At the African Cup of Nations football (soccer) tournament underway in Tunisia, the defending champion and favorite, Cameroon, had its dream of lifting the cup shattered by a loss to Nigeria in a quarter final match Sunday.
The Cameroon-Nigeria match, played in Monastir, lived up to its billing of pick of the weekend's four quarter final matches, as it was action from the first whistle. Cameroon went into the lead in the 42nd minute when Samuel Eto'O scored. Nigerian captain Jay Jay Okocha equalized with a superbly struck free kick during added on stoppage time just before the break.
The Nigerians sealed their victory when John Utaka scored 27 minutes into the second half. Despite numerous raids on Nigeria's goal, the equalizer failed to come for Cameroon which was hoping to follow its victories in 2000 and 2002 by winning the cup three times in a row.
Had Cameroon made it to the final and won, it would have broken a record by becoming the first team to win the cup five times since the tournament's inception in 1957.
Nigeria has won the cup twice, in 1980 and in 1994, when the tournament was held here in Tunis.
In another quarter final match Sunday, Morocco gave up a 1-0 lead when Algeria equalized with two minutes left to play, forcing the game into extra time. The Moroccans scored twice during extra time to notch a three-one victory.
The two teams join Mali and host Tunisia, which won their quarter final matches Saturday. Mali was the first team to qualify after beating Guinea by two goals, in a match where the Guineans failed to translate their dominance into goals. After scoring first, the Guineans conceded late goals at the end of both halves. The second goal came after the Guinean goalkeeper failed to hold a harmless looking strike from Malian captain Mahamadou Diarra, when extra time looked inevitable.
The Senegal/Tunisia clash turned into a bad tempered affair after the Senegalese claimed a foul on one of their players went unpunished, just before the Tunisians scored the only goal of the match. During this African Cup tournament, Senegal has been a pale shadow of the team that made it all the way to the final, which they lost to Cameroon in 2002 and went as far as the quarter finals in the World Cup finals later that year.
Tunisia plays Nigeria while Mali plays Morocco in the semi-finals. Both matches are set for Wednesday. The losing teams will battle it out for third place Friday and the finals will be played on Valentine's Day, February 14.