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Three weeks of pulsating action, goals and tears have come and gone with the Super Eagles deservedly winning the title. We look at the major events that shaped the tournament

ANALYSIS
By Babajide Alaka | Deputy Editor

Three weeks of goals, drama and refereeing errors and the end of a grand closing ceremony, Nigeria’s Super Eagles were deserved winners even though they were rank outsiders when the tournament kicked off on January 19.

Goal.com looks at five things that were learnt during the three-week football fiesta.

SUPER EAGLES ARE DESERVED CHAMPIONS

Though they started slowly against Burkina Faso on January 21, the Super Eagles ended as champions deservedly. They played the best football in the tournament against Cote d’Ivoire in the quarter finals and in the 4-1 demolition of Mali in the semi-finals.

They were not as expansive in the final match but what mattered most was to win again after a 19-year drought and what a dramatic conclusion to the tournament with one of the best matches of the three-week competition.

The Eagles scored 11 goals enroute to winning the trophy for the third time in their 16th visit to the Nations Cup. So they have now won it in West Africa – Nigeria in 1980; North Africa – Tunisia in 1994; and now in southern Africa.

What remains for continental domination is for the team to win in East Africa.

GHANA ARE NOW THE NEW UNDERACHIEVERS

When Ghana beat Egypt 4-2 in a friendly match in the days leading up to the tournament, they became most pundits’ pick to win the 2013 Afcon. Alas, they fell again at the semi-final hurdle to Burkina Faso.

That makes it the third semi-final in the last three Afcon tournaments which is scary for this generation of players. Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, the Ayew brothers, John Paintsil, Asamoah Gyan and Kwadwo Asamoah will be looking to destroy the tag of underachievement when the next tournament kicks off in Morocco in 2015.

What went wrong this time around could be tagged over-confidence on the part of the players and a niggling tactical deficiency in the way they set up and attacked. A team of this kind of talent should be putting teams to the sword but they are set up primarily to counter attack, they may need to change this mind-set to win something soon.
THERE ARE STILL QUALITY PLAYERS PLAYING IN AFRICA

Sunday Mba was unknown to many even in Nigeria where he plays for Enugu Rangers. But three weeks after, he is the toast of at least 170 million people.

A locally based player will not necessarily enter the Super Eagles team but he made it into the squad and scored two great goals which won tough matches – that is the stuff of greatness.

The additional thing is that he replaced a Europe-based player in the starting line-up after the first game and never looked back. A pointer to the fact that national team coaches must comb their various leagues to unearth gems like this who can make a difference for their national teams.

The Nigeria Premier League got the best advertisement possible with the performances he put up in South Africa. If it were a European player that scored those wonder goals against Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, he will be feted by all the big clubs.

But the negative is that instead of being an attraction in the Nigeria Premier League, he will most likely not come back to play in the local league as the European club vultures circle overhead.

THE ERA OF MINNOWS IN AFRICA IS OVER

Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Niger and Burkina Faso were supposed to make up the numbers in South Africa but it turned out differently.

Cape Verde shocked everyone with their progression into the second round where one must admit they outplayed Ghana for large periods and were unlucky to have lost. Ghana’s goalkeeper, Fatawu Dauda had an inspired night to keep out the Islanders.

Their game was progressive and they frightened Ghana. Now that the 2014 World Cup qualifiers is starting in March, you can be sure that no one will be underestimating the Cape Verdians.

Ethiopia literally stopped Zambia from qualifying from Group C by that 1-1 draw they achieved with 10 men. Their naivety showed against Burkina Faso but they were well organised against Nigeria and it needed two penalties for the Super Eagles to get through.

Burkina Faso showed that with good tactical and technical organisation, a team made up of average players and two exceptional individuals could go far in a tournament and almost win it.

At the moment, we cannot categorically say that any country in Africa is guaranteed a place in Rio in 2014. African football is back on the positive growing curve and long may that be.

SOUTH AFRICA WERE GOOD AND WORTHY HOSTS

As it was during the last Fifa World Cup, South Africa put on a good show despite the poor nature of the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit. The organisation was tip-top and the people that made this happen should be nationally commended by President Jacob Zuma.

The people of Johannesburg, Nelspruit, Rustenburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth were very warm with visitors and the Bafana Bafana almost responded to this enthusiasm by getting out of a tough group but were desperately unlucky to lose their quarter final match against Mali in the lottery of spot kicks.

The closing ceremony also did the hosts proud and Africa was beamed to the world, not with images of starvation, war or pestilence, but by the African beat. Well done Mzansi!

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