Revisiting My Cup of Nations Preditions: Hits, Misses & Maybes

Goal Nigeria's UK Correspondent Ed Dove revisits the Afcon predictions he made before the Cup - read on to discover the Hits, Misses, and Maybes
Ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations, I went out on a limb and published my key predictions for the tournament. Predicting football is a fool’s game, and my ill-fated attempt was no different. As the Afcon unfurled I saw many of my forecasts crumble down around me, whilst the odd few emerged as reality. Read on to discover the hits and misses of my Cup of Nations picks.

Player of the Tournament
 Kwadwo Asamoah - MISS

Apart from a goal against Congo, and a sterling performance in Ghana’s demolition of Niger, Asamoah failed to blossom. Initially played on the left, and away from the action, the Juventus man struggled to influence play as he is capable of doing at international level. In the knock out stages, he failed to demonstrate the guile and creative invention to unlock stubborn defences, and he was one of the great disappointments in the Black Stars’ underwhelming Nations Cup.

 Honourable Mention: Rainford Kalaba - MAYBE

Zambia’s early elimination meant that Kalaba did not truly have the opportunity to shine as I had hoped he might. Still, in the games he was involved in, he demonstrated the assured touch and accomplished vision that I had championed. A cut above when it comes to technique.
Breakout Star
 Christian Atsu/Victor Moses - MISS/HIT

A goal against Niger, and a few bright flashes were not enough to mask a disappointing campaign, particularly when I had hoped we would be talking about him now in the same breath as Moses.

About the pair, I wrote: “Both offer direct running and lightning pace, and are more than capable of troubling defences. This could be the occasion for the pair to confirm their place among the continent’s most eminent stars.” I think you’ll agree with me that while one failed, the other most definitely succeeded!

 Honourable Mentions: Stoppila Sunzu/Nathan Sinkala - MISS

Two more players to disappoint for Zambia, the defensive pair were unable to contain Ethiopia’s strikers in that crucial opening game.
Top Scorer
 Ike Uche - MISS

This one was a miss all over! I had envisaged Ike Uche as the team’s poacher, finishing off the creative work of Moses and Musa, the icing on the cake of a progressive unit. In the end, Uche was a peripheral figure to Stephen Keshi’s outfit, as the dynamic duo of Ideye Brown and Emmanuel Emenike married speed and strength to forge the Super Eagle’s path to glory. A muted cameo in the final was a disappointing return for the Villarreal frontman.
 Honourable Mention: Wilfried Bony/Dieumerci Mbokani/Cheick Diabate - MISS/HIT/MISS

Seduced by Bony’s magnificent scoring record at Vitesse, and by Diabate’s powerful forward play, I saw the pair as potential breakout strikers from this cup, the former perhaps leading the Elephants to glory, and the latter improving his already burgeoning reputation with Mali. One goal scored, one penalty in a shootout, four substitute appearances. That tells its own story.

Dieumerci Mbokani, however, impressed in Congo’s three group matches, demonstrating his complete forward play, his ability to trouble defences with his power and movement, and his composure under pressure.

Dark Horses
 Democratic Republic of Congo - MAYBE

Sadly, Mbokani’s team did not quite fulfil my heady expectations for them. I had hoped that readmission to the continental stage for one of Africa’s fallen giants, as well as the astute stewardship of Claude Le Roy, might have seen a fairytale return to the big time for the Leopards. History may suggest that it was the tricky group draw that saw Congo eliminated in the opening round, but in truth, it was their inability to beat Niger in their second game, a game characterised by a lack of urgency, that saw them lose their impetus.
 Zambia - HIT

Despite the talented personnel in their squad, I predicted that Zambia would struggle to replicate their historic, euphoric run to the title last time around. Indeed, they were one of the great disappointments of the competition, failing to advance from the group stage, and watching on as Burkina Faso and Nigeria progressed to glory at their expense.

 Honourable Mentions: South Africa/John Obi Mikel - MAYBE/MISS

The hosts came mighty close to fulfilling my predictions, and were, at one point, only five minutes away from a humiliating first round exit. Siyabonga Sangweni saved their blushes, equalising against Morocco to send the north Africans packing. I was correct about Cape Verde spoiling the opening party against Bafana, but in the end, both sides were eliminated at the quarter-final stage.

When it comes to my third predicted ‘disappointment’, it seems I was worlds away from accuracy. I had doubted whether Chelsea man and Super Eagles talisman John Obi Mikel would be able to step it up on the continental sphere. Instead, Mikel revelled under the pressure, and began to dominate and dictate games for the national side. Against the Ivory Coast he delivered a mammoth performance, silencing Yaya Toure and driving his side forward.

 Ghana - MISS

Fifty minutes into their first game against the DRC, I smirked boldly at my prediction and felt sure I was onto a winner – dominance, daring, and with a dash of class to boot, the Black Stars looked like the real deal. But then it all fell apart, first through Tresor Mputu, and then 15 minutes later through Mbokani. Ghana had thrown away a two-goal lead, and their aura had vanished.

I do not think they ever really got it back, they were lethargic against Mali, uninspired against Cape Verde, and outclassed at times by Burkina Faso in Nelspruit. For a second year in a row they were defeated in the third-place play-off, seemingly cementing their status as Africa’s 4th best nation!

Progression in this competition seemed to be in spite of the side’s lacklustre performances, and few players left the competition with increased reputations. Doubtless this young side will return to fight another day, and perhaps even approach a tournament with more relish and vigour, but at this point in time, Ghanaian football ought to take a long, hard look at itself.

And perhaps I should leave the predictions to someone else!