Even before the second round of the group games at the ongoing African Nation’s cup in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea ends, this tournament will without a doubt pass as one of the most exciting CAN tournaments to date, at least for me.
The irony however is that this was one tournament many doubted will evoke passion and excitement mainly because of the unexpected high profile absentees, but the reverse has been the case. It may be early days yet but so far it’s safe and comprehensible to say this has been a tournament for the minnows.
On Wednesday evening, 2002 World Cup quarter finalists Senegal became the first high profile casualty to exit the tournament thanks to a resolute and relentless performance from co-host Equatorial Guinea.
The National Lightning of Equatorial Guinea left it incredibly late to earn a 2-1 win over their supposedly-illustrious foes who were tipped as favorites for the title.
Senegal’s mighty fall as I choose to call it is a brutal reminder of how far the African game has come and how not to underestimate any team or nation when it comes to football in Africa nowadays.
Many African football experts including my very good self have been forced to eat humble pie after seeing Senegal crash out of the tournament.
Many predicted an easy qualification to the next stage of the competition for Senegal and rightly so. How could one not tip the Taranga Lions as title contenders when they have aruguable the best African performers in the major European League?
Three of their strikers in the player’s of Mossow Sow, Demba Ba and Momodu Niang had score over 50 goals between them over the last 12 months.
But at the end of the day it was the sheer determination on the part of Equatorial Guinea rather than the rich assembly of players from Senegal that prevailed.
Senegal’s exit from the competition would to a certain degree take away some excitement but like I said it reminds us of how names don’t play football no more. It also proves to some extent that the notable names like Egypt and Cameroon who could not qualify for the competition were second fiddle to their opponents when it mattered most.
In the build up to the Nations Cup, Zambia were not considered contenders but they are for my money the most exciting team so far in the tournament. I am not tipping them for the title but from the evidence of what I have seen I won’t be surprised if they reached the last four
Need I say that Zambia Coach Renard Harve was Ghana’s physical trainer during the 2008 Nations Cup hosted by Ghana? I see him as a potential Black Stars Coach in the near future. No? Time will tell.
For Equatorial Guinea, their quarter final berth is more that a dream come through and even if that is how far they go, they can be proud of their achievements. You just couldn’t make it up. The lowest-ranked team to ever stage a Nations Cup, and arguably the lowest-ranked to ever contest the competition, have not only reached the quarter-finals after just two matches but they have also knocked out one of the tournament favourites. Senegal thought they were back in it but then went for the winner and Kily took advantage in the most spectacular fashion. A goal that will be replayed ad infinitum in Equatorial Guinea.
For Senegal Coach Armara Trore i simply can’t help thinking that he has been a bad ambassador for local Coaches in Senegal. His blatant display of technical bankruptcy and misguided selection of more that six strikers for this tournament cannot go without comment. I imagine he would resign or be sacked when he returns to Dakar.
Ghana and Ivory Coast are still favorites but they sure would have to work a lot harder to win the trophy.
The Black Stars are up against Mali tomorrow and a win will see Ghana through to the next stage. Please spare a moment to say a prayer for the Stars. The agenda is still on, Ghana for Gold 2012.
Source: Daniel Oduro, Editor of Sports,(FINDER)