The third round of group fixtures for Chelsea’s quartet of Africans in Angola was a quiet one, with just John Obi Mikel in action. Yet, it brought about the biggest talking point (Chelsea-wise) of the competition so far, with Michael Essien suffering a second knee injury in sixteen months on international duty, one which ended his tournament.
Essien, you will remember, damaged his cruciate ligaments in Autumn 2008 and missed the majority of the same season, returning in March to stunning effect. An overstretched tackle in their Group B fixture against the Ivory Coast caused concerns but he was able to play on, yet last weekend he was taken to hospital for a scan on a knee injury picked up in a training session. With a damaged meniscus, he will be out for up to six weeks, which rules him out of the rest of the competition for the Black Stars. Without him, Milovan Rajevac’s side squeezed through to next week’s Quarter Finals with a single goal win over Burkina Faso to join the Ivory Coast as Group B progressors. The Elephants had the week off, with Togo’s withdrawal from competition meaning they had completed their two matches, leaving Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou time to rest, train, and suitably prepare for a full-on assault at winning the competition.
The week had greater on-field ramifications for Nigeria and John Obi Mikel. A second matchday win over Benin left them with their destiny in their own hands but a match against Mozambique was far from a guaranteed win, and with Benin also playing for second place against already-qualified Egypt, there was the potential for an upset. So when the Super Eagles came through unscathed with a 3-0 win courtesy of a brace from Peter Odemwingie and a late effort from Obafemi Martins, Shaibu Amodu’s team will have breathed a sigh of relief. Mikel once again started, in a more attacking role than he is used to at Chelsea (with Fulham’s Dickson Etuhu in the anchor role), but a quiet game was only sparked late on when his shot was parried for Martins to complete the scoring.
John Obi’s next fixture comes on Monday, when Nigeria have been handed arguably the easiest Quarter Final draw, against Group D runners-up Zambia. An Essien-less Ghana face hosts Angola with the winners of the two fixtures meeting eachother in Thursday’s Semi Final. The other half of the draw is much tougher, with powerhouses Egypt and Cameroon squaring off, and the winner waiting in the last four to face the winner of Algeria’s clash with Drogba, Kalou and the Ivory Coast.
Check back here on CFCnet after the weekend for a recap on the second round of group fixtures, 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: