By ‘Toyin Akiode
Today’s Gabon Afcon 2017 final match is unscripted! Punditry, once again, has been shamed as well documented favourites have long exited this stage and engaged in other pressing endeavours.
Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Ghana had great things expected of them. Had the four made the semis, analysts and opinions would have been validated. Alas, only the Black Stars crossed the threshold of ‘final four’ while the others tasted defeats before expectations.
But here we are with the Pharaohs of Egypt, who though bear the record of the most successful Nation in Afcon history had lost a lot of shine and have been downgraded in African football reckoning for seven years. Through grit, guile, ruthlessness and experience, they are deservedly here. For Egypt, it is familiar territories as they strive to successfully prosecute their eight triumph at Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville.
Much more intriguing is the history written by the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun who came to this tournament with a young, inexperienced and relatively average team. For many, the Lions have come to participate and build up experience and confidence for the next Afcon which takes place in Cameroun. And this also wasn’t a bad aspiration considering that only four players out of this current set up had ever experienced the intensity of this competition.
However, Coach Hugo Broos and his band of ’23 friends’ had other agendas. In his words “In the 29 years I’ve been a coach I’ve never worked with a group like this,” said the Belgian, who is hoping to lead the Indomitable Lions to a first Afcon title since 2002 and fifth overall.
“It’s a fantastic group of players both on and off the field and they deserve the final. We’ve shown from the start that we are getting better but it’s still a dream that we’ve got to the final.”
They started by cautiously navigating their group games and sprung into life by causing arguably the greatest upset in this Afcon by knocking out Senegal in the quarter finals.
When you feel that at least the Lions should be proud of their achievement and quietly go home to prepare for the next one, GBAM – they slaughtered another African great (Ghana) to arrive at the center stage that this final surely represents.
Like a Nollywood movie, the two most outstanding goalkeepers of the competition will face each other in a battle of strength, courage, confidence and experience. The outcome will likely determine the athlete to be crowned not only the champion but the best safe hands in Africa. Yes I know – a lot, indeed is at stake.
While one is 44 years old with 153 and has won the Afcon four times, the other is 21 years old with less than 40 caps and no winners’ medal country. It is as contrasting as it can be!
Yet; they will share the same platform tomorrow having both partook of the trend and data defying logic for potential winner of this year’s competition.
Neutrals and fans alike will relish the outcome whichever way it goes knowing that these two, by more than a yard, are not expected to be here at this moment and on this occasion!
History and Records
Tailing off, Egypt have only lost in one final out of the eight they have played. Then, they were known as the United Arab Republic. They lost against Ethiopia who were the hosts. They met and defeated Cameroun in the finals of Afcon1986 at home in a very emotional penalty shootout.
They also defeated the Indomitable Lions at this stage in Ghana by a lone goal in the 2008 edition. That victory marked the middle point of their three trophies won in a row.
Cameoun have played Egypt 26 times in all competitions. They won five, drew six and lost whooping fifteen. As it stands, the records are not in favour of the Indomitable Lions and if history is to be repeated, they will lose today’s final.
Just as I noted in my last post in the preview of the semifinals, something tells me that Fabrice Ondoa will be the happier person tomorrow. Meanwhile, it is football and anything can happen but I can’t wait to be tagged the new ‘A’ pundit!