Egypt and Cameroon ignite Afcon 2017
I am writing this on Thursday night, a few minutes after watching The Indomitable Lions shoot down the Black Stars from their mountaintop of illusion.
The Ghanaian players will wake up in the morning feeling they have had a nightmare. They would not be wrong, because the Lions have indeed become a nightmare for teams in this African Cup of Nations (Afcon 2017) championship.
Like most other analysts and commentators, I was one of those who did not envisage that Cameroon would come anywhere near the finals of the championship when it started.
Two matches into the group stage of the championship the Lions had put up some of the most uninspiring performances I have ever seen of that great African team. So poorly did they play that I committed a journalistic faux pas by writing them off as one of the fallen giants of Afcon 2017, even before they played their last group match.
I have learned my lesson the hard way, with the team resurrecting from the ‘dead’, playing some truly dramatic matches, qualifying against all odds and making a mockery of a pundit like me that takes the ‘risk’ of daring to predict the result of matches in a championship given its fillip by its absolute unpredictability.
Cameroon, with their phenomenal rise from the brink of ouster from the championship in the first round to the pinnacle of the possibility of ultimate success at the end, have left me groping and forlorn.
I apologise to readers and all the fans of the Indomitable Lions for my seeming disrespect!
Starting with some internal crisis that threatened to combust the team, and a string of poor performances necessitating last-minute assembly of new and relatively untested players that were considered too young and too inexperienced, the Indomitable Lions have travelled a long, rough road to arrive at the final match. Fourteen of the members of the team are attending their first African Cup of Nations.
Through the group stage matches they continued to build up a team grounded in defensive football tactics that have worked wonders for them. They put up their best performance in the last match against Ghana.
Arriving at the knockout stages Cameroon bounced back into serious reckoning. Such has been the transformation of this team of relative unknowns that going into the final match many now think their momentum of success may be hard to halt, even by the most experienced team in the championship, Egypt.
The Pharaohs of Egypt
Egypt on the other hand have been absolutely consistent, demonstrating once again their mastery of African football and the art of winning championships in Africa.
They conceded their first goal only in the semifinal match against Burkina Faso, and may be presenting, probably the oldest player in the history of Afcon, their 44- year old goalkeeper.
The finals – between youth and experience
Between Egypt and Cameroon are two outstanding African national teams and traditional rivals on the continent.
The final match is a clear contest between the experience of Egypt and the youth of Cameroon.
They, surely, will produce an exciting spectacle to mark the end of a colourful championship that has turned out to be a feast of the best of African football.
As the myth of the rise of minnows in African football subsides, two traditional giants, Egypt and Cameroon, have ignited the fire of Afcon 2017 as the championship gets to the finish line.