By Patrick Omorodion
The curtains of the 27th Africa Cup of Nations will be drawn today with defending champions, Egypt battling Ghana in the final match with two records in mind.
First is to become the first country to win the cup three consecutive times as well as a record seventh victory since its inception in 1957. Ghana will only be attempting to surpass Cameroon for a fifth victory.
The Pharaohs appear favoured for the cup considering the way they routed their opponents, including the Super Eagles who they battered 3-1 in the opening game, to get to this stage.
The strength of the Egyptians lie in the cohesion of the players, a result of the bulk of the players plying their football career at home in the Egyptian league.
If the 4-0 demolition of rivals, Algeria is anything to go by, then Black Starsâ€™ coach,Â Milovan Rajevac will have an uphill task stopping the rampaging attackers coach Hassan Shehata will unleash on his depleted side parading some young and talented players.
The story of the Black Stars at this competition is more of a big lesson for some countries that the future of the game lies in the youths as exhibited by the U-20 players in the Black Stars who stood their ground against the full squad of Europe-based professionals paraded by Amodu.
This notwithstanding, the Ghanaians who donâ€™t have the luxury of having their inspirational midfielder and captain, Michael Essien, will have a very tough puzzle to solve today when they meet the clinical and enterprising Egyptians in todayâ€™s final.
The youthful Black Stars are playing with a level of confidence as both the veterans like Asamoah Gyan and goalkeeper Richard Kingson have blended very well with the younger players like Andre Ayew (Abedi Peleâ€™s son), Samuel Inkoom, Lee Addy, Emmanuel Agyemang Badu and Agyemang Opoku.
However, the Egyptians also have proved that their non qualification for the 2010 World Cup was a mistake as they have despatched three of the continentâ€™s five World Cup representatives on their way to todayâ€™sÂ final.
If Ghana, another World Cup bound team, fall against them today, as is most expected, then Africa would have been deprived ofÂ its best team in the World Cup party. The Egyptians showed the stuff they were made of at the Confederations Cup last summer when they stretched the almighty Brazilians before succumbing almost against the run of play.
Even if Ghana fails to get past Egypt today, their Serb_born coach, Rajevac would still be a happy man, coming this far without the teamâ€™s regular players as he told fifa.com on Friday.
â€œOne must give credit to these boys, they have done well. They have exceeded all expectations. This is a young team. They were at this tournament to learn, and I think most of them have emerged better players. This has given them priceless exposure to international football and the demands of competing in big tournaments.â€