Friday, February 1, 2013

North Arab Africa failed at the AFOCN 2013, why?

Ghana and Cameroon won the Afcon four times each, Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo twice, while the Egyptians had it seven times, including that incredible popular hat-trick.

Other champions since 1957 are Tunisia, Congo, Zambia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Sudan, Algeria and Ivory Coast.

Let us remember the losing finalists as well for a change. Ghana and Nigeria lead the pack by having been there four times each, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Sudan, Cameroon and Tunisia lost the finals twice each.

Egypt lost the final once in 1962. They were third thrice. Nigeria were seven times number three while Ivory Coast and Zambia achieved that four and three times respectively.

Ten times did the north Arab Africa lift the trophy, making them the most successful region in Africa. This is a total of the Egyptians (7), Moroccans (1), Algerians (1) and Tunisians (1) champion titles.

Cameroon (4), DRC (2) and Congo (1) representing Central Africa won it seven times. This equalled the West African titles of Ghana (4), Nigeria (2), Ivory Coast (1). Sudan and Ethiopia got two titles for East Africa as did South Africa and Zambia for the Southern African region.

At the quarter-final stage of the 2013 Afcon in South Africa, there are seven West African countries and the hosts, South Africa left. Besides, even at club level, the north Africans have won the continental title on 26 occasions since the inception of the African club championship.

It may not be a trend but what happened in this Afcon that led to the elimination of the game’s power houses? Let us look at the luck of the draw.

Algeria and Tunisia were grouped together and toiled hard to eliminate each other. Both could have qualified but they played bad football, especially Algeria. Morocco engaged the hosts and minnows Cape Verde as well as Angola. They were tipped to top the group.

Algeria were rated the second best team in Africa, passing the ball well and moving forward quickly in smooth transitions. There was not much to separate them from their French speaking neighbours.

A world-class last minute strike robbed them of victory as they did not have time to respond. Actually, they did not need to have been in that situation. At worst Algeria could have done was to have a lead they failed to protect. They were supposed to hit the net and more than once. As all other northerners, their downfall was what is usually their strength – the excessive speed.

All Arabic countries played too many players ahead of the ball. This comes basically from the passion of the things they do rather than the speed of thought. The eagerness and anticipation never materialised as the opposing teams closed the men on the ball too quickly.

This made it impossible to deliver the early balls from crossing positions and denied the five passes following the winning of possession. The seven seconds counter-attacking window elapsed quickly for them.

If ever there was delivery of the ball, it was a shade too late. In few instances where the delivery was on time and at the right areas, the haste to deal with the ball let them down. More often than not, they were always caught napping by counter-counter-attacks of the opposition.

In their bid to get on their bikes to attack very fast and in large numbers, their rear was exposed tremendously. These were obvious in the matches involving Algeria versus Togo, Tunisia versus Togo as well as Morocco versus South Africa.

Usually, teams would keep enough resources at the back to deal with speedy players and systematic counter-attacks. By hook or crook, and maybe fluke too, the 2013 Afcon teams were well prepared to deal with counter-attacking football.

One cannot really place a finger on whether the failure of Egypt to be at the tournament had anything to do with countering the counter-attack. By contracts, the Ethiopians patiently attacked their opposition despite their naivety in being too casual at the back and depending on being just too timid.

To have a productive processes in the pipeline, the Arabs were better off playing the Ethiopian way because they concentrate well and they are solid at the back. This would then allow them to play behind the ball, save for an attacker or two.

The pace of the attack can increase and yield results if they ran at opponents, exactly the way Tottenham Hotspurs’ Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon would tear defences down. They have the capacities to play that way, but they failed dismally in their endeavours.

With Africa, one never knows if change is here to stay. One day, the winds of change will flow south and then east. Morocco failed to register a win, Algeria could only find the net in their last match in which they relinquished the a healthy 2-0 lead to afford the Ivory Coast a 2-2 draw. Tunisia managed a 1-0 victory over Algeria, a 1-1 draw with Togo despite that 3-0 drubbing by Ivory Coast.