FEATURE ARTICLE

Sunday, February 11, 2024
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St. Ann's, Port of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies
IVORY COAST - THE TRUE AFCON CHAMPIONS

Ivory Coast 2 - Nigeria 1

The better team won on the day won the final match.

Congratulations to Ivory Coast - the TRUE AFCON champions.

A Real Fairy-Tale Tournament

vory Coast qualified automatically as hosts and then qualified for the knock out stage as one of the four top "losers" from the group stage after a 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea.

They fired their European coach (Jean-Louis Gasset) immediately after that loss and continued the tournament with their African assistant coach (Emerse Fae) as head coach.

They literally scrapped through the group as the court best third place team. They then knocked out greats like Senegal (defending Champions), Mali and DR Congo.

They totally dominated this final game against Nigeria and truly deserved to win. They literally made the final game a one sided affair even though a significant group of the so called experts and pundits favoured Nigeria to win. They were clearly tactically superior and played a more focused game irrespective of going down 1-0 in the first half. The match stats clearly showed the dominance of Ivory Coast in this final match.

Possession - 62.3% to 37.7%

Shots at Goal - 18 to 5

Shots on Target - 8 to 1

Congratulations to them.

False Prophecies

Shame on all the so called prophets who prophesied that Nigeria would win this cup especially the one that said Nigeria would win 2-1. I hope these will eventually learn that their ministry is primarily to the church and not primarily to the world.

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" - Eph. 4:11-14.

I have never been been a fan of people giving prophecies in the name of the Lord on issues like football matches because they primarily have no bearing on the Church's prophetic mandate.

Football Lesson's Learned

A lesson for our Maurinho-like Portuguese Coach (Jose Peseiro) who chose to defend a 1-0 lead from the first half against a host team. This was definitely tactically wrong especially when the team lacked top tier midfielders.

We also defended with clearly poor defensive lines, and the midfield was almost non-existent. The Ivorians had too much space to roam and even take a good amount of long range shots because of the spaces they had.

We would have benefitted from the type of high press practices by teams like Man. City. We seemed to literally sit back and wait for the Ivorians which gave them more confidence to CME at us and cause us a lot of trouble.

Ivory Coast's equalizing goal was a simple tactical goal-keeping error based on indecisiveness. This is a common error made by the best of goal-keepers who step out of their lines and immediately try to return when facing a set-piece (eg a corner kick in this instance). A major goal-keeping rule is "once you decide to step out then stay out to complete the play" because once you change your mind in transition you are most unlikely to save the ball once it's on target. This should not take away from the brilliance of our goal-keeper Stanley Nwabali throughout this tournament. The only reason I believe he did not win the golden glove is because Ronwen Williams saved four penalties against Cape Verde in the quarter finals and then another two against DR Congo in the third place match. In open play I personally believe that Stanley Nwabali was the best goal-keeper in the tournament.

The second goal demonstrated the poor defensive line with William Troost-Ekong (the central defender) on the outside of the striker when the attack was from the opposite side of him (Ivory Coast's left side). Most of the Ivorian attacks were from their left (Nigeria's right) and all through the second the defensive line was generally to well set to contain those attacks. This does not take away the all-round performance of William Troost-Ekong who very deservingly won the tournament's top defender award.

This game was primarily lost tactically but we cannot take away anything from Ivory Coast who truly had a fairy tale like tournament. They deserved the win because they played like they wanted it more than we did.

It is interesting to note that the man who scored the winning goal at both the semi-final match against DR Congo and the final against Nigeria (Sebastian Haller) was diagnosed with testicular cancer in July 2022. What are the odds that the man who was treated for testicular cancer had the "testicular fortitude" to put himself in position to score the two most vital goals for Ivory Coast.

We must however also appreciate our guys who did all they knew to do to win. The final was clearly not theirs. The coaching approach failed them as they were too tentative and less decisive. They seemed to wake up after they went down 2-1 but at that time it was very difficult to swing the momentum in their favour.

Coming second is not a disgrace and I believe if we keep this core of players together with some minor adjustments especially with the coaching philosophy and strengthening the midfield which is almost non-existent, we can possibly win the next tournament.