Taifa Stars did well in Algeria

2010 World Cup Final at Princeton Public Library
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TAIFA Stars’ promising performance in Algeria has led to a sudden surge of hopes that the country could end a 30-year wait to compete in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals.

Stars surprised then survived in Blida, after the visiting Tanzanians managed to spoil the party at the Mustapha Tchaker Stadium by pulling out a 1-1 draw against the Fennecs. And, this could suggest that the country’s football is not far away from earning a status to dine with elite in African football.

A thunderous first half free kick from sturdy midfielder Abdi Kassim and an outstanding second half display from goalkeeper Shaaban Kado have given the Taifa Stars a dream start to their 2012 AFCON qualifying campaign.

And, fans back in Tanzania were ecstatic on Friday night after Kassim’s 33rd minute goal. Several parts of Dar es Salaam city erupted into rupture of celebrations and the vuvuzelas rocked the air soon after the final whistle.

Many were pleased by Stars’ display, confidence, spirit and above all, determination to get results away against a side just fresh for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa. A side full of professional stars from Europe, and much to their advantage, Algeria were playing at their own backyard. “We really staged a good fight.

This is encouraging. Kudos should go to both the outgone Stars’ coach, Marcio Maximo and his predecessor Jan Poulsen for instilling confidence on players,” remarked former Simba and Yanga defender Aboubakar Kombo. He added that football is a psychological game and Stars to some extent managed to win the psychological battle against Algeria.

“Stars knew that they were underdogs but managed to frustrate their opponents especially in the first half, where they impressively managed to keep the ball and pass around the field. It really surprised Algeria because they did not expect such impressive display from Tanzania,” said Kombo.

The Algerians dominated possession in the early going and got their first look at goal in the fourth minute when Abdelkader Ghezzal controlled a free kick with his knee before volleying the ball straight at the opposing keeper.

Minutes later, Abdelmalek Ziaya could have also scored but his close range effort went well wide as Tanzanian defenders were closing in on him. Algeria continued to press for the opener and were well in control of the midfield but their finishing touch was lacking. It took the Taifa stars until the 18th minute to get third first shot of the match through Mrisho Ngasa.

Despite the shot being off target, the opportunity galvanized the visitors who finally began showing signs of a fluid passing game. In the 31st minute a brisk Tanzanian counter attack was stopped short by Adlene Guedioura who conceded a free kick from well outside the area.

The Tanzanian number ten, Abdi Kassim, took charge of the set piece and subsequently stunned the stadium with a powerful left footed drive that swerved past the badly placed defensive wall and went right into Rais M’Bolhi’s net. Four minutes later things could have gone from bad to worse for the Fennecs but their ‘keeper made an impressive save on a Tanzanian strike from point blank range that followed some impressive buildup play from Jan Poulsen’s men.

Right before halftime, Algeria came close to equalizing but Hassan Yebda missed the frame with a header that should have been left for Ziaya. Just when it looked like the Algerians would be heading into their dressing room down a goal, Guedioura atoned for his earlier mistake with an absolute cannon-ball from forty yards out that found the top right corner and reignited the Blida crowd.

At the start of the second period, the Greens ratcheted up the pressure once more and could have scored their second but Ghezzal ended up clearing a goal bound Djebbour lob instead of heading it into the net. Ziaya came close to scoring as well after an excellent run and cross by Belhadj but the Tanzanian keeper intervened just in time. In the 73rd minute, the Taifa Stars goalie was once again the saviour, stopping a close range Abdoun volley.

Algeria tried everything to get the winner but a courageous Tanzanian team held on until the end and can now celebrate having earned their first away point of 2012 AFCON qualifying. The result is a setback for Rabah Saadane’s men who now have to seek a win in the Central African Republic before they host neighbours Morocco.

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