New tournament, same old same old
Only three teams took part in the first Africa Cup of Nations in 1957. In 2019, for the first time, 24 sides started the competition for the continent’s most prestigious national team tournament. That brought a new phase of 16 – an extra round for penalty shoot-outs. And shocks, which Benin and South Africa have furnished with wins over Morocco and Egypt respectively.
First Benin win a penalty shoot-out against Morocco, then South Africa see off Egypt, now Madagascar dispatch Democratic Republic of Congo. Like Benin, Madagascar needed penalties. And again, the players from the big leagues mucked up their spot kicks while the lads from the rag bag championships buried theirs. Madagascar are living the dream at their first Africa Cup of Nations.
Rethink those funny feelings
Democratic Republic of Congo were the first of the four best third placed teams to lose in the last 16 when they went out to tournament debutants Madagascar. The DRC skipper Youssouf Mulumbu said after the 4-0 win over Zimbabwe that put them in contention for a third place prize that he had a feeling DRC could go all the way if they did scrape through to the last 16. Well … so much for those funny feelings.
Guinea take a pounding
Guinea, who finished behind Madagascar and Nigeria in Group B, soon followed Democratic Republic of Congo home. The west Africans were deconstructed by Algeria. It finished 3-0 at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo. And the Algerians are looking very tasty indeed for a first crown since 1990. Two years ago, big things were expected of the north Africans but they failed to shine in Gabon and were eliminated after the groups stages. This time around, Djamel Belmadi’s boys appear less reliant on star midfielder Riyad Mahrez to make things happen. The review won’t ask any of the squad about funny feelings …
Out of the fug emerges one Mohamed Salah. Remember him? He was the man anointed to thrust Egypt to an eighth Cup of Nations trophy and tectonic ecstacy. He said on social media that he was sad the side had left the tournament following a 1-0 defeat to South Africa in the last 16. “We wish to continue the journey together and bring the championship to our loyal audiences,” added Salah. Who will lead the next campaign to glory is yet to be decided after the sacking of coach Javier Aguirre. Who will appoint Aguirre’s successor is also uncertain after the resignation of Hany Abu Reida, the head of the Egyptian FA. Much to do there. Salah, in his tweet, thanked the fans for their support. Smart move, Mo. You don’t want that lot turning on you.