Team of Destiny

Zambia won the African Cup of Nations.  By all accounts, this is one of the best AfCoN tournaments in recent years in terms of quality, and it had an absolute fairy tale ending–even for cold-hearted cynics like myself.  Zambia’s new golden generation has done what even the previous one (the one tragically killed in the plane crash) did not–win the AfCoN.  It’s a beautiful story, and following on the heels of the heels of Japan’s victory at the Women’s World Cup last year, one can only assume that from now on only teams that have overcome tragedy will win international football tournaments.

Well played to Zambia.  I was rooting for them as was most everyone around the world.  From their very first match against Senegal they proved they were something to behold and they never let up.  Their victory was well-deserved, and they did it with a team that had almost no European-based players.  Hopefully they will be able to maintain this success and get to the next World Cup in Brazil, but AfCoN success is not guarantee of qualification.  Look at Egypt.

From the beginning the pundits were saying this would be a Ghana/Ivory Coast final.  Given the way both teams played throughout the tournament, I suspected at least one would not make it.  Ghana, who played the worse of the two throughout, turned out to be the goat.

Spare a thought for Ivory Coast though.  So much has been expected from this team, and each time they have come up short.  They didn’t lose the match against Zambia, they were edged out in penalty kicks (after squandering a chance to win).  This is the second time that this happened to Ivory Coast (Egypt beat them out in penalty kicks in 2006).  They have one more chance next year in South Africa when AfCoN (mercifully) moves to odd-numbered years, but really this was it.  The Ivorian Golden Generation will probably fade into history trophy-less.  One of the greatest also-rans of African history.

Let me also promote Jonathan Wilson’s coverage of the tournament which has been excellent.

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