Bit of a lighter schedule in terms of internationals today than the last few days, with most eyes in England on non-league football (deservedly so) and most eyes elsewhere on, say, college football or tennis upsets or whatever else people occupy themselves with on these hollow, top-flight-football-less days that stretch seemingly eternal into infinity and beyond.
The players who did partake in internationals were some of our African contingent who began the group stage of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualification process. Mohamed Salah and Egypt already lost yesterday, and the four players involved today didn't fare all that much better. While the ACN qualification process is a bit more forgiving than the World Cup or Euro qualifiers -- over half, 15 of 28, teams left at this stage will advance to the finals in Morocco in January -- it's still not exactly advisable to start with a loss or a draw, especially if they occur at home. Right, Nigeria?
The defending 2013 champions lost just for the second time (ever!) to the Republic of the Congo. Congo weren't even supposed to be here, but they pulled a Celtic after Rwanda were found to have fielded an ineligible player in the previous round. Mikel and Kenneth Omeruo both started for the Super Eagles, but it was Thievy Bifouma who grabbed the headlines. In just his second ever cap for the smaller of the Congos, the French-born young talent -- you may remember him on loan at West Bromwich Albion last season -- contributed a brace to stake the visitors to a 3-1 lead early in the second half. It took until the 89th minute for Nigeria to claw one back and by then it was too little too late. The loss certainly won't ease the malaise around Nigerian football, with the federation facing FIFA sanctions for political interference and Stephen Keshi staying on to coach the national team despite not actually having a contract or getting paid.
Elsewhere, Ghana managed just a draw against Uganda (ranked even lower than Congo by FIFA). Christian Atsu started for the Black Stars, though the biggest star of the game was apparently the Ugandan goalkeeper who plies his trade in the South African Premier League where he has a teammate called Faty Papy. Awesome!
To end on an elusive good note, we have to look to Burkina Faso who, we may remember, finished second to Nigeria at the 2013 edition of the Africa Cup of Nation. They're also the homeland of one of our most exciting prospects Bertrand Traoré, currently on loan at Vitesse in the Netherlands on account of failing to secure a UK work permit. If he continues to start like he did today for The Stallions of THOUSAND UPPER VOLTA, hopefully that problem will go away fairly soon. Burkina Faso ran out straightforward 2-0 winners over Lesotho, Jonathan Pitroipa (the 2013 ACN Player of the Tournament) and Alain Traoré (Bertrand's older brother) providing the goals.