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23.09.2019 06:00
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CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Equatorial Guinea had two months to prepare to host the African Cup of Nations, making the colorful and sometimes chaotic continental soccer tournament even more unpredictable than usual this year.Along with the regular questions ahead of an African Cup — Will Ivory Coasts star-studded squad finally break its title drought? — comes a bunch of others this time: What will the small stadiums in the eastern border towns of Mongomo and Ebebiyin be like? And will the new highway carved through the jungle to those remote towns be OK in time for kickoff this weekend?Equatorial Guinea took over as host at very short notice from Morocco, which didnt want to stage the championship because of fears over the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and fans travelling from that region.The replacement host is a small, curious oil-rich nation in Central Africa.Equatorial Guinea has stadiums in the Malabo, the capital, and Bata, the biggest city, left over from when it co-hosted the 2012 African Cup. But the two other venues out near the Gabonese border are unknown and untested in top-level football. Organizers had little time to bring those grounds, used to hosting a few hundred people in Equatorial Guineas domestic league, up to standard. Its unclear how far they have got.Even without this years hurried preparations, few tournaments bring soccer stars back down to earth like the African Cup, where every two years some of the worlds best players leave their highly-paid day jobs in the luxurious English, Spanish and Italian leagues for three weeks of adventure back in Africa.And few tournaments are as difficult to predict.Burkina Faso, with no previous impressive history at the tournament, made the final and nearly won in 2013. Zambia did win in 2012, beating Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba, Gervinho and Ivory Coasts other big names in the final.In 2015, Algeria, the top-ranked team in Africa and its best performer at last years World Cup, is the favourite. But that isnt really helpful at the African Cup, as Ivory Coast and Ghana know too well. For a long time Africas two most talented teams, Ivory Coast hasnt won the title in more than 20 years and Ghanas misery stretches to more than 30 years.We cant make predictions in this kind of competition, said Algeria coach Christian Gourcuff, a Frenchman. Certainly many have named us the favourites but we must invest a great deal. There is quality (in the team), but there are also conditions that we must get used to. We disregard the judgments of others.Algeria is in the toughest group, with Ghana, Senegal and South Africa. Theyll all be based in Mongomo for the group stage, where theyll likely come across each other often off the field in one of the towns two or three recognized hotels.Facing the unknown, Tunisia, probably like many teams, will be bringing its own cooks to prepare meals for the players in Ebebiyin, way up in the north-eastern corner of Equatorial Guinea. The Tunisians are also flying in all their food from home just in case, coach Georges Leekens said.Ivory Coast and Cameroon lead a list of contenders from West Africa, which also includes Ghana, Mali and Senegal. South Africa also qualified among the 16 teams.Ghana officials say theyve resolved a dispute over player payments, another issue that often plagues teams at the African Cup and which has been rumbling on for Ghana since last years World Cup. Bonuses have been cut to $5,000 per player for each match they play in, and a possible payout of $60,000 each if they win the title. In comparison, Spains players were each offered a $980,000 incentive to win the World Cup last year.It is not about the money, Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan said. We are just here to die for the nation because we are Ghanaians.Its not the richest tournament, but one thing the African Cup does produce is passion.For teams like Cape Verde, the tiny Atlantic Ocean island nation, and Republic of Congo, its the only chance they get to mix with the big stars. And for some fans, its the only chance they get to see their team have a chance at international glory.In Guinea, young supporters marched in the capital Conakry and erected barricades on the streets in protest after one of their favourite players, midfielder Sadio Diallo, was left out of the squad. Riot police were called in.The African Cup, with its haphazard organization and humble facilities, is still a big deal for many.___Associated Press writers Aomar Ouali in Algiers, Algeria, Bouazza ben Bouazza in Tunis, Tunisia, Francis Kokutse in Accra, Ghana, and Boubacar Diallo in Conakry, Guinea, contributed to this report.___Gerald Imray is on Twitter at Basketball Shoes 2020 . Raonic, the No. 8 seed from Thornhill, Ont., fired 11 aces and did not have a double-fault as he comfortably advanced to the third round at the Masters Series event. Discount Basketball Shoes . Thats the feeling that eight Canadian Football League teams are experiencing right now in advance of the expansion draft to stock the Ottawa Redblacks. Neither made it that far in 2013. Not even close. Federer lost his second match at the All England Club. Nadal exited in the first round, a year after bowing out in the second. Cheap Basketball Shoes Free Shipping . Venable and Jeremy Hermida drove in three runs apiece, and the Padres beat the Colorado Rockies 7-2 on Sunday to snap a nine-game losing streak. Basketball Shoes Sale .Patterson marked his anniversary by proving his worth — once again.Lou Williams poured in 26 points, and Patterson drained two huge three-pointers late in the fourth quarter, as the Raptors topped the Denver Nuggets 112-107 in overtime Monday.SANDY, Utah -- Every time Joao Plata touched the ball, he found a way to make a special play materialize for Real Salt Lake. Platas energy on defence was infectious. His passing proved equally deadly. The Portland Timbers could do little to stop him or the rest of the RSL starters from making it a long night. Plata scored once and assisted on goals by Javier Morales and Luis Gil to lead Salt Lake to a 4-2 win over Portland on Friday night. Alvaro Saborio added the other goal for RSL (14-8-6), which notched its second victory over Portland this month. Platas total effort on both ends of the field did not go unnoticed by RSL coach Jason Kreis. "Hes been an important player for us just with assists and goals," Kreis said. "The one area we were always a little doubtful on in the first few months of the season was how much he was going to be willing to work for us when we didnt have the ball. Tonight, I saw an effort I rarely see with forwards. The amount of defensive work he was putting in was second to none and absolutely critical to the success of this team." Plata only worries about focusing on one thing when he gets on the field -- doing whatever he can to help the team succeed. It doesnt matter if it comes in the form of goals, assists or making plays away from the ball. He just wants to play the role he needs to play in keeping RSL atop the MLS Conference. "For me, the most important thing is that the team wins," Plata said through a translator. "I always want to be a part of winning for the team and help us be successful." Darlington Nagbe and Sal Zizzo each scored for the Timbers (9-5-12), who played a man down the entire second half after Ben Zemanski was sent off with a red card just before halftime. Portland had no answer for Salt Lakes precision passing early in the first half. RSL showed patience in working the ball into the attacking third and made the Timbers pay for it with a pair of early goals. Gil got Salt Lake on the board in the 9th minute. A series of four passes culminated with Plata playing the ball off his back heel to Gil inside thee 18 yard box.dddddddddddd Gil put the perfect finishing touch on the sequence when he threaded the ball past Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and inside the left post. RSL extended its lead to 2-0 in the 15th on a goal from Plata. Ned Grabavoy fed him a pass into the 18 and Plata attacked Andrew Jean-Baptiste. He drew him out on the left side and fired from an angle as he got around Jean-Baptiste on the turn. Plata sent the ball across the goal face and bounced off the right post for the score. "Thats our game," RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "Thats what we want to do. When were successful, thats what we do. Thats how we score goals. Its not an easy thing, but were capable of doing it." Portland pulled a goal back in the 31st minute. Darlington Nagbe faked laying off the ball to a teammate and instead blasted the ball from distance to make it 2-1. The Timbers comeback hopes dimmed just before halftime when midfielder Zemanski was ejected in stoppage time. Zemanski was shown a red card following a dangerous tackle on Grabavoy when the two players went for a 50/50 ball. "We had just scored a goal and it happens right at the end of the first half," Portland defender Raushwan McKenzie said. "We get that the red card at the end of the first half. Were chasing the game and were down a goal. Against a good team, its going to be hard to score another goal -- two if you want to win." His ejection left Portland a man down the entire second half. RSL capitalized on the man advantage right away. Morales scored off a corner kick sent in by Plata with an incredible shot in the 55th minute. He sent the ball over his head with a bicycle kick, bouncing it off the right post and into the net to make it 3-1. Saborio added an insurance goal when he headed home a free kick from Morales in the 67th minute. Portland cut into the lead again with Zizzos goal in the 78th. Jose Adolfo Valencia sent a hard shot at RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando near the right post. Rimando blocked it with his glove, but the ball bounced out to Zizzo and he put home the rebound. ' ' '

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