By Frederick Mordi
The 2015 edition of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), came to an end yesterday, after the Elephants of Cote d’ Ivoire, beat the Black Stars of Ghana 9-8 on penalties. This followed a goalless draw at the end of 120minutes.
Ivorian goalkeeper, Boubacar Barry, undoubtedly the man of the match, scored the winning penalty, after stopping one from his opposite number. The victory, which ended a 23-year cup ‘drought’ for the Ivorians, was a repeat of the 1992 tournament, where they beat Ghana, 11-10, on penalties, to win the tournament. Pundits had given yesterday’s match to the more youthful and nimble Ghanaians, who last won the trophy 33 years ago, but luck was not on their side. However, Andre Ayew of Ghana, the Olympic Marseille winger, emerged the top scorer at the tournament with three goals. At least, he gave the Black Stars something to brag about.
For Yaya Toure, Manchester City midfielder and captain of the Ivorian side, winning AFCON 2015 was “unbelievable.”
“When you win with your club, it’s quite amazing,” said Toure, the current African Footballer of the Year, in his reaction after clinching the trophy. “With your country, it’s unbelievable.”
While the Ivorians continue to bask in the euphoria of victory, having upstaged Nigeria as reigning African champions, the defining moments of the tournament deserve to be revisited.
First, Morocco, the initial host, declined to stage the competition over fears of the Ebola virus disease that had ravaged three West African countries namely: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Equatorial Guinea eventually replaced Morocco at short notice. Equatorial Guinea deserves accolades for rising up to the occasion.
However, Equatorial Guineans proved to be such unruly hosts, as their fans hurled objects at the Ghanaians following the 3-0 humiliation of their side at the semi-final stage of the competition. This ugly incident, which disrupted the match, tainted what would have been a clean report card for the country. By then, it does show how passionate the fans are!
Many football fans would also not forget the ballot that decided the fate of the Malians, who had tied with the Guineans on all points at the knock-out stage. Guinea eventually won the ballot that saw them through to the next stage of the competition. This would be the first time since 1988 that a ballot would be used to decide the winner during a tie.
Host Equatorial Guinea, made history when they cruised into the semi-final of the competition for the first time, after defeating Tunisia in a last minute controversial penalty kick. But the Tunisians kicked up a lot of dust that led to hefty fines for the country, and the Mauritian referee, who did not seem to be in full control of the match.
On a final note, Gervinho must have drawn chuckles from fans when he refused to watch the penalty match between Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, from the players’ stand, where he sat facing the crowd, following his substitution. He was either sulking over his substitution, or out of sheer anxiety. But his reaction when the Elephants won was quite dramatic.
Even though the competition did not produce spectacular moments, when compared to the last one that Nigeria won, it was in all, a successful tournament.