AFCON 2017 is finally over. After a month of games, the champions of Africa have been determined. The surprise team of the tournament, Burkina Faso, bowed out in t4the semifinals but was able to outlast Ghana in the third place game, winning 1-0. The finals saw a rematch of the 2008 final, with Cameroon defying the odds to beat Egypt after losing nine years ago.
Ghana, featuring a number of UK and US based players, was one of the favorites going into the tournament. West Ham United’s André Ayew was one of the better players, scoring a few goals for the Black Stars from the spot. The team was able to cruise through the group stage without a loss, and overcame DR Congo, who featured the group stage’s best striker in Junior Kabananga, in the quarterfinals. Cameroon, however, proved to be too much for Ghana, winning 2-0.
In the third place game Ghana’s Jordan Ayew, who went from Aston Villa to Swansea City during the January transfer window while away at AFCON, came close in the 31st minute for Ghana, but was denied by the Burkina Faso keeper, Kouakou Herve Koffi, and also came close in the 49th minute, but was unable to break through before coming off for Newcastle’s Christian Atsu in the 75th minute. Ghana went for extra fire-power in the last second half, bringing on former Sunderland striker and Ghanaian captain Asamoah Gyan in the 65th minute and André Ayew in the 70th minute, but were unable to get a goal before Burkina Faso scored a very late goal in the 89th minute from an Alain Traoré free kick. It was a disappointing ending for Ghana and their coach Avram Grant. Of course, fans of both West Ham and Chelsea could have told fans of Ghana all about disappointment when Grant is involved with your favorite football team.
The finals featured two of the traditional powers of African football, with Cameroon winning their first AFCON since 2002 and their fifth title overall. The win came at the expense of the most successful AFCON team of all time, as Egypt has won the title seven times, and had beaten Cameroon twice in the finals before this final. Egypt struck first in the match, with Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny scoring in the 22nd minute after a beautiful move from AS Roma’s Mohamed Salah. Cameroon responded in the second half, with Lyon defender Nicolas N’Koulou heading a goal from a corner in the 59th minute. Cameroon put on more pressure as the game went on and they were finally rewarded in the 88th minute when Bestikas striker Vincent Aboubakar slammed a shot into the bottom right corner to win the match for Cameroon.
So another edition of the Africa Cup of Nations is over and a new champion has been crowned. BTH’s pick of Algeria didn’t make it out of the group stage, and neither did host Gabon, two surprises in the wild, wacky, wonderful world of AFCON. Cameroon, who had finished the group state with five points and its only win over minnows Guinea-Bissau, somehow managed to beat Senegal in a penalty shoot-out after extra time in the quarterfinals, outlasted Ghana in the semi-finals and finally came from behind against Egypt to win the title, even after a number of high profile players, such as Liverpool’s Joel Matip, had refused call-ups and went into the tournament in disarray. Rather than crumble, however, the team gelled at exactly the right time and won it all.