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The Tournament That Defied Predictions

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How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places. I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished! (2 Samuel 1:25-27, KJV).

All too soon, the 32nd Total Africa Cup of Nations, dubbed Egypt 2019, could come to an end in nine days’ time, barring any contingencies. As would be expected, the 24-nation tournament is coming with its own type of surprises (pleasant and unpleasant).

Having reached the elimination stage, every passing game seems to be coming with its joy and tears. It was therefore not surprising that, after the Black Stars crashed out on Monday, President Akufo Addo expressed his shock and disappointment at the exit of Ghana.

He tweeted: “Like most Ghanaians, I am gutted by the exit of the Black Stars at the AFCON 2019. I wish the team better luck next time. I am confident they will bounce back even stronger, and make all of us Proud once again”.

But beyond the elimination of Ghana, one major observation THE NEW PUBLISHER has made is that soccer on the continent is no longer the preserve of any nation. In fact, there are no more dictums like ‘Host and Win’.

For instance, if debutant Madagascar could stun Nigeria and D.R. Congo to reach the quarter final, and if Benin, another debutant, did not only refuse to bow to Ghana and Cameroun in the group stages, but also sent the Atlas Lions of Morocco home, then soccer pundits, who had written them off before the tournament, need to be rewriting their scripts by now.

As a matter of fact, Bafana Bafana’s elimination of host nation, Egypt, at the group of 16, is another lesson for all of us.

Hitherto, the experts had named Cameroun, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Morocco and Senegal as the ‘possibles’ to win the trophy; but after just a few days into the tournament, only Ivory Coast and Senegal can be counted.

The great lesson here is that, for seven-times champions (Pharaohs) to have fallen at the preliminary stage on their own soil to South Africa, for the Black Stars (five times winners) to have been sent packing at the group of 16, and for defending champions (Cameroun) to have bowed out before the quarter finals, the message is that the 2019 African Cup is up for grabs by ‘ANY COUNTRY’.

This also means that coaches now need to take another look at their predictions towards future AFCON tournaments.

The good news for West Africa, however, is that, out of the eight countries so far left in Egypt 2019, four (Senegal, Ivory Coast, Benin and Nigeria) are from the sub-region. It is therefore possible that the trophy will come to West Africa.

While we observe the rest of the tournament, THE NEW PUBLISHER wishes to say that ‘May the best team win the trophy’. 

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