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Monday, February 9, 2015

Ivory Coast’s ‘Golden Generation’ Deliver at Last

Ivory Coast are the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations Champions after they edged out West African rivals Ghana 9-8 on penalties in the final played at Estadio de Bata in Equatorial Guinea.

The Elephants and the Black Stars, seeking for their first title in 23 and 33 years respectively, played for 120-odd minutes with neither able to find the back of the net. Four-time champions, Ghana, came the closest to scoring in normal time but Christian Atsu and Andre Ayew saw their first-half efforts hit the woodwork.

Besides that, there was virtually nothing to separate the two teams who both started the tournament at a snail’s pace before upping the ante one game after another. Having bullied their way into the final in Bata – Ghana thumping hosts Equatorial Guinea 3-0 and Ivory Coast beating Africa’s best team Algeria 3-1 in the semis – the two met in the final in what was a repeat of the 1992 clash held in neighbouring Senegal.

Ivory Coast, participating in their 4th Cup of Nations final to Ghana’s 9th, had seen their previous three finals end in a barren stalemate. It was hence a case of same script, different casts when the game ended 0-0 in both normal and extra time meaning the winners of the 30th edition of AFCON would be decided on penalties, the fifth time in the last 9 occasions that would happen.

Avram Grant’s Ghana looked in control when Wilfried Bony and Tallo Gadji missed Cote d’Ivoire’s first two while Wakaso and Ayew successfully converted. However, the script changed with Afriyie Acquah and Frank Acheampong missing the Black Stars next two, while Serge Aurier and Seydou Doumbia drew Herve Renard’s side level. The next six takers all found the back of the net leaving the goalkeepers Brimah Razak and Boubacar Barry to decide another round of spot-kicks would be taken.

Ghana’s Razak stepped up first but saw his penalty kick expertly saved by Barry at full stretch. The cramp-hit Lokeren keeper made no mistake with his own planting it home and sparking wild celebrations from the Cote d’Ivoire camp.

Much had been said of the Ivory Coast ‘golden generation’ who have flattered to deceive in spite of having a barrage of world-class talent at their disposal. The likes of Yaya Toure and his brother Kolo Toure have won pretty much everything within their grasp at club level but it’s that national title that has been elusive.

That they have ended The Elephants’ long wait will endear their names in the folklores of the national team’s history. Coach Herve Renard will also remain a household name in African football after he picked his second Africa Cup of Nations title in three years and in doing so, becoming the first man to win it with two different countries. His signature will be sought after for sure.

For Ghana, it’s back to the drawing board and perhaps a bit of consultation with their football gods who could provide them with an explanation as to why they have lifted the Africa Nations Cup title only twice in their last seven final appearances.

Congratulations The Elephants!!

Meanwhile Ghana swept all the individual awards with Chelsea's on-loan Everton winger Christian Atsu bagging the player of the tournament and goal of the tournament awards. Andre Ayew's three goals and two assists gave him the golden boot award while the Fair Player of the Tournament award was given to Kwesi Appiah. Second runners-up, DR Congo was named the fair play team of the tournament.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!