Africa Cup of Nations: Five things we learned on Day 27
As the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations heads towards its conclusion, the administrators play with their formats while the actual players fight for the right to be third.
Blinders in the corrirdors
Before all the shouting on the field for the third place play-off, there was the wheeler-dealing off it. A whirligig of bigwigs from the Confederation of the African Football – the outfit which organises the Cup of Nations – met at a big swanky hotel in Cairo to live, eat and drink football. Chuffed with the beano produced from 24 rather than 16 teams at the men’s tournament, they have decided that the women’s Cup of Nations should be expanded from eight to 12 teams. An equal halves concept.
If it’s good enough for the Europeans …
So while the women’s Cup of Nations will grow bigger, the men's competitions - the Confederations Cup and the Champions League - will be reduced. Hey lads, don’t worry, remember size doesn’t matter. After the snip, these tournaments will, like European club competitions, have a one-off final rather than two-legged home and away affair. The showdown will be played at a neutral venue just like those smart Europeans do. But not exactly the greatest of times to make this change. No-one will remember the Arsenal v Chelsea Europa League fiasco. Two London clubs playing in Baku, Azerbaijan, nearly 4,000 kilometres away from their parishes. Hang on, yes they will. That was in May. And not that many fans turned up for the final. Sadly, neither did the Arsenal team. Chelsea beat them 4-1.
Here’s a plan: attack the aggressors. Could be a film by, say, Akiro Kurosawa. There are assaults aplenty about the incompetence of the Confederation of Africa Football (Caf). And true, the outfit furnishes ample opportunities for the slings and arrows. A strategy emerges to draft in Fatmou Samoura from world football’s governing body, Fifa, to look at ways to make things better and … yep, more brickbats. Fifa’s top dog, Gianni Infantino, came to Cairo for the swanky hotel experience and said there was nothing wrong about his number two working at Caf for six months to improve the show. To battle.
Well done Gernot Rohr for leading the Nigeria side to third place. They beat Tunisia 1-0 in an open game at the Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo. A few thousand people turned up to see Odion Ighalo score his fifth goal of the tournament. And with one game remaining, only the three goal sharpshooters Sadio Mané, Riyad Mahrez and Adam Ounas of Senegal and Algeria respectively can catch or eclipse the 30-year-old Nigerian. And for that to happen, the final on Day 29 will need to be a goalfest of Chelsea v Arsenal Europa League dimensions.
Gernot Rohr said he’d take his medal for third place back to his home in France. Ooh là là. The 65-year-old German should be hailed for keeping faith with Odion Ighalo. The striker shrugged off poor reviews and death threats to his family for his performances at the 2018 World Cup to lead the scoring charts in qualifiers for the 2019 Cup of Nations. Ighalo hobbled off the pitch in tears during the third place play-off against Tunisia after succumbing to a thigh injury. A golden boot for his five goals at the 2019 competition might soon brighten up his mood.
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