GROUP A: The Results

19 Jan

5 1 0 2 2
MALI 4 1 1 1 1
4 1 1 1 -2
MALAWI 3 1 2 0 -1

Before committing to this football blog project, I immersed myself in a gulf of background study. At the beginning of the Africa Cup of Nations, I knew I had always been a huge fan with football knowledge at my fingertips, but that wasn’t enough. I armed myself to the teeth with little facts and bits of trivia just in case someone dare test me. Much to my surprise no one has and my word has been taken as golden. (Phew)

The one fact I picked up on my travels (through cyberspace, thanks Wikipedia) that I couldn’t fathom, was the tie-break rule:

Tie-breaking criteria

If two or more teams end the group stage with the same number of points, their ranking is determined by the following criteria:

  1. points earned in the matches between the teams concerned;
  2. goal difference in the matches between the teams concerned;
  3. number of goals scored in the matches between the teams concerned;
  4. goal difference in all group matches;
  5. number of goals scored in all group matches;
  6. fair play points system taking into account the number of yellow and red cards;
  7. drawing of lots by the organising committee.

What I want to know is, how come there wasn’t anyone in the rules meeting who raised their hand and said,

“Ummm… guys… that doesn’t make any kind of sense.”

I know the African Cup of Nations has a history of doing things “like everyone else, but with a twist”, and that’s great and why one of the reasons everyone loves it – but surely group stage progression should be the same world over? Is it just me or can you see the problem with this?

I tried to just shrug it off saying to myself,

“Well it’s not going to happen is it?”

But lo and behold Group A does exactly that.

If you’re wondering what it is that I’m jabbering on about, its Mali’s failure to qualify to the next stage even though, in my opinion, they proved to be the better side than Algeria. Show any football fan… or anyone else for that matter, that table and they’d expect progression to be in the order the teams appear, not some kind of default!


Yes Algeria beat Mali and that should count for something, but if it’s that important, nay paramount, then why bother with a whole group stage? If you’re going to use results against as the primary determining factor, you may as well just play knock-out games from the beginning! The reason we use groups is so everyone has a “fair” chance. That’s why the table always has a Goal Difference column, not a head-to-head column. It’s why teams try to score as many goals as possible, so that if it comes down to it, you look across the table and say,

“Well, they’ve got the same number of points, but x’s goal difference is better.”

I’ve never heard, anyone say,

“They’ve got the same number of points, but y beat x so y is through.”

It’s ridiculous verging on scandal!

Furthermore, the reason the final group games are synchronized is to encourage fair play. That way everyone is still trying their hardest to secure the points. It’s meant to ensure an exciting game, in the event that two teams are headed for a tie-break and would rather control their destiny than have it doled out through the bureaucracy! As it happened today, Algeria went into the game knowing that all they had to do was draw with hosts Angola and they would safely qualify.

The game was almost boring with neither team really committing to attack. There was that unspoken (as far as we know) pact that said,

“If you don’t try score, neither will we.”

And each team kept up their end of the bargain and played out a lacklustre draw.

The game between Mali and Malawi, on the other hand, was exciting. It was as if Mali either didn’t know about, or hoped the silly rule would be overturned by the end of the game! Kanouté, Keita and Bagayoko all got on the score sheet, but it was too little too late for perennial underachievers, who have again failed to progress from the group stage. At the other end, Russell scored Malawi’s consolation goal, which frayed nerves at the time, cutting the lead to 1, but the Malians prevailed.

I know it may seem like I’m biased or really wanted Mali to qualify, but I really do just think it’s the one flaw with the competition. I guess this “little difference” wouldn’t have given me something to rant about with a whole 2 weeks left in the Africa Cup of Nations.


One Response to “GROUP A: The Results”

  1. Tony Pacise February 2, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

    There’s good info here. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog. Keep up the good work mate!

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