Group D saved my Afcon
As much as football makes my world go round, it’s not every game at every stage that excites me. I was getting a little apprehensive about this Africa Cup of Nations after three days of uninspiring football.
Draws and lack of goals characterised the first day of action, with none of the teams in group A recording any goals. Watching the opening fixture between hosts South Africa and the tiny Island of Cape Verde, I had to remind myself several times that I was watching Africa’s greatest football showpiece. Neither side impressed me and I was more disappointed by hosts South Africa because of all the hype that had been created around the team.
Gordon Igesund’s troops looked a little disorganised and it was evident that the pressure of great expectations had taken its toll on many of the players. You could see them mentally psyching themselves up but practically failing to deliver. I think the media had put so much pressure on the poor souls that they became victims of their extreme need to succeed. We all know what many of the Bafana Bafana players can achieve when at their best but we saw none of it against Cape Verde. I feared for the worst because no tournament wants the hosts removed in the first round. It’s just not good for any competition.
The disappointed looks on the faces of Bafana fans couldn’t be ignored but they did receive some solace later that night when the second game of the tournament also failed to produce goals.
So while South African fans celebrated at being given another chance to start the group stages afresh, the rest of Africa expressed boredom at witnessing the second game without goals. You see, for those of us who didn’t even make it to Afcon, we just want to see great goals in a tournament like this.
Social media was abuzz on Saturday evening complaining about the lack of spark at Afcon 2013 but I told them to hang in there as the tournament was just getting started. After all the mighty Black Stars would be in action on Sunday.
I was banking on the Black Stars now to get the first win of the tournament and, by the time they were 2-0 up, I concluded that I was right. Alas, even this game went on to end in a draw. So day two was turning out to be a lot like day one, but at least the goals were beginning to rain in.
Surprisingly, it was Mali who could boast about getting the first win of the tournament, although, since there is no trophy for that, I would really be quiet if I were them. Especially since the win didn’t come in a fantastic display of football – but that’s just my opinion.
Still feeling uninspired ahead of Group C fixtures, I told myself that there was no way Nigeria and defending champions Zambia would fail to bring the tournament alight. Nigeria may have been absent from the last tournament but historically this is a country that has produced some of the most outstanding and entertaining footballers in the recent past – Daniel Amokachi, Taribo West, my supersport.com blog colleague and Afcon 2013 analyst Sunday Oliseh and the late Rashidi Yekini. So how could the current crop of Super Eagles fail to light up the tournament?
I must say they almost did but a sucker-punch from Burkina Faso’s Alain Traore spoiled the party. Even though my money isn’t on Nigeria, that last minute goal hurt. It provided a bit of the spark I have been searching for at this Afcon tournament, but not enough.
Another draw was to follow later that night that made me totally write off the defending champions. Please take note here that I hope I won’t have to eat my words by the end of the tournament. It was Ethiopia that continued to warm me up and convince me that Afcon 2013 was finally starting.
Even though this game ended in a draw, being a tie between the defending champs and Ethiopia, who are not regulars at the African showpiece, it provided an inkling of excitement that the unexpected was going to happen this year. Perhaps this was a sign that an underdog had a chance at the big prize again this year. That would be exciting.
Then came Group D and I was totally convinced that Afcon 2013 had started. Even though Ivory Coast had many scares that they might not emerge victorious against Togo, I saw what I was looking for – a contest between two great sides, with the more experienced one carrying the day. Even though I expected that, it was still exciting to watch. It’s evident why Ivory Coast have so many players competing in the greatest leagues in the world. It’s because they have the greatest talent. In fact I would be very surprised – again – if Ivory Coast don’t win Afcon 2013.
As if picking their cue from the Ivorians, the Tunisians went on to secure an important win against North African rivals Algeria. The entire game was top notch and either side could have won it but it was great seeing the quality of the game go up a notch.
After watching the second round of Group A matches, South Africa were clearly over their first day nerves and gave us what they should have delivered on day one – an emphatic victory.
Even though Morocco V Cape Verde ended in a draw, the fact that the underdogs scored first, made the entire game worth watching.
So after a false start, in my view, Afcon 2013 is turning out to be a tournament well worth watching.