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An Embarrassingly Small Crowd Attends Do-Or-Die African Cup Of Nations Game

An Embarrassingly Small Crowd Attends Do-Or-Die African Cup Of Nations Game
By Conor Neville Updated

Five and half years ago, the Republic of Ireland won their second piece of silverware in senior international football when they lifted the 2011 Carling Nations Cup.

Four teams entered - Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. England were originally invited to participate but they withdrew on the dual grounds of fears about player burnout and not being arsed.

The Republic of Ireland won against all three opponents without conceding a goal (the tournament contributed greatly to Trap's historic eight successive clean sheets record in 2011). Northern Ireland lost against all three of their opponents without scoring a goal.

This triumph did not lead to carnivals in the streets or an open topped bus parade in Dublin city centre. For the competition failed abysmally to capture the attention of the Irish public. And it did considerably less well among the populations of the other competing nations.

The tournament attracted notoriety for the size of the crowd in the game between the two weakest sides of the quartet. On Friday 27 May 2011, the Aviva Stadium played host to a match between Wales and Northern Ireland.

Wales won the match 2-0 in front of 529 supporters, most of whom were Scottish fans in Dublin to watch the competition decider against Ireland on the Sunday.

Not even the FAI tannoy could spin those numbers. Hell, even Sean Spicer would struggle.

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When Ireland played Northern Ireland in a behind closed doors friendly four summers later, there may well have been more people in attendance.

The African Nations Cup is more storied event than the late and unlamented Carling Nations Cup. But some of its games, even the ostensibly important ones, are struggling to fire the imagination.

Zimbabwe faced Tunisia tonight in the final game of Group B. The pair met in the 40,000 capacity Stade d'Andondje in Libreville. Both sides were in with a shout of qualifying. Victory for the Zimbabweans would likely have sent them through at Algeria and Tunisia's expense.

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The crowd size for this do-or-die game? You'll be pleased to learn that it trounced the figures for the Wales-Northern Ireland match. 1,800 was the official estimated figure.

The early exit of the hosts, something FIFA have long done to level best to avoid (as historians of South Korean football will doubtless remind one) has been blamed as a possible reason. Gabon drew all three of their group games and slumped to 3rd place in the Group A.

Tunisia won the match 4-2 and progressed to the quarter-final phase where they will face Burkino Faso. While the embarrassed local press have eschewed any Spicer style histrionics, one outlet, Kuwowo Sports, described the crowd as "sparse but noisy" which is an impressive bit of turd-polishing for an attendance of 1800 and a stadium that is 4.5% full.

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Read more: Gone At Long, Long Last? - A Reminder Of The Truly Ridiculous Things Bernie Ecclestone Has Said

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