Monday,23 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February
Monday,23 July, 2018
Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February

Ahram Weekly

Not the continent’s best

The Africa Cup of Nations had bad referees, poor pitches and star players who fell flat,
reports Marwan Zayed

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Super Eagles of Nigeria were crowned the champions of Africa in front of a capacity crowd at the National Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Sunday after beating Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final.
Nigeria’s last taste of continental glory was back in 1994 – ironically captained by the man who was the architect of their 2013 triumph, Stephen Keshi.
Ex- captain Keshi becomes only the second man to lift the title as a player and coach after Egyptian Mahmoud Al-Gohari, and the first black coach to win the trophy since 1992.
“I am so proud of what my players did in this tournament,” said Keshi.”They played well and concentrated on the job. They have so much potential.”
Keshi, who skippered Nigeria to the trophy 19 years ago, added: “When I came on board a year and a half ago my dream was to make Nigerians happy that they could have a very good team they could be proud of. We are not there yet but we are in the process and I am happy about that.”
Nigeria’s victory means they will now face world and European champions Spain, Uruguay and Tahiti at the Confederations Cup in Brazil in June.
“It is an honour for us as Nigerians to represent Africa,” said Keshi. “I haven’t even thought about it yet but it gives us the chance to continue to improve.”
Sunday Mba, the man to watch in the Nigerian jersey, produced an act of individual brilliance five minutes before the interval to score the only goal of the match.    
Burkina Faso was impressive just getting to the final for the first time in their history but it took them 16 minute to reorganise themselves and get their first attempt on the goal.
According to, this edition of the ACN will be remembered for many things: it was a tournament that had authored stories of hope and inspiration. It was an occasion where some of the continental powerhouses shrugged off the cobwebs of inconsistency and reclaimed dignity. It was a Nigerian come-back story as much as it was a Burkina Faso magnificent journey – two stories that will make for happy reading in years to come.
On the other hand, Mali secured bronze after beating Ghana 3-1 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
Mahamadou Samassa, Seydou Keita and substitute Sigamary Diarra scored for the Malians whilst Kwadwo Asamoah grabbed a consolation for Ghana.
The Malians had the better of the game, a repeat of last year’s third place match to confirm their superiority over the West African counterparts. Just like last year, Ghana won the earlier meeting at the group phase whilst Mali emerged superior in the penultimate match of the tournament.
Both teams made changes to their starting line-up with Ghana handing starting roles to Richard Kissi Boateng and Awal Mohamed for the first time whilst Mali saw experienced defender Adama Coulibaly making a return to the team.
The Black Stars threatened first on 14 minutes but Christian Atsu’s goal-bound shot from close range was no problem for Mali goalie Soumaila Diakite who parried it out.
Les Aigles organised themselves making runs at their opponents defence and their efforts yielded dividends on 21 minutes initiated by left-back Adama Tamboura, who raced upfront before crossing to Samassa, who headed home for the opener.
Just before half time, Keita almost doubled the lead for his side, profiting from a head flick from lanky striker Cheick Diabate. Keita’s toe poke shot missed narrowly after beating onrushing Dauda. Two minutes from recess, Mali deservingly increased the tally with the second goal through Keita.
Midfielder Traore Mahamane got the best of Ghana left back Kissi Boateng before squaring into the heart of the Ghana defence before Keita blasted home.
This year’s edition of the prestigious tournament can be considered somewhat below par in terms of several things and due to many reasons. All three Arab nations who took part in the competition were awfully disappointing and embarrassing as they were knocked out from the group stages which made the competition less appealing for the Arab world at least.
Apart from that, one of the major reasons that contributed to the failure of the tournament was the shocking refereeing. Refereeing was terrible in most of the games as referees made extremely costly mistakes throughout the competition. Unfortunately the only referee that got punished was an Arab; a Tunisian was suspended in the wake of his contentious handling of the semi-final game between Burkina Faso and Ghana. Although this was the only referee who was suspended because of his mistakes, the CAF admitted that referees committed too many mistakes in this year’s edition of the tournament.
Another low point at the tournament was the dreadful condition of most of the pitches. Less than three years ago, the World Cup was held in South Africa and everyone was singing praises about the quality and the condition of the pitches, however, anyone watching the competition this year will be shocked by the state of the arenas, and players themselves lamented the fact that they can’t even run with the ball due to holes and sand all over the playing fields.
In terms of football, the form and the performances of big teams and their star players were anything but great. Players like Didier Drogba, Asamoah Gyan, Kolo Toure and others were simply awful in the tournament which contributed to their nations’ failure to reach the final. Although Ghana clinched fourth place one can argue that they were extremely lucky to reach the semis as they were poor and boring all the way through the competition. Ivory Coast’s star studded squad were favourites to clinch the title this year but once again they managed to disappoint their fans and bow out in the quarter-finals against a very impressive Nigeria side led by Chelsea’s star Victor Moses.
Nigeria went on to win the competition as they defeated an exceptionally brave Burkina Faso side 1-0 in a very boring final.
While teams like Ivory Coast, Ghana, South Africa, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Zambia failed badly this year, other teams in the form of Cape Verde, Burkina Faso and Mali were born. Nigeria deservedly clinched the title, Burkina Faso deservedly clinched the second place and Mali deservedly defeated Ghana to win the bronze medal, however, one can argue that these three teams are the only real winners int the tournament this year while the biggest losers are without a doubt the African football fans who witnessed a very dire and boring Africa Cup of Nations this year.

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