Will the men be separated from the boys as AFCON's first set of games are over?
Football pundits are swallowing their words as high definition football is being displayed by the so-called underdogs.
“One thing is clear; matches played at this tournament so far have proven the pundits wrong. You stick your neck out and you are caught on the wrong foot,” Ghanaian sports journalist Kofi Agyepong said in a Goal.com news article.
The pre-tournament underdogs of Malawi, Zambia, Gabon and Mozambique have sent many eating dozens of humble pies.
Minnow Malawi made an impressive outing against World Cup-bound Algeria, sending the Fennecs wailing with a 3-0 deadly blow. The Algerians were totally stunned and may live to rue the defeat if they don't collect the necessary points to progress to the knockout stages.
If hosts Angola fail to make it to the quarter-finals, they will forever engrave perennial underachievers Mali in their bad books. The Palancas Negras had every golden opportunity in this world to go home smiling with Colgate teeth but left their nest open wide for the Eagles to fly in and out.
They paid dearly for their mistakes and allowed the visitors to level the scores in a dramatic 4-4 draw in the opening fixture.
Apart from the Ivory Coast – Burkina Faso no-show, every group produced a goal. In all, 22 goals have been scored in the opening games, which is four goals short of the opening matches in the 2008 tournament.
Surprisingly, the famous stars in African football have so far refused to shine in this tournament, with the exception of only a few. They are getting a run for their money, and if the trend of the opening group matches remains the same, a new star will rise at Angola 2010. Mali’s Seydou Keita and Angola’s Flavio have stood out though.
Two-time AFCON top goal poacher, Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon, and inspirational Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba have not hit the net yet. It would not be fair to judge Eto’o on a single game, but he has failed to match his impressive 2008 record, when he scored the Indomitable Lions’ two goals in their opening Group C match against Egypt.
Already tempers are boiling in Group C as failed World Cup qualifiers Egypt plucked the feathers of the Super Eagles of Nigeria, 3-1.
With the exception of Ghana, who remain the only unknown quantity in the competition as they open up against Ivory Coast on Friday, none of the World Cup charges have won their games.
This is a major source of worry for the continent. We cannot parade countries that easily crumble in the hands of tagged minnows such as Malawi and Gabon. Those two sides do not come any where near second class European teams, and it would be a total disaster if Africa were to take an early shower whilst the rest of the world plays in its backyard.
Besides the shooting tragedy on the Togo team bus which forced them to withdraw from the tournament, Africans and the world at large have witnessed some top class football. If the result pattern remains the same then it would be difficult for any of the pre-tournament favourites to be in the finals.
Then people like Clyde Tlou would be millionaires after the competition, as Goal.com’s South African correspondent once said: “If only AFCON was the stock exchange I would be rich by now, as my money is on Malawi and Mali.”
The second round of fixtures starts today and it is high time to separate the men from the boys.
K.N.S. Mensah, Goal.com