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2002 African Nations Cup
Backflips, slick shirts but few Nations Cup goals
Togo goalkeeper denies Ivory Coast in 0-0 draw

By Brian Homewood
© Reuters Limited

A Ghanaian supporter dances during the African Cup of Nations Group B match between Ghana and Morocco at Segou stadium in Mali.
Photo Juda Ngwenya, Reuters
Sleeveless shirts and spectacular backflips were the main talking points at the African Nations Cup on Monday after the day's four games produced one measly goal between them.

Nigerian striker Julius Aghahowa was the only man to hit the back of the net as Nigeria - who face England and Argentina in the first round of the World Cup - beat Algeria 1-0 in Bamako to go top of group A.

But the Ukraine-based Aghahowa, who cut inside three defenders and fired a low shot inside the post, raised an even bigger cheer with his goal celebration - five perfectly executed backflips.

And while he did a passable impression of an Olympic gymnast, Cameroon's players admitted they could have been mistaken for basketball players after taking the field on Sunday wearing trend-setting sleeveless shirts.

The Indomitable Lions, who produced an unmemorable performance in their 1-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo, admitted that most comments had been centred on the shirts which they said were specially designed by team suppliers Puma for the sub-Saharan heat of the Nations Cup.

Cameroon make waves
with new shirts

Cameroon, the only African team to have reached the World Cup quarter-finals, are making footballing history again at this year's African Nations Cup - with their shirts.

Their performance in Sunday's 1-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo was little to write home about but their unique sleeveless shirts have made the Indomatible Lions a talking-point once again.

Cameroon looked like a basketball team when they took the field in Sikasso, but the players were happy with the shirts in the burning sub-Saharan heat.

"We were very surprised when we were given the shirts yesterday but it was a pleasant surprise," said Patrick Suffoe.

"They look like basketball shirts but they were perfect for us in this weather."

Suffoe said the shirts had been supplied by team kit suppliers Puma especially for the tournament.

"I think we will be using them for the rest of the competition but I don't know about the World Cup, I don't know what FIFA think about them," he said.

"It's a special shirt for a special team."

"They look like basketball shirts but they were perfect for us in this weather," said Patrick Suffoe.

"I don't know about the World Cup, I don't know what FIFA think about them. It's a special shirt for a special team."

Zambia and Tunisia, Ghana and Morocco and Ivory Coast and Togo all played out goalless draws, leaving the overall goal tally for the tournament at five from eight games.

Stylish Display
Despite the lack of goals, Monday produced some exciting play.

Algeria's striker Ghazi Farid (C) is caught between Nigeria's Udeze Ifeanyi (R) and Tarido West (L) during their African Nations Cup finals soccer match in Mali's capital Bamako, January 21, 2002. World Cup finalists Nigeria won the match 1-0.
Photo Antony Njuguna, Reuters
Nigeria, runners-up in the competition they co-hosted with Ghana two years ago, put on a stylish display and should have won by more.

Ivory Coast, determined to avoid a repeat of their first round elimination which led to a humiliating one-week stay in a military camp in 2000, also created plenty of chances but were foiled by Togo goalkeeper Kossi Agassa, who plays his club football in Abidjan with Africa Sports.

Ibrahim Bakayoko, who has averaged a goal a game for the Elephants over the last two years, was the biggest victim, seeing three good efforts saved by Agassa in a lively derby played in front of noisy Ivorian fans who crossed the nearby border in a convoy of buses.

Bakayoko, the former Montpellier and Everton striker now based with Marseille, was among the players detained for a week in a military camp and forced to frog march and attend lectures on patriotism following the early exit last time.

Tunisia - who rarely get involved in goal gluts - and Zambia also threw up plenty of chances in their group D game in Bamako but both lacked composure in front of goal.

Ghana and Morocco left group B with no goals at all from two games after their match in Segou. Poor finishing denied a meagre crowd a goal to enjoy at the Amary Ngaou stadium as the two sides struggled on a bumpy pitch.

Morocco had a bright spell midway through the first half when they came close with four chances inside two minutes while Ghana periodically burst through into goal scoring positions but failed with the final touch.

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