African Cup of Nations 2017

Good afternoon readers and here we are on Day 21 of AFCON 2017. It’s sad I know, but we only have one match left. This match really is the big one, it’s the 2017 AFCON Final.

Two of Africa’s largest teams go head to head and toe to toe. Cameroon are looking to make it win number five, with Egypt looking for their eighth tournament win.

Fans of both teams will be arriving at the Stade d’Agondje in Gabon’s capital Libreville to cheer their team on, ready to provide a party atmosphere inside the ground.

This is a repeat of the 2008 final when The Pharaohs were victorious. The Indomitable Lions will want revenge for that heart breaking day.

But first we have a match to report on, yesterday’s 3rd place playoff game. Some will say pointless, some will say boring and both statements are correct. I promised you a classic and what did you get? Yeah a 1-0 win for Burkina Faso, the goal scored in the 89th minute of the match. Alain Traore’s fantastic free kick sealed the win and condemned Ghana to fourth place in the tournament.

We saw a lot of frowns from the Black Stars coach Avram Grant. We are all looking forward to seeing where Avram’s next role in management will be. Another Premier League club maybe, Avram? China with their millions of pounds of cash is a more likely option. Avram’s ready to rock up to a club in China that no one’s ever heard of real soon.

Overall however, The Stallions deserved their third place finish after a successful tournament. Maybe 2019 will finally be their year.

But now to the final and Cameroon against Egypt. Cameroon are clearly the underdogs and with so many top players dropping out of the squad before the tournament began, they have defied all odds in reaching the final. They have faced retiring players who the Cameroon FA thought were still available. Yeah right Cameroon, I’m not buying that. They have faced disputes over bonuses for the tournament, even though it’s been made clear they are not financially driven. Again Cameroon, I’m not buying that one either. However, they are in the final and with a great chance to win the trophy. The team has Vincent Aboubakar of Beskitas up front who they will be hoping to get on the score sheet. Spurs fans will be hoping Clinton N’Jie – currently on loan at Marseille – will play some part in the final. Having started well, poor Clinton has slowly disappeared without a trace in this tournament, almost like Spurs’ title challenge last season. Oh dear.

Egypt are a well-oiled team. Having been one of the favourites from the off, they have answered all critics. What Egypt have done well is sit back and defend and hope to score one goal which will win the match. They only conceded their first goal of the tournament in the semi-final. Effective? Most definitely. Boring? Man, like you would never believe. But they can thank one man for their progress and that man is Werther Original munching Essam El Hadary. The 44-year-old keeper has a chance to win his fifth AFCON title which is a fantastic feat. His first win was way back in 1998. I’m pretty sure Essam won’t be able to remember that far back. Egypt will be wheeling him out one last time and be hoping for another match-winning performance. The Pharaohs also have Ahmed Elmohamady of Hull City, Ramadan Sobhi of Stoke and Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny. Elneny has declared himself fit to play after being ruled out of the semi-final through injury. One other player worthy of a mention is Roma winger Mohamed Salah. After his impressive performances Chelsea fans are still trying to pretend Salah doesn’t exist.

One thing is for sure, I don’t expect a classic. What the game needs is an early Cameroon goal which mean Egypt have to come out and play. If not, this one could go all the way to penalties like so many matches.

Over to AFCON news and, sticking with Egypt, apparently the reason for their success is down to DNA. It turns out this isn’t just used in Criminal Minds where they find a spot of blood and crack the case in under 24 hours. No readers, this is the Egyptian team physician using the player’s DNA to test for naturally occurring phenomenon to further specialise everything from diet to injury prevention. Yeah, I’m lost too but if it works then why not? Rumours that they haven’t successfully been able to test El Hadary due to being unable to find a blood line are inconclusive. Oh the joys of being old.

For the other finalists Cameroon, there are some wise words from a former Senegal forward El Hadji Diouf. Yeah that’s the one, the crazy outspoken ex Liverpool player. Well his message to stay away stars for Cameroon is simple. They should have listened to Bob Marley. Had they done so, they would have realised that, “if you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where to go.” Very wise words indeed. Apparently!

Now back to the big one and prediction time for me. Surely I can get the final game right. Am I expecting a classic? Hell no. Like I said the game needs an early Cameroon goal. But with Egypt the kings of defence in this tournament I’m going for a 1-0 win for Egypt in extra time. I reckon a goal from Salah, which will really rub the salt into the wounds for what Chelsea could have had. But when your 12 points clear at the top of the table, who cares? It’s turned out OK for them.

Now how did you get on with the AFCON trivia? The question set yesterday was, “what rule was rescinded in 1982 for all AFCON tournaments going forward?” The answer was, of course, teams were able to call up any number of players not based in Africa. Originally they were only able to call up just two players. Finally, African teams could play all their best players.

For the final AFCON trivia, it’s a tough one. The question is, “which referee has the most performances in AFCON?” You know what to do for one last time, tweet your answer to @TalesFromTTF.

So, readers, enjoy the final tonight between two African giants. The ground will be rocking. Let’s hope this tournament goes out with a bang. If not, you can always wait for the closing ceremony, which is bound to have fireworks. Please, no dancing bear with an oversized head this time, I have still not recovered from that.

So get comfy, grab a beer or three and watch the AFCON 2017 Final!

Let’s all watch the AFCON, let’s all watch the AFCON.