What a spectacular start for this twenty-seventh African Cup of Nations! Trailing by 4-0, the Eagles of Mali closed the gap in impeccable style and finished the game with a 4 all, denying Angola a victory no one thought possible.
Despite Angola’s home support, Mali’s armada of international stars won’t allow the Eagles to go down without a big bang. But Mali’s Kanoutes, Diarras, Keitas and the others had little effect in a stadium filled to the brim with home support.
The opening match of the twentieth CAN was not just another football match, the honor of an entire nation was at stake. It was also incumbent on Manuel Jose’s men to welcome a new era and shove into oblivion the years of civil war that had ravaged the former Portuguese colony as well as the recent tragedy that befell the national team of Togo.
The Angolans rose up to the challenge with cheeky ease and heads held high... Flavio’s head was particularly busy: Two thunderous headers (37th, 42nd) worked up the Angolan supporters to hysteria. 2-0 before half time looked like Mli’s fate had been sealed. After the break, all the Angolans were left to do was put the bullet through the wounded animal.
And that is exactly what happened after the one hour mark with a penalty from Gilberto (67th), following a foul by Mamadou Bagayoko. The Angolan midfielder scores for the first time and Angola leads 3 goals to nil.
The collective performance of the Eagles is almost non-existant while the Palancas Negras move strategically, giving their best with the backing of a rabid home support. Another penalty in the 73rd minute makes the score line 4-4. This time it was Manucho who shot the ball through the net.
That fourth goal finally shakes the Mali boys from their apparent deep slumber. It is only ten minutes to go and Angola leads by 4-0. But Stephen Keshi’s boys are awake now and ready to play some ball. Keita is the first to lower the points accumulated by Angola thus far, meandering through their defense loopholes. Angolan supporters do not care much; for them, one against four is a goal of honor.
It took the Eagles barely 6 minutes to turn the tide.
Kanoute (88), followed by Keita (93) and Yatabaré (94) and voilà! Final score 4-4. The Mali national team proves itself as unbeatable. An unbelieveably fast rise that allows the two teams to leave the stadium with a draw at the end.
An avalanche of goals that would certainly help shift focus from the drama of recent days.