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Cheers for co-hosts, boos for Ba and Lions of Atlas
by Paul Kennedy, February 2nd, 2012 11:48PM
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[WINNERS & LOSERS] Co-hosts Equatorial Guinea and Gabon were the surprises of the Africa Cup of Nations, advancing to the quarterfinals that will be held this weekend. On the other hand, African powerhouses Senegal and Morocco exited quickly. For a look at the tournament's winners and losers ...

WINNERS

Brazilian Gilson Paulo took over as coach of co-host Equatorial Guinea two weeks before the start of the Africa Cup of Nations when he replaced Frenchman Henri Michel, but he was given a one-year extension after he led the Nzalang Nacional to wins over Libya and Senegal and a place in the final eight.

French-born striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored in all three games to lead Gabon in the quarterfinals. Distinctive with his Mohawk, the 22-year-old Aubameyang is following in the footsteps of his father, Patrice, who captained Gabon at the 1994 African championship.

Kily, one of the Spanish-based stars of Equatorial Guinea, qualified for Equatorial Guinea because his father is a native of the West African country, hopes to parlay his success into a pro contract. He isn't picky. “I don’t need to earn millions and millions of euros, I would just be happy to have a professional contract and play football for a living,” Kily, who plays for Spanish fourth division club Langreo, told Reuters.

Sudan is the only team at the African Cup of Nations to be comprised exclusively of home-based players, but it ended its winless streak of nine matches in three previous African Cup appearances since its championship in 1970 with a 2-1 win over Burkina Faso to edge Angola for second place in Group B.

One of the celebrities of the African Cup of Nations has been Ivory Coast superstar Didier Drogba's mother, Clotilde, who has been operating an outdoor kitchen under a gazebo for Ivory Coast fans who traveled to Equatorial Guinea for the tournament. She says she is doing her part to support Ivory Coast. "The best moment is when you make a good meal and people are satisfied," Clotilde told AP. "But it's even better when Didier scores and the team wins."

LOSERS

Angola brought its own police as security to Equatorial Guinea, and they were needed after the Palancas Negras were eliminated. About 20 truncheon-wielding police stopped journalists from asking players questions in the mixed zone following the 2-0 loss to Ivory Coast.

With 15 goals to his credit for Newcastle United of the English Premier League, Demba Ba was expected to be one of the stars of Africa Cup of Nations but went scoreless as Senegal was knocked out after losing all three games. "We have to forget what has happened here," said the French-born striker.

One of the pre-tournament favorites was Morocco, but the Lions of Atlas exited after losses in their first two games to Tunisia and Gabon. Coach Eric Gerets expects to keep his job of preparing Morocco for World Cup qualifying, but he is decidedly less optimistic than he was was a couple of weeks ago. "If you had asked me before the tournament whether I thought we could qualify for Brazil, the answer would have been 'yes' but now we'll have to wait and see how the players bounce back," the Belgian said.



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