The story of the unAfrica Cup of Nations

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We have reached the second stage of the Afcon 2015. For many reasons, there are some regular teams still remaining in the tournament and some surprises with them.

This tournament (competition might not be grammatically correct), has shown us once again how much ground Africa needs to cover to catch up with the rest of the world.

The key and the most important factor is the loss of identity.

Technically, by observation, as the technical report will confirm, this might be the worst ever Afcon in the last 20 years. The quality of play is poor, hence the low scoring.

There are too many individual, technical errors. Understandably, team organisations, in many instances, are poor to non-existent. This could be attributed to a very compact and anti-progressive qualifying set-up, given our geographic predisposition, economic viability and travelling complications within our continent. Teams had to do it in just over 60 days with six matches.

Strangely, and not unexpected, given the low scoring and the number of drawn matches, one spot is decided by drawing slots. It is one of the last items (Chapter 31, Article 74) in the criteria of deciding who should be given the better position.

Both Mali and Guinea failed to take the second position on 3 criteria, having played 3 matches, hence the drawing of slots. No one should complain. Characteristic of this Afcon, there were too many matches where the two teams could not decide by themselves who is the winner (let alone better). Qualifying for the second round with only 3 points after 3 matches bears testimony to this assertion.
Of the predicted teams to go through, only Group C (Ghana and Algeria), proved true. Group A was an upset though Congo Brazzaville stuck to their tag, and sprung a surprise. The host took full advantage of local conditions and are still there. For how long, it remains to be seen. Tunisia and Ivory Coast made it as expected.

We are yet to see creativity, originality and consistent attacks based on interplay and individual brilliance

Compared to the last three Afcon competitions, the number of goals scored in the first round in 2015 is the lowest. Added to that is the fact that of the 24 matches played in the first round, 13 (one more than in 2013) were draws.

This might give more insight as the number of goals scored in the first round in the last 3 Afcon tournaments show, 2010 (54 goals, with one group playing only 3 matches-Togo Disqualified), 2012 (61 goals) and 2013 (49 goals).

In this tournament only Group B had 9 goals after 6 matches. The last time one group scored less than 10 goals was in 2010 when only three teams played after Togo were disqualified. All other groups in the last three Afcon tournaments had more than 10 goals at the end of the first round.

This is comparable with the FIFA World Cup competition where at the Brazil 2014, the lowest number was 12 in Group D (Costa Rica, England, Italy and Uruguay). The highest scoring group being Group B (Australia, Chile, Netherlands and Spain) with 22 goals. Interestingly, if not ironical, it was Group C (Algeria, Ghana, Senegal and South Africa), Group of Death which had the highest number of goals, 15 at the end of the first round.

This bears testimony to the statement that, if the gap, between the big “boys” and the small “boys” is getting narrower, it is the big “boys” that are losing their pedigree rather than the opposite. Hence the defending champions, Nigeria, did not qualify and the runners-up, Burkina Faso, went out in the first round. 2013, was no different. The then defending champions, Zambia, were eliminated in the first round and the then runners-up, Ivory Coast, were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Africa should wake up and resurrect itself. We cannot afford to carry on this way. We need to find ourselves again and shape our own destiny. This confirms why we performed as we did in 2010, in SA, and in 2014, in Brazil. This is where we are and we cannot make any more excuses. We need to rediscover our game and develop it to its maximum. It was a pity that the two teams, South Africa and Zambia, that represented the African Game, though in flashes, were eliminated in the first round.

One wonders if it was a coincidence that both were led by coaches from their own countries.

Of the 16 teams, only 3 had their native coaches.

Of the 3, only one went past the first round (DRC). In the last 5 Afcon competitions (2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013), only one team Zambia won being led by a non-Zambian. Egypt (3 times) and Nigeria (2013) were led by their own countryman.

Given this scenario, it is not surprising that most teams play some kind of trial and error approach and resort many times to robust play, especially when things do not go their way. We are yet to see creativity, originality and consistent attacks based on interplay and individual brilliance. Maybe it is the surfaces that are not good, but the ball is spending a lot of time in the air, flying from one end to the other. This cannot be the characteristic of African football. We would hope that this will change in the second round. I say ‘hope’ because if the first round has anything to do with the second round, more planes will be taking off and landing in the host’s playing fields.

Of the remaining teams, only Ghana have consistently finished in the top 4 (in the last 4 Afcon tournaments). Even with this type of ‘football’ that we see, one hopes that the eventual winner will, at least, be decided on football prowess rather than other items.

Again the contest, by and large, is between the North and the West “boys” of the continent with the “Congo War” as the pick of the Last 8.

We can only hope that the upcoming African Junior Championship, in February, the African Youth Championship in March and the Olympic Qualifiers, will give us some hope for the future of the African Game. If not, we will have to do with this ‘representative’ Football – Football for All nations – The unAfrican Football.

Guinea qualified via draw of slots. What a turn of events, having played all qualifiers away from home with ebola ravaging the
ir country!

How far is 8 February!

Zipho Dlangalala is a former professional football coach, Sports Science graduate and development guru.

– By Analysis: Zipho Dlangalala, Sports Science graduate