By Fredrick Nadulli,
Ivory Coast and Ghana,two of West Africa’s football powerhouses,renew their rivalry yet again in a final that has all the makings of a vintage history. Ghana play silky football, while the Ivorians prefer a more direct approach.Both sides parade a galaxy of stars that ply their trade in mainstream European leagues. It is a high calibre match by professionals on African soil.
HEAD TO HEAD
In the few times they have locked horns in Nations’ cup history,Ivory Coast have had the last laugh on almost every occasion. This nagging prospect will ring hollow in Ghanaian minds.
In 1992 in Senegal,the last time the Elephants won the cup, the Black Stars were their victims. That was the era of Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew for Ghana and Abdoulaye ‘Ben Badi’ Traore for Ivory Coast.Abedi missed the final through suspension and watched helplessly as his side wilted under the sweltering humidity of Dakar. In that game, twenty penalties were fired at goal, all went in except one for Ghana.
Two years later,at Tunisia 94,the two old rivals met again in the quarter finals on a chilly night in Sousse.This time Abedi Pele was available and Tony Yeboah was flown in by private jet from a league match in Germany the night before.The Ivorians prevailed once more through goals by Joel Tiehi and Abdoulaye Traore.Charles Akunnor got Ghana’s consolation.
Twenty one years on in Equatorial Guinea,the rivalry is renewed,and although Abedi Ayew has long exited the scene,his shadow looms large in the form of Andre and Jordan Ayew,his two illustrious sons who play club football in France for Marseille and Lorient respectively.
Is it redemption time for him and Ghana?
Will the Black Stars finally get even with their old nemesis and bring the cup to Accra?
Those questions shall be answered come Sunday night in Bata.
The Ivorians meanwhile seem to have found their rythm at the right time after a rather shaky start to the campaign. Their line up reads like the who’s who in Europe.Coach Herve Renard is spoilt for choice,so much so that pundits jokingly opine he can shut his eyes and easily pick out two strong teams from his squad. Besides itching to bring the trophy to Abidjan after twenty three years, the Frenchman is on a personal mission. He seeks to bag the coveted trophy for a second time,with a different nation, having led Zambia to glory in 2012 in Libreville.
All said and done, the 30th edition of Africa’s greatest showpiece has been one of high quality if not spectacular.The initial fear of the dreaded Ebola epidemic that led to the tournament coming to Equatorial Guinea after Morocco ignominiously forfeited that chance,was drowned in the Equatorial Africa humidity. The virus has ravaged parts of West Africa, especially Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
No cases have been reported from the tournament. Traditional African hospitality was witnessed and the spirit of fair play prevailed. Although despicable scenes were witnessed when the hosts were sent packing and Tunisia were chucked overboard, the action on the pitch was generally thrilling.
By stepping in as eleventh-hour hosts, Equatorial Guinea spared CAF’s blushes and in the event produced arguably the player of the tournament in midfielder Javier Balboa.
/ 1 year ago
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