International

Voodoo of Afcon win

2017-01-29 06:14
Local hero Florent Ibengé’s DRC are making waves in Gabon. (Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix)

Libreville - Winning the Africa Cup of Nations seems to have been a curse since 2010 as no country has managed to either defend the title or even go beyond the first round.

Egypt was the last country to successfully defend their crown in 2010 but failed to qualify for the next event two years later jointly hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

But then the 2012 champions, Zambia, were also dismal when defending the title a year later in South Africa where they were eliminated in the first round.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria, who won the 2013 tournament, have failed to qualify for two successive editions since being crowned champions.

And now, Ivory Coast have been sent packing in the first round in Gabon to add to the list of big-name casualties at the tournament, which also include Algeria.

This resulted in the resignation of their Belgian coach Georges Leekens.

Ivory Coast and Algeria were among the pre-tournament favourites but failed to win a game in their groups.

Gabon suffered the same fate experienced by Tunisia in 1994 when they were hosting the event – by being knocked out in the first round at home.

Gabon were knocked out without losing a match after playing three draws.

Now that the boys are out of the way, it is on to the business end of the tournament.

Hervé Renard, who won the tournament with Ivory Coast and Zambia, is aiming to make history by winning his third championship.

Ironically, Renard sent his former team packing this week as Morocco marched to the quarterfinals.

North African affair

One thing is guaranteed – there will be a North African in the last four as Morocco take on Egypt on Sunday evening to see who will reign supreme.

After going through tough times on the continent, the two former powerhouses want to turn back the clock and bring back their glory days.

Morocco last won the tournament back in 1976 and have had some mixed results since then.

They finished as runners-up in 2004 and have not progressed past the group stages until now.

Meanwhile, the Pharaohs are the most successful side on the continent with seven titles but have failed to qualify for the past three editions.

Surprise package

After finishing second in their group, the Black Stars of Ghana will face the Democratic Republic of Congo, winner of Group C.

Florent Ibengé has been the surprise package of the tournament so far. They were not given a chance in a group consisting of Ivory Coast, Togo and Morocco. But the Leopards showed their class when they finished on top of the group after winning two and drawing one game.

Credit should go to Ibengé, who was one of the three locals to lead their countries at the tournament.

The Leopards will be hoping to continue with their good run.

The Black Stars of Ghana, the 2015 losing finalists, want to go a step further but they have not been impressive so far.

They struggled against Uganda and Mali, winning both games by an odd goal and failed to find the back of the net against Egypt.

They are sweating over the fitness of captain Asamoah Gyan, who limped off with what looked like a groin strain in their loss to Egypt on Wednesday.

Pressure is on coach Avram Grant to deliver the trophy, particularly after their poor start in the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifiers, after drawing one and losing once.

Read more on:    afcon 2017  |  gabon  |  soccer
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