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African Cup Of Nations

Afcon Diary 10: The Cape Verde tournament!

Which team wins this year’s AFCON is becoming easier to predict as only four countries remain in the contest – Nigeria, DR Congo, Ivory Coast and South Africa.

However, if this tournament needs an identity, the tiny nation of Cape Verde has supplied it in spades. The gusty performances by the Blue Sharks will live in the memory long after the fans and tourists have left Ivory Coast. It should be fair to refer to this tournament as the Cape Verde AFCON.

When the team beat the much-fancied Black Stars at the start of the competition, many of us considered it a fluke or a failure by the Ghanaians to beat a football sprat. Now we know better.

Yesterday, the nation of just some 600,000 people was denied their deserved jubilation when they were penalized for their inability to score from the penalty spot. Drawing with South Africa after a pulsating match that travelled through extra time was no mean achievement.

Of course, if this AFCON has a theme, it is the principle that every team that qualifies for the final is there as of right and based on their performances during the qualifying rounds.

Naturally, the ranking system labels some teams as weak and others as strong. On paper and by logical extrapolation, we expect the ‘stronger’ teams to do well and eliminate the weaker ones at the group stage. This would make the competition more balanced in the knockout stages, especially in the quarter-finals.

This year, by the quarter-finals, the teams with the most AFCON wins – Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana – Cape Verde remained, and drawing South Africa, were expected to bow out graciously.

It did not happen. The Blue Sharks must hold their heads high. The Ivory Coast games will always remind football lovers about the exploits of the West African country in the central Atlantic Ocean.

Credit: Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng (kgapenteng@gmail.com)

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