams against Tunisia are no longer relevant. This article COULD NOT SEPERATE THE TEAMS because they had identical goal differences.

The solution came in the next step, Article 72.3 which says and I quote: “Greater number of goals scored in the group matches between the teams CONCERNED (capitals mine)
Here we go. Gabon 1 Cameroun 0, Cameroun 3 Zambia 2,
Zambia 2 Gabon 1.

From  the  aforegoing,  Zambia scored 4 goals, Cameroun scored 3 and Gabon scored just two.
Sir these rules were made BEFORE the competition started.
Cheers and god bless.

I despatched the reply to him and he quickly replied thanking me for an explanation that was quite clear. He said what was in the CAF website was not explicit enough and that efforts should be made to explain it better.
He then went further to say that as a Nigerian he preferred Zambia to Cameroun but was interested in knowing how the pairing was arrived at.

At this stage I was pushed to reply and tell him that we should beware of Zambia. During the course of the group matches, Gabon, Zambia and Tunisia gave an insight into the fact that Cameroun is yet a settled side. Coach Paul Le Guen who did not involve the team in any major pre Nations Cup preparation is still experimenting here, as far as giving the likes of Mandjeck Constant his first cap.

From experience, I also know that the minute the Eagles were told that they were playing Cameroun, they sat up. Their Adrenalin was fired up, ready for battle. When news filtered back that the opposition was now Zambia, you could see the drop of guards, the sigh of relief by the officials and the celebration by Nigerians including Eric Ekanem that it is Zambia instead of Cameroun.

Let me quickly say here that yes, Zambia is beatable but it will not be easy. This is a team that has been together for three consecutive Nations Cup and they have a weapon called Kalaba Rainford. Woe betide you if Kalaba is in form. He orchestrates the Zambian team, is offensive minded and his colleagues respond positively, especially Katongo Felix, Muelenga Jacob and Thomas Nyirenda.

Will our coaches react accordingly? Will our players give the Zambians some respect? I pray they should because by my estimation, this match may be more challenging than the semi-final encounter between either Angola or Ghana.
Good luck Nigeria.

He said I should not be worried by the poor start of the World Cup qualifiers and today, he has been proved right. Of the eight teams in the quarter-finals, five of them are World Cup qualifiers and there is nothing saying four of them will not qualify for semi-finals, with one spot already booked in the clash between Cote d’ Ivoire and Algeria.

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