High-flying Côte d’Ivoire
By Duncan Mlanjira
If the Flames breeze past North African giants Morocco on Sunday in their first-ever knockout stages of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), they will date the winners of match 7 of the Round of 16 match between Côte d’Ivoire and Egypt.
After the last group qualifying matches on Thursday, the Round of 16 draw is:
Sunday January 23
1. Burkina Faso v Gabon (Limbe Stadium, Limbe)
2. Nigeria v Tunisia (Roumde Adjia Stadium, Garoua)
Monday January 24
3. Guinea v Gambia (Kouekong Stadium, Bafoussam)
4. Cameroon v Comoros (Olembe Stadium, Yaounde)
Tuesday January 25
5. Senegal v Cape Verde (Kouekong Stadium, Bafoussam)
6. Morocco v Malawi (Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium, Yaounde)
Wednesday January 26
7. Cote d’Ivoire v Egypt (Japoma Stadium, Douala)
8. Mali v Equatorial Guinea (Limbe Stadium, Limbe)
* Winner Cameroun/Comoros v Winner Guinea/Gambia
* Winner Burkina Faso/Gabon v Winner Nigeria/Tunisia
* Winner Côte d’Ivoire/Egypt v Winner Morocco/Malawi
* Winner Senegal/Cape Verde v Winner Mali/Equatorial Guinea
Meanwhile, KELFOODS, producers of Donna’s eggs and Proto feeds is pledging K1 million to each and every Flames player if they make it to the next round, which is on top of the pledge the company made against Senegal.
KELFOODS pledged a tray of Donna’s eggs for each of the players every month for the whole year if they had beaten Senegal but the reward still stands as the eventual 0-0 draw qualified the Flames for the knockout stages.
This is also on top of more rewards from President Lazarus Chakwera for each win to advance to the next stages as well as the first incentive which Football Association of Malawi (FAM) made prior to the group qualifying matches.
FAM pledged a K1 million bonus for a win or draw that would result in qualifying into their first-ever knock out stages but if they fail. The normal bonus was K500,000 for a win and half for a draw.
Further to that, once they will qualify into the quarterfinals and go on to the semis and the final, a bonus of 50% of the qualification bonus funds from Confederation of African Football (CAF) shall go towards the players with FAM retaining the balanced for operational costs of the team.
CAF Executive Committee increased the prize money from quarterfinals at US$1.175 million (an increase of US$175,000); semifinals at US$2.2 million (up by US$200,000); runners-up US$2.75 million (up by US$250,000) and the champions at US$5 million at an increase of US$500,000.
The Flames, Zimbabwe and Comoros were the only representatives from Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) ahead of favorites to the tournament — Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique as well as Tanzania and Kenya from the SADC region.
Now there are just two of them as Comoros who were in the same Group C with Morocco, Gabon and Egypt, qualified as best third-placed team — and did so with a historical 3-2 win over west Africa giants, Ghana in their last qualifying match.
Ghana’s loss saw them disgracefully bow out of the tournament leaving the stage to fellow west Africans — Burkina Faso, Gabon, Nigeria, Guinea, Gambia, Cameroon, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Equatorial Guinea.
North African giants Algeria will not be able to defend their title having miserably performed in which they finished with a single point from a 0-0 draw with Sierra Leone and two losses 0-1 to Equatorial Guinea and 1-3 against Côte d’Ivoire.
Algeria have left the stage on the hands of fellow north Africans Tunisia, Morocco and AFCON seven-time champions Egypt 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998 and back-to-back in 2006, 2008 and 2010 — all from 25 appearances.
In their first AFCON appearance in 1984 in Côte d’Ivoire, the Flames made a huge impression when they led 2-0 against Super Eagles of Nigeria but the game ended 2-2 and went on to lose 0-1 to Ghana and 0-3 against Algeria.
In their second in Angola in 2010, they stirred some excitement in their opening game when they beat north African giants Tunisia 3-1 but lost their consequent matches — 0-2 against the hosts Angola and 1-3 against Mali.
Having had 3 points, Malawi needed a draw to reach their first-ever quarter-final qualification.