Malawi win, Cte d'Ivoire stutter
LUANDA, Angola (AP):
Malawi gained their first ever victory at the African Cup of Nations with a 3-0 win over World Cup qualifier Algeria in Group A yesterday, while tournament favourites Cte d'Ivoire could only manage a scoreless draw against west African neighbour Burkina Faso in Group B.
Following Togo's withdrawal from the tournament, Cte d'Ivoire will have to beat Ghana on Friday in Cabinda in their last group match to be guaranteed a spot in the quarter-finals.
"The game against Ghana will be a crucial one," Cte d'Ivoire defender Kolo Toure said. "But I'm confident we will work hard. Ghana is one of the best team in Africa. We'll need to show character, we have the spirit, the team."
Ghana were scheduled to play their first game later yesterday against Togo, which withdrew after two members of their delegation died in a gun attack on the team bus last Friday.
In Luanda, Russell Mwafulirwa grabbed the opener for Malawi at a largely deserted city stadium after 17 minutes, blasting a left-footed shot into an empty net after a goalkeeping blunder by Fawzi Chaouchi. Bryson Kafoteka doubled the lead with a header in the 36th before Banda netted Malawi's third with a low shot in the 49th.
Algeria, champion in 1990, struggled to create meaningful chances against a side whose only previous appearance at the African Cup finals was in 1984.
The result means that Malawi lead Group A with three points, two ahead of Angola and Mali, which drew 4-4 in the tournament's opening match on Sunday.
"We know we are being treated as the underdogs," Malawi's South Africa-based midfielder, Josephy Kamwendo, said. "We know we are playing against big teams but, like them, we are here to win."
Despite Monday's loss, Rabah Saadane, Algeria's coach, said it was too early to give up.
"We still have a chance to progress but we need to play well against Mali," he said. "We have ... to talk about today's game and work on our tactics."
In the northern enclave of Cabinda, Cte d'Ivoire, boasting major stars including Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Emmanuel Eboue, failed to take a number of chances against a side they twice beat during qualifying.
Marseille striker Bakary Kone missed several clear chances, the best one in the 68th minute when he missed the target from close range following a back pass from Gervinho. Drogba was also denied a penalty in the second minute after appearing to be brought down in the box.
Cte d'Ivoire coach Vahid Halilhodzic was disappointed by the result but pleased by his players' attitude.
"They kept fighting until the end," he said. "This time we lacked a bit of luck. But this is not over yet."