By Tony Ubani
HOW are the mighty fallen! Indeed, Africaâ€™s flagbearers in the World Cup in South Africa have performed below par at the Orange African Cup of Nations on-going in Angola.
Heavyweights Cote dâ€™Ivoire who enjoyed bookmakersâ€™ ink as the favourite for the Cup battled neighbours Burkina Faso to a barren draw in their first match. Many people are yet to come to terms with their performance. Nigeria did not do better against defending Champions, Egypt, who whipped them 3-1 despite not qualifying for the showpiece that would be held on African soil, South Africa, for the first time.
The Nigerians and their Coach Shaibu AmoduÂ are on the precipice of biting the dust if they do not beat Republic of Benin who pulled out a 2-2 against Mozambique.
It has not been a fairy tale for the World Cup qualifiers. Not even the dreaded Indomitable Lions could find their rhythm as Gabon handed them a shocking 1-0 upset in their first match of the Nations Cup. Samuel Etoâ€™o Fils battled in vain yesterday as the Gabonese tightened their defence and at times threatened to increase the tally with sublime passes and ferocious shots that once hit the bar and bounced back to play.
North African World Cup candidates, Algeria, suffered the worst humiliation when Malawi pounded them 3-0 to make a statement that qualifying for the World Cup does not necessarily mean they were the better sides carrying African cross. Another West African giants, Ghana, are yet to show the stuff they are made of as their match against Togo did not hold following the withdrawal of the Emmanuel Adebayor-led side after rebels killed three members of their team.
But Ghana have a chance against fellow World Cup-bound Cote dâ€™Ivoire on Friday in a match the duo of Chelseaâ€™s Didier Drogba and Michael Essien would fight against each other for the important points. South Africa, another automatic qualifier as hosts, did not even qualify for the Nations Cup.
As thrilling as the matches have so far been, it is equally creating suspense and making nonsense of bookmakers predictions before the start of the tourney. The eight goals thriller that saw hosts Angola share points with Mali in the most dramatic come-back of all times was an indication of the unpredictability of the Angola Orange Cup of Nations.