Perhaps against the odds, John Obi Mikel now remains as Chelsea’s sole representative at the 2010 African Cup of Nations in Angola. He and Nigeria’s Super Eagles prevailed in the Quarter Finals after a penalty shootout against Zambia, but Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou will be returning back to England after their disappointing exit to Algeria.
With Michael Essien’s tournament having already been ended due to injury, attentions turned away from Ghana and fully onto Monday’s last eight clash of Drogba’s Elephants and Algeria, who England will face in this summer’s World Cup. Kalou returned to the starting line-up with Drogba leading the side and it was the former Feyenoord man who opened the scoring in Cabinda after just four minutes. A scrappy build-up on the edge of the area saw Yaya Toure flash an effort towards goal, and it hit a leg, deflecting into Kalou’s path. He corraled the ball and beat Faouzi Chaouchi at his near post with a tidy left-footed finish.
It should have been two after just a quarter of an hour when Drogba was felled in the penalty area by Rafik Halliche, but to the Ivorians’ dismay the referee failed to give the clear penalty, and it wasn’t to be the last dubious officiating decision. Karim Matmour levelled before half time but with the match seemingly destined for extra time, Abdul Kader Keita – who had replaced Kalou minutes earlier – sent a stunning long-range effort into the top corner to surely seal the win. It was not to be though, as Algeria managed to find another goal at the death courtesy of Rangers centre back Madjid Bougherra. Hameur Bouazza scored to give the Desert Foxes the lead in the additional period and the tournament favourites found themselves staring elimination in the face.
Kolo Toure had a late, late equaliser incorrectly ruled out for offisde, but Algeria prevailed and sealed their place in the Semi Finals, where they will face Egypt. Drogba had a bit of a disappointing game, and indeed tournament, but Kalou showed once again he can be productive on the big occasion. Both will return to London and be available for an all-important clash with Arsenal at the start of February, but it remains to be seen whether Mikel will join them. Nigeria faced Zambia in Lubango but played out a terribly inane goalless draw without much in the way of goalmouth action. The Chelsea midfielder had a sight of goal in the first half but stepped up in the penalty shootout to get his country off to a good start, confidently stroking the ball past Kennedy Mweene to counter Zambia’s opening kick. Thomas Nyirenda’s miss allowed the Super Eagles to take the advantage and goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama scored the goal to take them into the other Semi Final, where they will face an Essien-less Ghana.
Check back here on CFCnet over the weekend for news on how Mikel gets on, and throughout the month for as long as there’s a Chelsea interest in Angola. Don’t forget that the Official Chelsea FC Website also has an African Cup of Nations Micro-site, which keeps you abreast of everything going on in Angola for Chelsea’s African quartet. You can view it here: