The 26th edition of the African Nations Cup which takes place until February 10th fulfills all of its promises; spectacle; records and surprises gave rhythm to the first round of games.
First of all there’s entertainment. On Ghanaian pitches, the 16 teams, who are generally in good-shape left their pocket calculators in the lockers. As a result we have had an anthology of offensive plays, spectacular goals and technical moves.
It seemed like coaches and players respected the spirit of the King of all sports by focusing on its essence: scoring more goals than the opponent. The opening game between Ghana and Guinea (1-0) was only a decoy. Why? Because what followed was more than a football festival. African dancing with a sense of efficiency resulted in a new goal-scoring record in the first round.
Blame it on the defense? Beware of foregone conclusions! Nevertheless one definition could be the new competition’s German designed Adidas ball, which ensures more precise strikes. African wizardry and mostly European high-skilled team management has done the rest.
Eto’o, first star in a new lot of stars
A whole group of African football stars also had the opportunity to shine during the 2008 edition. First among them was Samuel Eto’o, FC Barcelona’s striker, who broke the 38 year- record of the number of goals scored by one man in the Cup, bringing it from 14 to16. He was first eclipsed by a disastrous game against Egypt Pharaohs. He and his untamable Lions went to great lengths to finally impose the respect due to the 4-time winners of the Cup.
Are there any other stars? Ivorian Didier Drogba and the Toure brothers have logically qualified the Elephants in the last eight. Zidane and Abou Trika didn’t even bother forcing their talent to lead Egypt to the knockout stage. Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari kept Ghana undoubtful. Pascal Feindouno saved Guinea and Yassine Chikhaoui maintained Tunisian hopes while Nigeria was waiting to be confirmed.
Morocco and Senegal spell out surprise.
Competition has been fierce. So harsh that football technicians such as World champion Brazil’s Carlos Alberto Parreira, now South Africa’s coach, or former French international player Henri Michel, Morocco’s coach, have headed home earlier than expected. Morocco is the first round’s biggest victim. Its promising draw with France last November was misleading.
Ridden with internal squabbles, the Atlas Lions only just had the time to roar against feeble Namibia with a 5-1 win. They were incapable of maintaining their big nation-status in African football. Perhaps in the face of new powers like Angola and the resurgence of sleeping powers like Ghana, this will be nothing more than a far-off memory. What can we say about Senegal? After its brilliant show around the time of the 2002 World Cup, it seemed as though Senegal could have been announcing itself as the continent’s new strength. First of all Diouf the Invisible’s co-team members missed qualifying for the 2006 World Cup before confirming Ghana’s decline.
Explosive quarter finals
Given these echoing failures, the anecdotal failure of South Africa only gained sudden importance because it’s hosting the 2010 World Cup. So it’s best to show off at the quarter finals, which start on Sunday, with an explosive match between Ghana and Nigeria and an interesting one between Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea. Monday hosts the shocking match between Tunisia and Cameroon and the unexpected confrontation between Egypt and Angola.