New kid, old hand make winning debut
A new kid and an old hand on the African coaching block were celebrating on Wednesday after debut victories in friendly matches.
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Serb Goran Stevanovic got his Ghana career off to a perfect start as the four-time African champions turned up the heat during the second half to thrash Togo 4-1 in Belgian city Antwerp.Frenchman Henri Michel, coaching in Africa for 17 years with mixed results, guided 2012 Africa Cup of Nations co-hosts Equatorial Guinea to a 2-0 victory against fellow minnows Chad in capital Malabo.
Ivory Coast edged Mali 1-0 in southern French town Valence as African teams took advantage of Fifa friendly dates to fine tune ahead of Cup of Nations qualifiers late next month.
Another 13 fixtures are scheduled for later Wednesday with Samuel Eto’o-led Cameroon away to Macedonia, depleted Nigeria facing Sierra Leone in Lagos and 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa tackling Kenya in Rustenburg.
Former Partizan Belgrade coach Stevanovic has a hard act to follow as compatriot Milovan Rajevac took the ‘Black Stars’ to the 2010 Cup of Nations final and the last eight of the World Cup six months later.
“There is a lot of pressure but that is normal for a national team coach. Ghana have been doing well and I realise what is expected of me. Matching what has been achieved will not suffice,” he admitted.
The Serb wants the ‘Black Stars’ to lift the Cup of Nations trophy in Gabon next February and the first step was whipping the modest Togolese through goals from Dominic Adiyiah, John Mensah, Samuel Inkoom and a Serge Akakpo own goal.
Amewou Komlan levelled for the ‘Sparrowhawks’ by converting an early second half penalty, but it was one-way traffic toward the Togo penalty area after that.
Michel is used to handling ‘big guns’ having coached Cameroon, Morocco, Tunisia and Ivory Coast plus leading clubs Raja Casablanca of Morocco, Zamalek of Egypt and Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.
Equatorial Guinea are ranked only 44 of 52 African football countries and represent the greatest challenge for a 63-year-old who steered France to third place at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
Nigeria-born Daniel Ekedo scored from the penalty spot seven minutes after half-time in Malabo and an Abbas Maigue own goal on 74 minutes sealed the fate of the Chadians, who lie six places higher on the rankings.
Former African Footballer of the Year Didier Drogba wore the orange of Ivory Coast for the first time since Francois Zahoui replaced Sven-Goran Eriksson as coach last August and set up the decisive third-minute goal.
The Chelsea striker controlled a lofted pass from midfield and held off two Malians to find Gervinho, who pushed the ball across the penalty area for Didier Ya Konan to net with a sweetly struck shot.
Played in a subdued, chilly atmosphere, the match rarely rose above the ordinary and Mali came closest to levelling in first-half stoppage time when Mamadou Semassa had a softly awarded penalty blocked by Gerard Gnanhouan.