Last Sunday, on a cold day in London, I was settled in for a day of sport which of course featured the Cup of Nations final between Egypt and Ghana. The two hours of coverage on BBC2 gave me the chance to watch football in faraway lands, and enjoy a beer in the comfort of my living room; perfect. Unfortunately this was one of only three matches accessible to the masses (the semi finals were shown on BBC3) and scheduled at the same time as the big Arsenal v Manchester United match. You just have to see pictures of people around the world of people wearing replica shirts to know that the English Premiership match would receive the better coverage. Still, despite the poor scheduling I was looking forward to the final since I was pretty sure it was going to be a good match. Egypt were going for a record third cup title on the trot against a plucky young Ghanaian team who had battled through to the final despite injuries to key players.
It was a true African football classic; North Africa against West Africa, the oldest average team against the youngest, age and experience against energy and technique, and the Cup record holders against their closest rivals to this honour. Egypt didn’t play their best football, and the Ghana Black Stars impressed with their skills and swift counter attacks, however they were unable to prevent the immense skill of Egypt sub Mohamed Nagy Gedo who blew them away with his fifth goal of the tournament (despite coming on as a sub in every game!). The Egyptians dominated the competition on the way to their history making treble. The Pharaohs are now on the longest unbeaten run in the tournament's 53-year history (19 matches spread across the last three tournaments). Their defence only conceded two goals, and they also had the best attack with 15 goals. Player of the tournament was awarded to captain Ahmed Hassan, who is also now Egypt’s most capped player.
Despite Egypt’s record breaking triumphs, the Cup for me and most others was a little disappointing and marred by the violence at the start with the attack on the Togo bus. The pre-tournament tragedy resurfaced towards the end when the Confederation of African Football ridiculously decided to ban Togo from the next two tournaments. Fans at the stadiums were minimal with most flying in the day before because Angola is far too expensive for most to have long term stays. Even if many visitors will largely remember Luanda's hectic traffic, the building works, and the pricey cost of pretty much everything in Angola; locals took pride in showcasing the new stadiums and infrastructure.
The Pharaohs are the best in Africa for the time being, however after they missed out on World Cup qualification I’m counting on the West African teams shining for Africa in a few months time.
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