Thursday, February 17, 2011

African Nations Championship--While we were sleeping

So I had a dream last night about using a flashlight to see inside eggs, and spilled soup and my father yelling at me to come watch Wayne Rooney.

I woke up confused, and while piecing things together remembered: "Isn't there a Football Tournament on now?" Answer: Yes...yes there is...not that anyone would notice.

The ANC or African Nations Championship should not to be confused with the ACN or African Cup of Nations nor the other ANC (Nelson Mandela's African National Congress political Party) nor of course CAN (which is an emphatic way of spelling a small storage cylinder, usually made out of tin and valuable for those who like soup).

No, the African Nations Championship is a special tournament designed to highlight the best of African football, by focusing on those players who play in their local African leagues. So there's no Didier Drogba, no Samuel Eto'o and no Michael "The Bison" Essien (our honorary Ghanaian/Montanan). There are however 16 teams vying for the trophy...only...not any more.

It seems that while I was working on my thesis and having dreams about eggs, soup and Wayne Rooney, the tournament has already reached the knock-out stages (sidebar: I'm not a great news man am I?) But! World Football is always intriguing and the fact that this tournament comes fast on the heels of the Asian Cup and massive unrest in North Africa and is being held in Sudan means that things could be interesting both in terms of football and politically.

Let's take a look at the final 8. (The Quarter Finals kick off tomorrow!) The first matches will see South Africa against Algeria in a battle of two sides with some World Cup experience. Of course, Algeria has a number of players overseas while BafanaBafana is home to what many consider the best African league. Their group results bear that out with BafanaBafana easily topping a group that included a (weakened) Ghana (*tear*) while Algeria barely snuck in after managing draws against Gabon and Sudan. Speaking of the Nile Crocodiles, Sudan will be pitted against Niger [pronounced Nee-jhair for those of you worried about sounding like racists]. The hosts are in for a battle, as Niger boasts a solid midfield of local players, and cruised to second winning two and losing only to South Africa. Meanwhile, I have to base my entire analyses of Sudanese football off of one recent BBC (even Wikipedia is lacking!), but complaints of favoritism to Northern players (as well as the fact that not a single game has been played in the soon-to-be-free Southern sector) mean that uniting the country is probably not gonna happen. (And c'mon, Darfur can't be solved with a single great goal.)

On Saturday, Tunisia tussles The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Fresh off their revolution the Eagles of Carthage boast a wealth of homegrown talent (especially in a cohesive midfield) and topped their group with relative ease, while the defending champions from the most ironically named country in the world got in thanks to a 2-1 win over Cote D'Ivoire (just nudging them ahead of the Elephants). The last match sees Cameroon against Angola. On paper Angola's Black Antelopes should have the more well trained, unified side (rebuilding nicely after their first golden generation led them to the 2006 World Cup)--but they needed two goals to comeback against Rwanda and slip in to the out rounds. Meanwhile the Indomitable Lions (great nickname, ps) should have been easy pickings. None of the national first team plays in Cameroon, that national first team was absolutely shellacked in the World Cup (even with African footballer of the year Samuel Eto'o). Yet they cruised through their group winning each match and allowing nothing.

Based on first round performances it would be hard to bet against Cameroon and South Africa in the final...but if ever there was a team of destiny label to win, it would belong to Tunisia as the right team at the right moment in history. I'll keep trying to find video of this whole shindig, and share it with you if I ever can.