This year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) will be remembered, among other things for: Equatorial Guinea somehow managing to successfully host the African continents’ most significant tournament with only two months to prepare – no mean feat; Ivory Coast winning only their second AFCON trophy in a repeat of the 1992-final, in which they won their first AFCON trophy; and, we saw for the first time a manager winning the AFCON with two different nations, Hervé Renard (with Zambia and, now, Ivory Coast). Notwithstanding the fact that Avram Grant lost another major tournament final in a penalty shoot-out, there are a number of talking points to help us reflect on what as an odd, frustrating, yet entertaining tournament.
And, since the hosts of the 2015 AFCON, Equatorial Guinea, ended up finishing in 4th place, what better number than 4, then, to use to look back at the tournament…
4 Best Moments:
4) Fans presenting the Man of the Match trophy
I don’t think I am alone in thinking that fans, when dressed suitably crazily, should be the ones to award the Man of the Match with his trophy.
John Bennett of the BBC shows in these two Tweets the potential of this excellent idea to catch-on: not only does it bring fans closer to the game, it just adds a little extra to the contest. Long may it continue:
— John Bennett (@JohnBennettBBC) February 6, 2015
— John Bennett (@JohnBennettBBC) January 28, 2015
3) The DRCs comeback against Congo
The DRC qualified for this tournament as ‘the best of the rest’ from the seven qualifying groups. They finished third in their qualifying group, but finished as the best overall third placed team – ahead of the likes of Egypt and Nigeria, two AFCON heavyweights. For several reasons this appeals to me as a Scot, I can’t think why… Anyway, the DRC were not inspired in the group stages of AFCON, crawling through, drawing all three games.
In the quarter-finals, the DRC were drawn against Congo setting up a tantalysing national team derby match. A fairly uneventful first-half lulled armchair pundits into thinking this game would go into extra-time. However, soon after the second-half kicked off the game really burst into life. Congo took the lead after 55 minutes and doubled their lead in the 62nd minute after some utterly hopeless defending by DRC. Watch the video below from CAFs – African football’s governing body – YouTube page:
2) Equatorial Guinea’s first goal
The spotlight was really on Equatorial Guinea: could they really pull of hosting this tournament with such little preparation time? Was their team going to make matters worse by living up to their position in FIFA World Rankings, ie the lowest-ranked team participating in the tournament? The answer to the former is ‘Yes, just’, and to the latter, ‘no’.
One of the best moments of the tournament came when Emilio Nsue opened the AFCON 2015 goal-scoring in a sumptuous free-flowing attacking move, which delighted the home-crowd and everyone else alike.
1) Boubacar Barry’s ridiculous heroics crowning Ivory Coast as champions
Over the past five-to-ten years the Ivory Coast has consistently produced some of the African continents’ best footballers – Didier Drogba, Didier Zokora, Aruna Dindane, to name but a few – and, due to the lack of trophies to crown their so-called ‘golden generation’, a criticism often levelled at the Ivory Coast is that they are chokers.
This year, the Ivory Coast finally overcame their AFCON demons and won by being tactically superior to their opponents – particularly on the counter-attack against Algeria, as I wrote here. But, in the final against their neighbours, the Ivory Coast were forced to draw on their thirty five year-old substitute keeper Boubacar Barry. In sudden-death penalties he provided a performance worthy of some kind of acting award generally playing the fool but also saving a penalty from his opposite number and coolly holding his nerve to slot-home the decisive penalty and win AFCON 2015 for his country. All in a day’s work…
4 Worst Moments:
4) Gervinho’s sending-off
I still don’t know what Gervinho was thinking:
3) A shocker of a decision in Equatorial Guinea – Tunisia
Neither the Tunisian players nor I could understand what went on in Rajindraparsad Seechurn’s mind when he awarded Equatorial Guinea in the dying moments of their quarter-final effectively gifting the hosts with a golden opportunity to take the game – that they arguably deserved to lose – into extra time. The referee has subsequently been banned for six months as was the Tunisian FA for its allegations against CAF of biased officiating. All in, it was a poor moment and it led to some rather ugly scenes.
Wait ref, we just want to talk! pic.twitter.com/OVCkUV4ofT
— Colin Udoh (@ColinUdoh) January 31, 2015
2) Crowd troubles against Ghana
I think it is fair to say Ghana deservedly won 3-0 against Equatorial Guinea in the Semi-Final. However, the home-crowd daftly decided to vent their frustration at the obvious gulf in class between their side and the Black Stars by hurling objects and generally intimidating the travelling Ghana support. This caused the game to be stopped for thirty minutes prompting generally farcical and quite worrying scenes. This Daily Mail article contains pictures that speak louder than my words can, here. CAF has fined Equatorial Guinea for the crowd troubles but I dare say the bitter memory will linger.
1) Drawing names out of a hat to decide whether Mali or Guinea could progress to the Quarter-final
Above all of the other bad parts of this AFCON 2015 – which, to be fair, were far outweighed by the good – this tournament will be remembered as the tournament at which a Quarter-Finalists got there by, wait for it… yes, their name being drawn out of a hat. That’s right: not on the football pitch, which is surprising given this is a football tournament.
I have relied much on the BBC’s John Bennett throughout this tournament – he was there, I wasn’t is a good start – for insight. Nothing sums up the farce I hope never to be repeated in a major football tournament like his tweet here:
— John Bennett (@JohnBennettBBC) January 29, 2015