By Yemi Babalola Lagos, Nigeria.
The 2017 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) taking place in Gabon is at the height of entertaining football fans and lovers, what more can be required of a competition that started out with 16 teams (Gabon, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Togo, Dr Congo, Togo, Ghana, Egypt, Mali,) slugging it out to know which of them would be champions of the on-going African Cup of Nation. For a competition that started on January 14, and provided 8 teams for the quarterfinals from the initial 4 groups.
Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal, Tunisia, Dr Congo, Morocco, Ghana and Egypt were the teams that progressed from the groups to slug it out in the quarter-final stages. Among these 8 teams, Senegal, Ghana and Egypt looked like the favorites in the pool of nations herein. But then, after the knocking out of Senegal whom some pundits where tipping to go all the way considering their start in the competition, most attention shifted to Ghana and some even assumed their nearly winning the title syndrome would end in this edition of the competition.
But that was not the story on Wednesday when Egypt defeated a resilient Burkina Faso side 4-3 on penalties at the Stade de L’Amitie, Libreville, after playing 1-1 after extra time courtesy of goals scored first by Mohammed Salah of Egypt before Aristide Bance of Burkina Faso equalized . Likewise, on
February 2, 2017, the Indomitable lions of Cameroon crushed the Black Stars of Ghana 2-0 in Stade de Franceville, Gabon.
ĶThe Ghanaians were not able to convert their opportunities to get in front in the match. The Cameroonians sat back and hurt Ghana when it mattered most, by Micheal Ngadeu-Ngadjui scoring a header in the 72nd minute of the semi-final and Christian Bassogog nipping it in the bud for the Ghanaians in the extra minutes after full-time. This ended the hope of the Black Stars who were finalist in the last edition of the competition and means they would be playing the third place match with Burkina-Faso on Saturday 4 February, 2017.
While, Egypt and Cameroon, two of the continent’s football powerhouses, will face off in the final of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Libreville, Gabon, on Sunday night. The match will be held at Stade de l’Amitie, kick-off at 9pm CAT.
Cameroon have been one of the surprise packages of the 2017 edition, shrugging off the absence of several major stars to power past some of the tournament’s strongest teams in their path to the final. The Indomitable Lions will see the match against Egypt as a chance for revenge: they were beaten 1-0 by the Pharaohs in the final of the 2008 Afcon in Ghana and could claim a fifth continental crown (and a first since 2002) on Sunday night.
Egypt, meanwhile, have shown themselves as giants of African football in their path to the final, topping their group ahead of Ghana, beating North African rivals Morocco for the first time in over three decades in the quarterfinal, and then overcoming a powerful Burkina Faso on penalties in the semi. The Pharaohs haven’t necessarily dominated their matches, but a resilient defense (just one goal conceded in Gabon), breathtaking pace on the counter attack and a canny nous at set pieces has helped them look the archetypal ‘tournament’ team at this Afcon.
One thing is certain, about this finals, on Monday 6 February, African continent would have a new champion. If the champion would emerge from Central Africa or North Africa is what only time would tell.