Today is a sad day. I write this after packing my suitcase to go home having watched AFCON 2017. After three weeks of reporting on the tournament all good things come to an end. We have had some highs and some lows. But first, let’s talk about last night’s final. What can I say but wow!
You all watched it right, sat there on your sofa, to watch the biggest match in African football for 2017? Cameroon against Egypt, The Indomitable Lions against The Pharaohs, Central Africa against North East Africa?
Well what a match it turned out to be. Egypt started a lot brighter and seemed to change their tactic of defending for the whole 90 minutes and instead looked a good attacking outfit. They were rewarded on 22 minutes when Mohamed Elneny went through and scored with a shot rising over the goalkeeper and into the Cameroon net. But the old saying of football is a game of two halves has never been more true. Having been one nil down at half time, the second half burst into life for the Indomitable Lions. Egypt struggled to get out of their own half and were punished by Cameroon as Nicolas Nkoulou headed in a deep cross on 59 minutes to send the Cameroon supporters into raptures. The game became an open affair, then when everyone was waiting for extra time, suddenly on 88 minutes a goal out of nothing. The ball was played long to Vincent Aboubakar on the edge of the penalty area. He brought the ball down, flicked it over the defender head before unleashing it into the back of the net. Scenes from AFCON. Scenes from Cameroon. The underdogs have achieved what no one thought was possible. I wonder how the eight players who decided to drop out of the squad are feeling now. Oh dear.
Cameroon have now won AFCON for the fifth time and credit must go to coach Hugo Broos who against the odds has guided his team to become AFCON champions. They said it was the worst Cameroon team in a generation, oh how wrong they were. I am sat here waiting for Roger Milla to run onto the pitch and celebrate by the corner flag.
Spare a thought for Egypt coach Hector Cuper. Not that I like to laugh at people’s misfortune but this is his 6th major final as a losing coach.
I look back at the tournament with fondness, and as I watch Cameroon lift the AFCON trophy high in the air, I thought back to some of the highlights.
My new adopted African team had to be DR Congo, everyone’s guilty pleasure. They lit up the tournament with their never say die attitude on the pitch and the supporters loved every minute of their journey.
We had the party nation Guinea Bissau who were just happy to be there, who continued to party until they were knocked out the group stages.
There was the disappointment of the Ivory Coast not even making it out their group, while the rest of Africa laughed.
Burkina Faso making it to the semi-finals was a highlight, a team who are clearly pushing the big boys in each tournament and deserve credit for finishing 3rd. Apparently they did, not everyone’s sure however, as no one bothers with the 3rd place play off.
What about Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri becoming a world beater? Arsenal’s Ismael Bennacer being given a late call up, only to watch all the games from the bench. Emmanuel Adebayor pretending he could still cut it in the Premier League, and then turning up in Turkey. Uganda scoring their first ever goal in AFCON, and then watching the whole team rejoice and dance like they had won the tournament. The strange news that reserve assistant referees were to play their part, only for not one to be seen or used. Not at all a waste of time, just let one of the substitutes run the line like Sunday league football! The ever green Essam El Hadary, keeping goal for Egypt at the ripe old age of 44. Cameroon players arguing again with the Cameroon federation over pay which in the end made no difference to them at all. They deserve all the money in the world for winning. So many highlights, so many to choose from.
We’ve also had hackers from Russia, dodgy pitches, injuries, and who could forget Knowledge Musona. Sadly, he was made famous by his name not his footballing skills.
There were many more, but one things for sure, it’s been a great and enjoyable tournament.
Now my top three goals of AFCON 2017 are as follows and there were some classic strikes in the tournament.
Goal number three: Mohamed Salah’s cracking free kick against Ghana. He thumped it into the top corner.
Goal number two: It has to be Morocco’s Rachid Alioui against the Ivory Coast. Receiving the ball a good 25 yards from goal, he ignored the runners and smashed It was sheer class.
Goal number one: This has to be the winning goal in the final. Not only was it great skill as Vincent Aboubakar controlled the ball with his shoulder, then flicked it over the defender before slotting the ball into the back of the net but also the importance of the goal. It was absolutely amazing and the perfect way to end a tournament.
My predictions for the knock out stages were not great, but let’s take a look anyway. I managed to get Egypt winning in the quarter finals but that was it! In the semi-finals I managed to predict Egypt going through but failed to get the second semi-final correct. 2 out of 6 so far, yikes. We will quickly brush over the 3rd place playoff and let’s be honest no one cares anyhow. Finally, the final itself. I predicted 1-0 to Egypt after extra time. Well that went to pot as Cameroon became AFCON winners. So just 2 out of 6 in the knockout stages. I will get my coat!
This is our last piece of AFCON trivia. We have all learned so much. There will be pieces of trivia you will remember, much of it is already forgotten. The final answer of the tournament, to the question, “what referee has had the most performances in AFCON?” is Tesfaye Gebreyesus from Ethiopia/Eritrea who made 6 tournaments (1970, 1974, 1978, 1980, 1984, 1986). I am not sure how we will all move on in life without our daily AFCON trivia. It’s going to be tough.
So, with a heavy heart it’s time to say goodbye to AFCON 2017 once and for all. It’s been a pleasure sharing the wonderful moments with you all. We have Shared the joys and jubilation, the weird and the wonderful of a truly entertaining tournament. Congratulations to Cameroon who proved you don’t need your star players to win a tournament. It was a fantastic achievement by the Indomitable Lions.
But now it’s time for me to pop on some Bongo Flava, grab myself some Um Bongo juice and start dreaming of the next AFCON tournament.
Until 2019 readers, AFCON out.