THE 6 HIGHLIGHTS AND 6 LOWLIGHTS OF THE 2015 AFCON


Now that the final whistle has been blown and the last few balls have been kicked, AFKSports recaps six highlights and six lowlights of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). Re-live peaks and valleys of the tournament held in Equatorial Guinea with this slideshow.

HIGHLIGHTS: Kidiaba’s Last Dance
After only ninety minutes were played in the consolation final contested by DR Congo and Equatorial Guinea, a penalty shoot-out was required to separate the two sides. Thirty-nine-year-old Robert Kidiaba was playing the final moments of his celebrated career. Kidiaba performs a famous tic known as the ‘bum-bounce’ after his team score a goal. But after he kept out three Equatoguinean penalties, Kidiaba sat on his buttocks and hopped around  for one last time while mobbed by loving team-mates.
HIGHLIGHTS: Gervinho’s Redemption
During the 2012 AFCON final, between Zambia and Cote D’Ivoire, Gervinho did not volunteer to take a penalty kick. He was nonetheless forced when the two teams were level after five spot-kicks. Unsure of himself, the player, then at Arsenal, stepped up and blasted over, damning his team to another ‘almost’ AFCON campaign. On Sunday night, Renard refused to place Gervinho in the same situation, substituting before extra-time ran out. Gervinho was too nervous to watch the penalty shoot-out, preferring to face the supporters and watch real-time reactions instead. When Copa Barry scored the winning penalty, a weight evidently lifted off Gervinho’s shoulders. He could finally forget the nightmare of 2012.
HIGHLIGHTS: Guinea and Mali Players Play Cards While Waiting On Respective Fates
After three Group D matches, Mali and Guinea found themselves at an air-tight stalemate. Both sides had amassed three points, three goals for, and three goals against. According to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) by-laws, a drawing of the lots would determine which nation would qualify for the quarter-finals. The procedure took place at the Hotel de Malabo where both delegations and sets of players waited. In the run-up to the draw a remarkable image emerged of Malian and Guinean players casually playing a game of cards. The photo is indicative of the fraternity that pervades in this most unique of tournaments.
HIGHLIGHTS: Renard Consoles Ayew
After the final penalty kicks were dispatched and most Ivorian players were off celebrating with the sizeable travelling contingent of supporters that made the journey down from West Africa, cameras panned on Andre Ayew. The Ghanaian captain was hunched over, unable to stand upright and tears were streaming down his face. It was a beautiful, but pitiful sight. Sensible to the pain of defeat, Renard immediately ran over and tried consoling Ayew, albeit to no avail. It was one of the more touching scenes of the tournament, and an example of good sportsmanship.
HIGHLIGHTS: Equatorial Guinea Shock The Footballing World
In an international footballing climate where stratification between ‘smaller’ and ‘larger’ footballing nations seems to grow incrementally, Equatorial Guinea defied the odds, making it to the semi-finals of just their second-ever tournament. Nzalang Nacional only qualified for both editions as hosts, but the football on display from the central African nation may lead pundits to believe that Javier Balboa and co will have much to offer for the 2017 AFCON qualifiers.
HIGHLIGHTS: Florent Ibenge Gallantly Represents Local Coaches
Florent Ibenge continued to turn heads after an impressive stint as coach of AS Vita Club. With his national side, Ibenge guided the Leopards out of a group of death, and helped them qualify for the 2015 AFCON. In Equatorial Guinea, Ibenge masterfully managed his side, deploying Chancel Mbemba as a defensive midfielder and recalling Dieumerci Mbokani who finished the tournament with three goals. FECOFA president Constant Omari has now placed his full trust in Ibenge, stating, ‘We have talented coaches in Africa. It is time we give them an opportunity.’
LOWLIGHTS: Equatoguinean Crowd Becomes Violent
After trailing three-nil to Ghana in the AFCON semi-finals, a portion of Nzalang Nacional fans began pelting the travelling Ghana support with a variety of missiles. Broken dishes, concrete slabs, and partially full water bottles were flung into the away stand. When Black Stars fans could no longer endure the abuse, they broke out of their stand and stood behind the pitch, waiting for security to escort them away.
LOWLIGHTS: Tunisian Disappointment Goes Overboard
Following a disappointing two-one loss, which included its fair share of questionable officiating decisions, an infuriated troupe of Tunisian players chased after official Rajindraparsad Seechurn. Security intervened just before any serious confrontation could form. After the match, Tunisian Football Federation President Waddi Jaari accused CAF of corruption and conspiracy. His unfounded claims may have serious repercussions if he does not retract his statement.
LOWLIGHTS: Sipo Suspended For Spitting
When cameras panned away, Equatorial Guinea midfielder Armando ‘Sipo’ Sipoto spat in Wahbi Khazri’s face. Khazri dropped immediately drawing the referee’s attention, but none of the match officials saw the incident so Sipo got away with the act until it was reviewed by the disciplinary committee. It was an ugly act that has no place on a football pitch.
LOWLIGHTS: Gervinho Sent Off For Punching Ibrahima Conte
Though he finished the tournament celebrating in his team-mates’ arms, Gervinho and Cote D’Ivoire could have faced a very different fate when the AS Roma man punched Ibrahima Conte in the first match of Group D. The two players accosted and insulted one another before Gervinho lifted his arm and threw a punch. Contact was minimal but it was enough to send the Ivorian off and his indiscipline could have brought about extremely serious consequences.
LOWLIGHTS: Rajindraparsad Seechurn
Mauritian referee Raijansaprad Seechurn is already infamous in North Africa for his dodgy officiating. When Morocco played Algeria in Annaba back in 2011, he seemed to favour the home side, forgiving some of their more mischievous tackles and whistling the slightest Moroccan misdemeanour. A couple of weeks ago it was Tunisia that found fault with his judgement when Seechurn gifted hosts Equatorial Guinea a penalty in injury time. It was a poor call and CAF suspended the referee for the remainder of the tournament and an additional six months.
LOWLIGHTS: Naby Yattara Almost Ends Asamoah Gyan’s Tournament
In the fading embers of Ghana’s match against Guinea, Asamoah Gyan latched on to an Andre Ayew through chip-pass and raced in on goal. Guinea goalkeeper Naby Yattara intrepidly met him at the edge of the penalty box, with his studs aimed at Gyan’s lower midriff. The Guinean goalkeeper was sent off for his rash challenge and Gyan was ruled out of the semi-finals due to injury.

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