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The last time we communicated on this page, two matches had been played in the ongoing competition. As you are reading this, 16 matches have been played, including the last group matches in Bata yesterday which has seen the elimination of two teams from the competition.
Today, two other matches will be played in the Ebebiyin group which will also see the elimination of two other teams. We will come back to that.
I have repeated as often as I can, that Nigeria’s participation in this Nation Cup is a foregone issue. That the sooner we put it behind us, the better for our emotional well being.
That we have to try to live with the fact that Egypt also could not qualify.
Though CAF Secretary General Hicham El Amrani says until a new champion is crowned on February 8, Nigeria remains the defending champions, I had decided to dethrone the Super Eagles the moment the competition kicked off on January 17.
What about those who will not let us be? We have two Cameroonian friends here, Bakari Hamadou and Abdoul Kadiri who seize every opportunity to remind me and Chief Emeka Inyama about the absence of the Eagles. That Cameroun was not present in the Nations Cup in South Africa and Equatorial Guinea/Gabon does not bother them. What concerns them is not the past but the present.
Bad students of history.
Add to this list the President of the South African Football Association Mr Danny Jordan who in the presence of his Sports Minister wanted me to tell him why Nigeria was not at the Games………Anyway we have found a way out of their harassment by insisting that together with Egypt, Morrocco, Uganda and Namibia…… Nigeria is in Group E of the competition. Don’t ask me where they are based and when they will play!
Jokes apart, this Nations Cup has not ceased to amaze me, on the field of play. Some say it is a proof of the narrowing gap between big boys and the “small boys”. That there are no minnows anymore and that the so called super powers of African football are now just paper tigers and elephants and lions……
Let us take a look at Group D based in Malabo. Pre-Nations Cup analysis gave the group to Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire without batting an eyelid yet these two teams have so far escaped defeat by coming back from the dead against Guinea and Mali.
At the end of two matches played all the teams are on two points with equal number of goals scored and conceded. The last group matches on Wednesday will be more than interesting.
Let us move to Group B in Ebibeyin where before the last group matches that will be played today, no team has qualified to the quarter final as any one of Tunisia (4pts) R.D.Congo ( 2pts) Cape Verde (2pts) and Zambia(1pt) could qualify for the next round. All that is needed is victory to catapult any of the teams and a defeat to drop, of course.
Same story in Group C in Mongomo.
Neither Senegal ( 4pts), Algeria (3pts), Ghana (3pts) nor South Africa (1pt) has exited the competition as the battle will stretch till final day of matches tomorrow, Tuesday.
When did we ever have eleven of the first 16 Nations Cup matches end in a draw? Students of football history should help out.
Are we going to have the highest goalscorer in this competition scoring just three goals? Pls don’t laugh.
Who will win the Nations Cup? I wish I knew.
Let me however say that the likes of Zambia (against Tunisia) South Africa ( versus Algeria and Senegal), Cape Verde (DR Congo), Mali (Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire,) Guinea (Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroun) etc may live to regret lost chances. The difference between them and a repeat performance of Zambia in Gabon may just be those points they let slip when they were seemingly in total control.
If you allow the Cameroons, Ivorians, Algerians and Ghanaians of African football to escape defeat, then be set to tell the story of Nigeria in South Africa who got into the quarter final and there was no holding them any more.
Cameroun, Algeria, Cote Divoire, Ghana, Senegal have so far shown character, coming out of the dead when least expected. As we enter the last group matches one must just watch out for these teams and those star players who are yet to figure. Individual brilliance will be key. Quote me.
One cannot talk about the Nations Cup here without mentioning the enthusiasm and excitement of the fans. We had expected that because the host was based in Bata that crowd concentration will be only at the Economic capital. But no. In all the venues there has been a huge effort trying to persuade the fans to go home. In Bata it resulted in scuffle between the fans and security agencies.
On Friday in Mongomo, the gates had to be closed and the fans told to go home and watch on tv. A broadcast of the games with filled stands is so tv friendly and ambiance positive that one wonders where all that fear of lack of spectators came from. One prays as the completion draws to a close, fan interest will not wane, advantage African football ambiance and interest.
When I come your way again, it will be quarter final day. Can’t wait.