Football

Day of upsets at African Nations Cup as favourites falter

Defending champions the Ivory Coast and Morocco became just the latest strongly fancied teams to fail to deliver at the African Nations Cup (ANC) in Gabon yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The Ivorians were held 0-0 by Togo - 21 places below them in the African rankings - after a duel that produced little excitement for a small crowd in the northern town of Oyem.

"It is not the start that we would have liked," admitted Ivory Coast coach Michel Dussuyer. "We could not raise our level of play.

"There are still two matches left. We expect more from ourselves. We did not manage to put intensity into our game.

"We did not know how to destabilise Togo. In the end, it was a pale copy of what we can do. We are all aware of this, me more so than anyone."

Morocco, also considered potential champions under two-time ANC-winning coach Herve Renard, paid the price for a goalkeeping blunder as they fell 1-0 to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

DR Congo, whose last of two ANC triumphs came 43 years ago, surprisingly top Group C after the first round with three points.

Ivory Coast and Togo have one point each and Morocco, whose lone ANC success was in 1976, are pointless at the bottom.

Group winners and runners-up advance to the quarter-finals, leaving Renard with just two games to perform a salvage operation.

"I think we got off to a good start," Renard said:

"We caused them a lot of problems.

"We had chances, but were not efficient when it counted.

"In a competition like the Cup of Nations, you must not get discouraged under any circumstances. There will be a lot of developments."

"What we had to do was to be patient," said DR Congo coach Florent Ibenge. - AFP

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