The Last Scene in My Crystal Ball! Who Wins AFCON 2013?
Posted: Feb 10, 2013
This was the same question I asked when I started my series on Afcon 2013. That was some 11 whole weeks ago!
After some three weeks of incredible football drama now I know better. No one should tell me. My crystal ball has got the critical end of Afcon 2013 wrong. As we come to the end of the championship I humbly concede that I am not Paul the Octopus.
As I was correct in a lot of my earlier assumptions and subsequent predictions, so was I wrong in a few others, particularly as the championships draws to a close.
Permit me to ‘apologise’ to South Africans for raising their hopes and making them believe that playing with one of the weakest teams in the championship, the Bafana Bafana could still have overcome the odds, ridden on the back of unprecedented national passion and support, and bull-dozed their way to the finals. When the critical time came the elements settled on their eventual luckier conquerors - Mali. So, ended the South African dream along with the mystique of the oracle!
I also apologise to the surprise team of the championship, the Burkinabe Stallions, that have exceeded themselves, passed through the crucible of fire, defied ALL pre-tournament analysis, tradition and predictions, and created a new page in the history of Afcon. They are in the final match for the first time in their history and deserve it! The oracle had given them no chance in hell!
I had thought Ghana were the most complete team coming into the championship. But if Cape Verde stretched them to the limit, Burkina Faso humbled them by reducing to nothing what appeared to be a deliberate script (through the shameful antics of Tunisian referee Slim) to make Ghana get to the finals by all means, fair or foul!
The Stallions overcame very biased officiating, unawarded clear penalties, and an undeserved expulsion of their most influential player, to defeat the Black Stars.
Cote D’Ivoire, everyone’s pre-tournament favourites were good to watch and were on course to winning the championship… until they ran into a brick wall called the Super Eagles, a team that was wired to prove all sceptics wrong. They were completely outclassed and overwhelmed by the power, speed and strength of the Nigerian forwards, a well-organised midfield conducted by Mikel Obi and the typical fighting spirit and unpredictability for which Nigeria is well known and dreaded.
Playing on lush green turf for the first time in the tournament the Eagles have been soaring. Even I must now concede that there was no conviction in my earlier analysis indicating that Nigeria would win the championship even if I knew that they had the capability.
So, as we reach this weekend’s dramatic climax the last two teams standing are Burkina Faso and Nigeria. We are about to settle the million-Dollar question: Who wins Afcon 2013?
This is my final act in the ‘prediction-game’ this page ignited when I stuck out my neck, put it on the guillotine and dared to ‘dream’ that I heard the faint sounds of the vuvuzela at the end of the championship. On that score the oracle may not have been completely wrong. The vuvuzelas would still be out in their vociferous and noisy thousands. The only difference this time would be that they would not be celebrating their beloved Bafana Bafana but the beauty and the best of African football as has been showcased in the past three weeks!
The setting for the final match cannot be more dramatic. It will be played by the two teams that truly deserve being there at the very end, particularly after the nail-biting and nerve-wrecking first and quarter-final round of matches that threatened to make me eat humble pie with my predictions.
THE FINAL SCENE – BACK TO THE CRYSTAL BALL!
Even as I now know, rather humbly, that football does not subscribe to the whims of pundits and analysts of my ilk who stick out their necks to play the guessing game, I still return to my crystal ball to see where the pendulum of victory will swing this last time.
IT IS EVENING
I see the king of birds gliding and soaring beautifully and majestically high in the sky heading westwards and looking down at a moving object.
I look closer. The moving object is a beautiful stallion galloping along with speed, elegance and grace, also heading westwards!
I look ahead into the distance in the direction they are both headed.
I see a crown glittering under the spell of the yellow rays of the sun flooding the fields and setting fast.
THIS IS OBVIOUSLY A RACE FOR THE CROWN.
The fading evening dulls my vision.
The race is very close. Just as the sun drops off the horizon and darkness envelopes the land, I manage to catch the final scene as both Eagle and Stallion make for the crown. It is very close. Night descends suddenly like a thief and the scene disappears. I am gasping for breath, my crystal ball is staring back at me in anticipation of a comment on the last thing I must have seen.
Do not let me spoil the fun of millions of Africans waiting now for the drama of the final match by revealing the last secret of the crystal ball.
The consolation for now is that whoever wins, be assured that the trophy is heading West!
BUT THESE STALLIONS LOOK DIFFERENT!
At Afcon 2013 they have fired the imagination of all Africans. History could be in the making if Burkina Faso could now do away from home what the country could not do at home in 2002 when it hosted the championship. With the manner the team has played and particularly their dramatic performance in their last match against Ghana to get to the final, everyone has woken up to the real possibility of this team winning. The Eagles can depend on history and under-rate them at their own peril.
If the present setting were to be a movie it could not have been better scripted for suspense, excitement and drama. In Aristide Bance, the Burkinabe have a one-man fighting machine, a big, bold, clumsy but deadly forward whose performance on the night could give Burkina Faso the slimmest chance of taking away Africa’s most coveted football trophy.
But the Super Eagles have grown through the rounds of these championships and now look like genuine champions. They are now within touching distance of the trophy just as I predicted all along. The team has played, in their last two games, some of the best and most entertaining attacking football in the championship. They have now settled down to playing like potential kings, reminding everyone why football is described as ‘the beautiful game’.
SO, WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF THE TWO FINALISTS?
Both teams met at the start of the championship and, with the ‘help’ of a very bad pitch, shared the honours with a draw. That result was the best the Stallions have ever achieved playing against Nigeria at all levels in the history of African football.
By the way, I made my African Nations Cup debut playing against Burkina Faso (known then as Upper Volta) in Accra, Ghana, in 1978.
The Eagles won by 4 goals to 2 and I scored two of Nigeria’s goals.
Since then both countries have only met once again in the 2002 Afcon and Nigeria prevailed again.
This has given most Nigerians the confidence that Burkina Faso are not about to re-write the established tradition of always losing against the Eagles. That’s why the Super Eagles may have the slight psychological edge at this final hurdle.
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