The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa will do well to live up to the thrill and exhilaration of last year's competition. But, if yesterday's clash between holders Zambia and Ethiopia is anything to go by, then football fans across the world better buckle in and enjoy the ride.
After a comparatively lifeless first round of fixtures in Groups A and B; not a single goal was scored in fixtures between Angola and Morocco, or hosts South Africa and Cape Verde, while Ghana and DR Congo drew 2-2, and Mali beat Niger 1-0 over the weekend.
Zambia began the defence of their crown amid unsavoury scenes with a 1-1 draw against an Ethiopia side reduced to ten men, after their goalkeeper, Jemal Tassew, was sent off for a crazy chest-high tackle.
The red card caused a lengthy delay of 11 minutes, allowing treatment for the injured stopper. The referee waited until Tassew was on the stretcher before presenting the red card - a move that prompted the match to descend into chaos, with angry fans throwing bottles and vuvuzelas onto the pitch.
That flashpoint came on the half hour mark, after Ethiopia had already missed a 25th minute penalty, with Saladin Seid the guilty party, passing up the opportunity to make amends for an opening goal effort he had failed with earlier.
To make matters worse, Zambia went in front in the final minute of first-half stoppage time, when Collins Mbesuma fired a left-foot half-volley past substitute keeper Zerihun Tadelle.
After the break Ethiopia regrouped, and equalised in the 65th minute when their captain Adane Girma powered home a shot that flew in off the near post, and the ten-man side held on for a point.
Nigeria and Burkino Faso also drew 1-1 in Group C's other game, while last year's finalists Ivory Coast take on Togo in their opening Group D game today, with Tunisia and Algeria completing the first round of fixtures.
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