The Cup Running Over

June 13, 2010 1:55 PM

Quick Opening Thoughts on the Refs and Keepers

In the run-up to the tournament, concerns about refereeing echoed from all corners of the globe. Many predicted not only Graham Poll-like howlers (he was the English ref who famously issued three yellow cards to the same player in 2006) but a plethora of blatantly corrupt decisions, the likes of which were seen in 2002. However, much to everyone's pleasant surprise, so far the refereeing at the tournament has been nothing but top-notch. Whether it was Ravshan Irmatov's difficult but correct offside call in the opening match, or Hector Baldassi's well-spotted hand ball during Ghana vs. Serbia, refereeing has been superb so far. Its just one of the ways this tournament has already defied the critics of a first African cup. 

Has the first cup in Africa empowered African teams to perform better? Some might say yes - South Africa recorded an unlikely draw in the first match while Ghana looked solid today, but Nigeria were dire. And yet there is one area in which African teams have performed infinitely better than anyone predicted: between the posts. Whereas goalkeepers from continental Africa have traditionally been rather poor - a Guardian preview of the 2009 Africa Cup of Nations discussed the high number of gaffes earlier this year - African goalkeepers at this tournament have been excellent. Itumeleng Khune kept South Africa in the match against Mexico, Nigeria's Vincent Enyemea single-handedly shut out Lionel Messi from a potential hat-trick of goals, and today Richard Kingson handled a large and physical Serbian attack with expertise. Definitely something to keep an eye on throughout the tournament.

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