After reaching the quarter -final of the Africa Cup of Nations, the Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan said his team is not afraid of any other.
Ghana pulled through after defeating South Africa 2-1 and will meet the Group D runners-up in the quarter-finals on Sunday evening.
Confident of his team’s performance, Gyan said “with this team we can take on anyone in this competition.”
The Algeria coach Christian Gourcuff said: “It was not easy to get out of this group,” as the team qualified as Group C runners-up.
Gyan scored Ghana’s late winner in their second game against Algeria which ultimately helped them finish top of the table on head-to-head record.
“I have played at five cups of nations, but this group was the hardest,” he added.
“We were very strong mentally, even after conceding the first goal. We kept believing and fought to the end knowing that we could win.”
Ghana manager Avram Grant said: “We deserve it because South Africa were not better than us.
Grant also said “We have finished first in the group of death, which is not bad. After losing the first match we showed great attitude in the second and continued along the same lines today , we started the match very well with two or three good chances. We had the match in our hands. I am very happy that the players showed, just as in their last match, a good spirit and good attitude.”
Algeria and Senegal made winning starts to their African Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaigns on Monday with dramatic come-from-behind victories in Group C.
Moussa Sow scored with the last kick of the game at the Estadio de Mongomo to see Senegal to a 2-1 win over Ghana while South Africa missed a penalty and scored an own goal as they allowed Algeria to fight back and win 3-1.
The victories left both Algeria and Senegal on course for a knockout place if they win their next group games on Friday.
Senegal were behind after just 13 minutes when their captain Bouna Coundoul brought down Christian Atsu and Andre Ayew converted the penalty.
But patient play allowed Senegal to take command in the second half as they out-muscled a Ghanaian side who had new coach Avram Grant in charge for the first time.
Mame Biriam Diouf grabbed the second half equaliser when he reacted quickest to a rebound before Senegal snatched the win deep in stoppage time.
A long upfield punt by Coundoul fell kindly for substitute Henri Saivet, whose crisp one-two with Diouf released Sow in the heart of the penalty box and the striker gave goalkeeper Razak Brimah no chance with a first-time shot into the far corner.
“We might have been behind at half-time but we always knew we had the potential to win the game,” said coach Alain Giresse.
South Africa coach Ephraim Mashaba declared the “best team lost” after watching his men squander an early lead and lose in front of a capacity 15,000-strong squad.
But that was unfair on the top-ranked Algerians, who finished strongly to confirm their status among the favourites.
Thuso Phala scored after a slick passing move for South Africa in the 51st minute and they then won a penalty just minutes later for a chance to go 2-0 ahead.
But Tokelo Rantie blasted his kick against the crossbar as a set of calamitous errors cost his side dearly.
Thulani Hlatshwayo mistimed a clearing header to concede an own goal in the 67th minute to allow Algeria back into the game. An innocuous-looking chip shaved the top of his head and beat goalkeeper Darren Keet.
Algeria were ahead four minutes later through as full back Faouzi Ghoulam scored from the right side in the 71st minute.
Islam Slimani made sure of the win with a third goal in the 82nd minute as the ball slipped under Keet’s body in another error from the South Africans.
“It was an intense game and it could have been catastrophic. But things turn quickly in football and we played well to come back and win,” said Algeria coach Christian Gourcuff.
Nigeria have moved up to become the third highest African team and moved up just one place to the 33rd position in the world in the FIFA World Rankings for August 2014.
The Super Eagles climbed three places in the Confederation of African Football region and 10 spots on the global list.
The Super Eagles have been able to poll a total of 673 points which moved them above Egypt.
Nigeria’s higher placing is because of their performance in the World Cup, where they reached the last 16.
Sierra Leone climbs 14 places in the FIFA ranking, lifting them into the top 50 for the fist time in their history. FIFA ranked the Leone Stars 50th in the world, as the team breaks into the top 10 teams on the continent.
Suffering a drop of 273 points, the biggest by any team in the world, Cape Verde, fell from fifth in the African list to 15th, and 75th place in the world. But the biggest mover in the world is Lesotho, who have risen 26 places to 105th, making them 29th in Africa.
Algeria retain their position at the top of the African list.
The first five positions in the world remains unchanged with Germany occupying the top spot having polled a total of 1705 points to cement first spot.
Argentina, Netherlands are in second and third positions respectively, while Colombia and Belgium trail in fourth and fifth positions in that order.
Poor weather was the most likely cause of the crash of an Air Algerie flight over the West African state of Mali with 116 people on board, French officials said on Friday.
Investigators at the scene of the crash had concluded the airliner broke apart when it hit the ground, the officials said, suggesting the plane was unlikely to have been the victim of an attack.
“The aircraft was destroyed at the moment it crashed,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL radio of the wreckage of the plane carrying 51 French nationals which crashed in Mali near the border with Burkina Faso on Thursday.
“We think the aircraft crashed for reasons linked to the weather conditions. No theory can be excluded at this point … but that is indeed the most likely theory,” he added.
Separately, Transport Minister, Frederic Cuvillier, said the strong smell of aircraft fuel at the crash site and the fact that the debris was scattered over a relatively small area also suggested the cause of the crash was linked to weather, a technical problem or a combination of such factors.
“We exclude – and have done so from the start – any ground strike,” Cuvillier told France 2 television.
He added that a column of 100 soldiers from the French force stationed in the region were on their way to secure the crash site near the northern town of Gossi. France deployed troops to Mail last year to halt an al Qaeda-backed insurgency.
Algeria’s national airline lost contact with the plane flying from Burkina Faso to Algiers across the Sahara about 50 minutes after take-off from Ouagadougou.
The Flight AH 5017 has 110 passengers and 6 crew on board, Spanish airline, Swiftair, who owns the plane, said.
An unnamed Air Algerie company source, told AFP news agency on Thursday that “the plane was not far from the Algerian frontier when the crew was asked to make a detour because of poor visibility and to prevent the risk of collision with another aircraft on the Algiers-Bamako route. Contact was lost after the change of course”.
Burkina Faso authorities said the passenger list included 51 French, 27 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two from Luxembourg, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukranian, one Swiss, one Nigerian and one Malian. Crash site investigators saw no survivors.
The Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, will fly to Pretoria, South Africa on Friday for high-level discussions with other African Heads of State and Government on combating terrorism in Africa.
This is according to a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati.
The continent’s five regions would each be represented by two heads of state and government at the talks which would focus on collective action to effectively roll-back the scourge of terrorism in Africa.
Others expected at the talks which would take place ahead of South African President, Jacob Zuma’s inauguration for a new term in office, include the leaders of Ghana, Republic of Congo, Chad, Angola, Rwanda, South Africa, Mauritania, Algeria and Ethiopia.
President Jonathan, who would be accompanied by the First Lady, Patience Jonathan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali and some key aides, would return to Abuja after attending President Zuma inauguration on Saturday.
Nigeria will on Monday begin its quest for glory in the team event of the 2014 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) tagged African Junior Championship taking place in Cairo, Egypt.
The eight-man team led by national coach, Nosiru Bello and assisted by Dotun Omoniyi will compete against seeded teams such as Tunisia, Algeria and the host nation.
In the team event draw that took place in Cairo, Nigeria’s male team has been pitched against Egypt, Congo Brazzaville, Djibouti and Congo DRC in Group One while Tunisia, Algeria, Angola Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa are in Group Two.
In the female draw, Nigeria will tackle Egypt, South Africa, Angola in Group One while Algeria, Tunisia, Congo Brazzaville and Congo DRC were drawn in group two.
In the cadet team event draw, Nigeria’s male team will battle Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria in Group One while group Two consists of Congo Brazzaville, Angola, South Africa and Djibouti.
For the girls’ draw, Nigeria will tackle Tunisia, Angola and Congo DRC in Group Two while Egypt has to confront Congo Brazzaville South Africa and Angola in Group one.
The top two teams in each group will advance to the semifinal stage of the championship.
The Nigeria male team is made up of Olasunkanmi Oginni, Babafemi Babatunde, Joseph Osedunkwu and Sunday Akomolafe, while the female team has Tosin Esther Oribamise, Agnes Onoja, Ajoke Ojomu and Halimot Ayinla.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s quartet of Aly Ghallab, Mahmoud Fathy, Ahmed Mabrouk and Ahmed Dabous are the top seeded players in the Championships. Ahmed Dabous currently stands in second place behind Algeria’s Yaniss Douifi, with Tunisia’s Kerem Ben Yahia in third spot.
Mahmoud Fathy is in fourth position; Congo Brazzaville’s Gracce Babekidio occupies fifth spot with Aly Ghallab in the sixth.
The ranking produced by the African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF) is a combination of the current ITTF World Rankings combined with the results gained at the immediate previous African Junior Championships.
Tunisia represented by Kerem Ben Yahia, Nadim Ben Mekki, Chouab Lagha and Salim Hassine occupy the second seeded position in the Junior Boys’ Team event with Algeria and Congo Brazzaville being the third and fourth seeds.
Algeria is represented Yaniss Douifi, Salim Amokrane, Arslane Beldjelali and Abderrahmane Alioua; whilst for Congo Brazzaville the squad is formed by Christ Bientaki, Michel Lignan
Nigeria’s senior national team, the Super Eagles dropped four places in the January edition of the FIFA world ranking.
The Super Eagles kick started the year in the 41st spot, dropping to the 7th place in the continent.
Cote d ‘Ivoire and Ghana retained their spot in the 17th and 24th position to keep the 1st and 2nd spot in Africa.
Algeria slipped one place to the 27th spot in Africa while the Pharaohs of Egypt moved 10 places to the 31st spot and occupies the 4th spot in Africa.
Cape Verde Islands moved four places to the 35th spot; the Eagles of Mali also moved five places to 40th spot.
Tunisia, Cameroon and South Africa complete the country’s top ten.
Spain have maintained their 1st position globally, with Germany in second place, followed by Argentina, Colombia and Portugal. Brazil, who will be hosting the FIFA World Cup in June, are in the 10th position.
Since the last rankings, Nigeria has beaten Ethiopia 2-1 and lost to Mali 2-1 in their opening match at the African Nations Championship. Both matches were executed by the home based Eagles
The draws for the 2014 FIFA World Cup was today held in Bahia, Brazil with Nigeria drawn against Iran, Argentina and Bosnia in Group F
Next door neighbours Cameroon were drawn with five time champions Brazil, North American heavy weights Mexico and 1998 World Cup 2nd runners up Croatia in Group A.
North Africans Algeria are up against Belgium, Russia and South Korea, co-hosts of the 2002 edition of the competition in Group H.
Ghana will be facing Germany, United States and Portugal in Group G while the Elephants of Ivory Coast will be facing 2004 Europeans champions Greece, Asian champions Japan and Colombia in Group C.
Nigeria will play its first opponent on the 16th of June against Iran, before meeting Bosnia on the 21st and rounding the group stage matches against Argentina on the 25th of June, this will be the fourth time Nigeria will come up against the South American giants in the World Cup.
The pair first met in the the first round of the 1994 World Cup with goals from Diego Maradona and Claudio Caniggia cancelling out Samson Siaisia’s 8th minute strike.
In 2002, a lone goal by Gabriel Batistuta was enough for the Argentines to see off the Eagles while Gabriel Heinze scored in the 2010 edition dent Nigeria’s qualification hopes to the 2nd round. Both teams eventually qualified as they were both eliminated from their group in the competition in 2002.
Full Draws Below:
Group A – Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon
Group B – Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia Group C – Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has appealed for new recruits from North African Arab countries in its fight against what it said was France’s Crusader campaign in Mali, a U.S.-based intelligence monitoring website reported on Sunday.
SITE said the appeal was posted on websites used by AQIM on Saturday, urging Islamist militants being pursued by their governments to join its fighters battling French-led forces in Mali or Algeria.
France launched a ground and air operation in Mali in January to break Islamist rebels’ hold on the region, saying the militants posed a risk to the security of West Africa and Europe.
“The front of the Islamic Maghreb today is in direst need of the support of the sons of Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, and Mauritania, to thwart the attack of Crusader France and defeat its agents in the region, and empower the Islamic project,” AQIM said, according to a translation of the statement emailed by SITE.
However, AQIM also said that if Islamist youths in North Africa could have a greater impact in their own countries, they should stay to fight secularism and push for the imposition of sharia-based rule.
France’s offensive has wrested northern Mali from Islamist occupation and killed scores of fighters. Other rebels have retreated into mountain caves and desert hiding places stocked with arms and supplies.
The Algerian army in January killed at least 32 al-Qaeda- linked militants in an assault to end a siege at a desert gas plant in which 23 hostages were killed, many of them foreigners.
In their last preparation match ahead of their African Youth Championship (AYC) quest in Algeria, Nigeria’s U-20 Flying Eagles drew 2-2 yesterday with Club Africain in Tunis.
Billed to leave for Algeria after the game against Club Africain, the injection of Olanrewaju Kayode gave the squad the first goal after 34 minutes from inside the six-yard box after a fantastic play and Club Africain replied with an equaliser a minute later.
Aliyu Goyi a left back player almost put the Flying Eagles ahead again in the 52nd minute with his stunning move, but his low shot was close to target.
Club Africain however took the lead after Goyi’s narrow miss with a penalty kick which the Flying Eagles conceded after a foul inside the box.
The first team side of the Club Africain as opposed to Nigeria’s U-20 side bowed to pressure from the junior boys in the 70th minute after Kayode’s superb chance could not be knocked off by Afrcain’s goalkeeper as he rounded him up and claimed the goal for Flying Eagles.
Flying Eagles proved a better side but couldn’t go further by showing it on the score sheet as they were denied several scintillating chances.
The Flying Eagles will fly out to Algiers on Wednesday afternoon, while their opening Group B match will be on Sunday, March 17 against Mali.
France said on Sunday a third French soldier had been killed in fierce fighting with Islamist rebels in northern Mali but could not confirm Chad’s report that its troops had killed the al Qaeda commander behind January’s mass hostage-taking in Algeria.
A whirlwind seven-week campaign has driven al Qaeda-linked fighters who took over northern Mali last April into mountain and desert redoubts, where they are being hunted by hundreds of French, Chadian and Malian troops.
France’s defense ministry said 26-year-old Corporal Cedric Charenton was shot dead on Saturday during an assault on an Islamist hideout in the desolate Adrar des Ifoghas mountains near Algeria, the third French soldier killed in the campaign.
French army spokesman Colonel Thierry Burkhard said some 15 Islamists were killed in some of the fiercest fighting during the campaign so far but that he could not confirm Chad’s claim that its troops had killed al Qaeda commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar at a nearby camp in the remote Ametetai valley.
“We are facing a very fanatical adversary,” Burkhard said, noting the Islamists were armed with rocket and grenade-launchers as well as machine guns, AK47 assault rifles and heavy weapons. “They are fighting without giving ground.”
The death of Belmokhtar, nicknamed ‘the uncatchable’, has been reported several times in the past and analysts share caution shown by Paris in confirming his demise.
However, the latest report came a day after Chadian President Idriss Deby said Chadian forces had also killed Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, al Qaeda’s other senior field commander in the Sahara.
The killing of Belmokhtar and Abou Zeid, if confirmed, would eliminate al Qaeda’s leadership in Mali and raise questions over the fate of seven French hostages thought to be held by the group in northern Mali, an area the size of Texas.
Rudy Attalah, a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official focused on Africa and now head of risk analysis firm White Mountain research, was skeptical about Chad’s claim.
He said Belmokhtar had in the past carefully avoided operating in the same area as Abou Zeid and was known as an elusive operator who shifted through the desert in small, mobile groups of fighters.
“I don’t think they killed him at all,” Atallah said, adding Chad might be seeking to divert domestic attention from its 26 soldiers killed in the operation. “Deby is under a lot of pressure. Announcing these killings redeems his troops.”
An unidentified participant in militant website discussions said in a message posted on several jihadi forums that Belmoktar was “alive and well and leading the battles himself”, the U.S.-based SITE monitoring service reported on Sunday.
Belmokhtar would soon issue a statement himself, SITE reported the participant saying.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has pledged to avenge the French assault on its fighters in Mali, which Paris said it launched due to fears its former colony could become a launch pad for wider al Qaeda attacks.
Belmokhtar, whose smuggling activities the Sahara earned him the nickname “Mr Marlboro”, became one of the world’s most wanted jihadis after masterminding the raid on the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria in which more than 60 people were killed, including dozens of foreign hostages.
Abou Zeid is regarded as one of AQIM’s most ruthless operators, responsible for the kidnapping of more than 20 Western hostages since 2008. He is believed to have killed British hostage Edwin Dyer in 2009 and 78-year-old Frenchman Michel Germaneau in 2010.
France and Mali have said they could not confirm his death.
French radio RFI and Algerian daily El Khabar have reported that DNA tests were being conducted on members of Abou Zeid’s family to confirm whether a body recovered after fighting in Adrar des Ifoghas was indeed the Islamist leader.
Mali’s army, meanwhile, said it had killed 52 Islamist rebels in desert fighting some 70 km (45 miles) east of Gao, northern Mali’s largest town, with support from French helicopters and ground troops.
“There was a big fight with lots of enemy killed,” said Lieutenant Colonel Nema Sagara, the Malian army’s deputy commander in Gao. “Our troops went out to battle and they met them. There are no dead on the Malian side.”
One of al Qaeda’s most feared commanders in Africa, Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, has been killed by Chadian forces in northern Mali, Chad’s President Idriss Deby said on Friday.
French officials said they could not confirm the report.
“It was Chadian forces who killed two jihadi leaders, including Abou Zeid,” Deby told opposition politicians in the presence of journalists after a funeral ceremony for Chadian soldiers killed in fighting at the weekend.
Chadian soldiers with support from French special forces and fighter jets are hunting down pockets of al Qaeda-linked insurgents in the border region with Algeria after a seven-week French-led campaign broke Islamist domination of northern Mali.
The death of Abou Zeid, who has earned AQIM tens of millions of dollars with a spate of kidnappings of Westerners in the Sahara over the last five years, would be a significant but far from fatal blow to the group.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the one-eyed mastermind of a mass hostage-taking at the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria last month, remains at large. So does Tuareg Islamist leader Iyad ag Ghali, who was this week placed on the U.S. global terrorist list.
Sources close to Islamist militants and tribal elders had earlier said Abou Zeid, blamed for kidnapping at least 20 Westerners in the Sahara, was among 40 militants killed within the past few days in the foothills of the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains.
Algeria’s Ennahar television, which is well connected with Algerian security services, had reported his death on Thursday but there was no official confirmation.
A former smuggler turned jihadi, Algerian-born Abou Zeid is regarded as one of the most ruthless operators of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). He is believed to have executed British hostage Edwin Dyer in 2009 and 78-year-old Frenchman Michel Germaneau in 2010.
A trusted lieutenant of AQIM’s leader Abdelmalek Droukdel, Abou Zeid imposed a violent form of sharia law during Islamist domination of the ancient desert town of Timbuktu, including amputations and the destruction of ancient Sufi shrines.
“The death of Abou Zeid has been confirmed by several of his supporters who have come back from the mountains,” said Ibrahim Oumar Toure, a mechanic in the northern Malian town of Kidal who worked with Islamist rebels and remains in contact with them.
Members of the MNLA Tuareg rebel group, who have been acting as scouts for French and Chadian forces, said Islamist prisoners seized during the fighting confirmed Abou Zeid and another militant leader had been killed.
However, French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said she could neither confirm nor deny the report, and French officials urged caution. An official MNLA spokesman said the group had no evidence to prove he was dead.
French radio RFI and Algerian daily El Khabar reported that DNA tests were being conducted on members of Abou Zeid’s family to confirm whether a body recovered by French troops after fighting in Adrar des Ifoghas was indeed the Islamist leader.
HOLLANDE SAYS OPERATION NEARS END
In a speech on Friday, French President Francois Hollande said the operation in Mali was in its final stage and he was not obliged to confirm Abou Zeid’s death.
“Terrorist groups have taken refuge and are hiding in an especially difficult zone,” he said. “Information is out there. I don’t have to confirm it because we must reach the end of the operation.”
A U.S. official and a Western diplomat, however, said the reports appeared to be credible.
According to local sources in Kidal, MNLA Tuareg rebels, who are working with French forces, had located Abou Zeid’s fighters and handed over the coordinates for French jets to strike.
“They were hidden in mountain caves and were building bombs for suicide attacks when they were killed,” Toure said.
Abou Zeid’s death will be of particular interest to the French government as he is believed to be holding at least four French citizens kidnapped from Niger in 2010.
After its success in dislodging al Qaeda fighters from northern Mali’s towns, France and its African allies have faced a mounting wave of suicide bombings and guerrilla-style raids by Islamists in northern Malian towns.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in Geneva on Friday that a U.N. peacekeeping force to replace French troops in Mali should be discussed as soon as possible.