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Chelsea at the ACN Qualifiers: Atsu rescues Ghana, but Nigeria and Egypt continue to struggle

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Dean Mouhtaropoulos

If the Africa Cup of Nation qualifiers ended today, Chelsea would be facing the loss of exactly zero players due to the final tournament in January.  (A couple loanees would go.)  That's the good news.

The bad news, especially if you're a fan of either Nigeria or Egypt, is that two of the most successful teams on the continent, historically, are staring a potential failure to qualify right in the face.  Which would be especially shocking for the Super Eagles who won it all two years ago.  While Egypt won an unprecendeted three in a row from 2006-2010, they have failed to qualify for the last two so perhaps they're a bit more used to the new order of things.  But Nigeria...oh Nigeria...  What is going on?  (At least they were spared a FIFA ban.)

With both teams inept going forward, one of the few players to emerge with any credit from the 0-0 draw in South Africa was Kenneth Omeruo.  And at least coach Stephen Keshi didn't throw his biggest international star under the bus, unlike Egypt's Shawky Gharib did with Mohamed Salah last week.

"[Mikel's] not playing in his team, that doesn't mean I cannot use him in my team."

"That is the coach's choice not to play him in his team, but if my team is in good shape after a world of experience playing Champions League, he earned his place and he has to make the best of the situation."

-Stephen Keshi; source: Goal

Speaking of Egypt, they once again failed to even score a goal as they lost 1-0 at home to Tunisia.  With two losses they sit at the bottom of Group G, below even mighty Botswana.  Salah played the whole game (so much for those fitness issues, right, coach?) but failed to trouble the Tunisian keeper, much like the rest of The Pharaohs.

One national team who have no trouble troubling others are Burkina Faso, as they continue to build upon their impressive second place showing at the 2013 ACN.  Just like the last game, Jonathan Pitroipa keyed the victory, this time with a second half brace against hosts Angola.  The loss apparently ended Angola's 15-year (year!) unbeaten streak at home.  Unfortunately Bertrand Traoré did not feature as he had returned to Vitesse after picking up an injury a few days ago against Lesotho.  It's unclear whether it's a muscle strain or a tear for young Bertrand.

So after poor results and injuries, lets end on a good note.  Enter Christian Atsu:

That's the final goal of a five-goal thriller served up by hosts Togo and Ghana, with the Black Stars winning it on that strike five minutes from time.  Lovely finish by Atsu for his fifth goal for Ghana, the shot somewhat reminscent of Willian's effort from yesterday or Steven Naishmith's quick-release stabbed shot that beat Courtois ten days ago.

And with that, we can wrap things up for this international break.  See y'all again next month!  Can't hardly wait...