Eto’o tops list of African Cup absentees
JOHANNESBURG AFRICAN Cup leading scorer Samuel Eto’o tops a list of highprofile absentees at this year’s tournament after former winners Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa all surprisingly missed out in qualifying.
The 30-year-old Eto’o won’t be able to add to his 18 African Cup of Nations goals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, and his absence will rob the cup of one of the continent’s best-ever—if recently controversial—strikers.
Egypt’s almost unthinkable failure to make the tournament it has dominated with three straight wins from 2006-10 means veteran midfielder Ahmed Hassan, who shares the record for the most international appearances, likely won’t get to add to his four titles in an incredible nine tournament appearances.
Without Nigeria, West Bromwich Albion striker Peter Odemwingie, Everton forward Victor Anichebe and AC Milan defender Taye Taiwo aren’t present.
And after a farcical end to its seesaw qualifying campaign, South Africa missed out for the second tournament in a row, leaving Tottenham midfielder Steven Pienaar and Ajax midfielder Thulani Serero to concentrate on club duties in 2012.
In their places, up step Niger, Guinea, Libya and Sudan. Niger sneaked in ahead of South Africa and Egypt, Guinea forced out Nigeria, and Libya and Sudan claimed spots with secondplace finishes in their groups ahead of Cameroon because of better points totals.
Eto’o’s complicated relationship with Cameroon’s national federation hit a new low when he was banned for 15 games for his part in a player strike at the end of last year that saw the Indomitable Lions, already humbled by their African Cup failure, back out of a friendly with Algeria. The ban was reduced to eight months—or four matches—after intervention by the government.
The initial sanction caused uproar with the country’s football followers and yet Eto’o was picked out as the player most blamed by fans for not qualifying. It was the first time since 1994 that the four-time champion and second most successful African Cup team ever didn’t make the continental championship.
The striker said recently it should lead to a period of introspection for the nation’s football authorities.
“It’s a big disappointment for Cameroon not to qualify for the African Cup of Nations,” Eto’o said. “Cameroon is a big nation in football and the national team has brought much happiness to the country.” “They will want to learn with this big defeat. They have to change different things to improve and reach their next goal.” With the next African Cup brought forward to 2013, one of Africa’s great football exports should still appear in another continental tournament— if Cameroon qualifies.
It’s doubtful, however, if the 36-year-old Hassan will be retained by Egypt’s new American coach, Bob Bradley, if the seven-time African champion Pharaohs make it to South Africa next year.
The midfielder, whose international career is nearly at an end, is level on 178 caps with former Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammad Al Deayea and should still pass the mark.