It was a disappointing Africa Cup of Nations that ended with great drama, as Ghana tasted defeat at the end of a penalty shootout, with the Ivory Coast finally claiming the continental title after a very long wait. It wasn’t that surprising considering Avram Grant was managing the losing side.
And it happened again to Avram Grant. It seems that outside of Israel, where he has led teams to four league titles, there is something holding him back from winning the big prize. Ghana held a 2-0 lead after the first two penalties by each side and somehow let it slip away from them. Their goalkeeper, Brimah Razak, never came close to any of the penalty kicks. The goalkeeper on the other side, Boubacar Barry, had his little moment of redemption.
Not that he made any impressive saves either, at least not until the final kick by Razak. But a year after losing the starting spot for the national team, he comes out of nowhere to finally produce the performance which brought the most talented team in Africa for the last 10 years a title. Barry has always been blamed for being the one thing that kept the ‘Golden Generation’ from greater success. At 35, he finally put those “accusations” behind him.
This was probably the first time the Ivory Coast weren’t overwhelming favorites to win the tournament. It was always set up for them to face Ghana in the final, especially with the likes of Nigeria and Egypt not qualifying. The final itself was a disappointment. The Ivorian side looked clumsy, confused and mistake prone on every touch. Ghana simply seemed to scared to win, which isn’t surprising considering their manager has never been the most adventurous of managers, even with his record with penalty kicks.
This tournament raised questions about the tournament in Africa. Why every two years? Why not four years? Why is a country as corrupt as Equatorial Guinea hosting this tournament? Maybe it’d be better a two-legged knockout competition because of the empty stands in stadiums? Those questions are better answered after some thinking, if there will be any. The short term reaction is simply enjoying the celebration of the Ivorian players, or feeling sorry for Ghana, who have an expert in consoling players managing the team.