Scheduled for 2021, the African Cup of Nations was postponed to 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and saw the Teranga Lions clinch the continental trophy for the first time
The 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations (CAN) was held in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6, 2022 and was marked by a series of events and several hiccups.
A few days after the closing of the continental football competition, what are the highlights, sporting and extra-sporting, which will remain in the memory of football fans, Africans and others?
• The Teranga Lions, finally masters of Africa
The inhabitants of Dakar and Saint-Louis and other Senegalese cities exploded with joy and jubilation and danced the farandole when Sadio Mané scored the fifth penalty in the fateful penalty shootout, thus sealing the victory of the Lions of Teranga against the unfortunate finalist, Egypt.
Senegal was thus crowned champion of Africa. Some would say finally. Indeed, after two finals lost in 2000 and 2019 against Cameroon and Algeria respectively, Alliou Cissé’s band managed to have the final word and win, thus rewarding the efforts of a generation. golden (Mané, Dienf, Geye, Mendy…) but also the talent of several previous generations.
With only two goals conceded and nine goals scored, Senegal was a fine champion who won flawless victories against Equatorial Guinea and Burkina Faso by the same score (3-1) in the quarters and semi-finals and by succeeding in overcoming an Egyptian team that was very catchy and well positioned tactically.
• Algeria: Disillusionment
Holder of the previous edition which took place on Egyptian soil in June and July 2019 and in possession of a series of invincibility of 34 games before the start of this CAN, the Algerian selection fell from … very high .
Indeed, the foals of the emblematic coach, Jamel Belmadi, left the tournament at the end of the group stage after suffering two defeats, including one against the Ivorian Elephants (1-3) and a second against Equatorial Guinea ( 114th in the world just before the competition.
With only one goal scored and four conceded, the Fennecs were the pale copy of the team which had a faultless two and a half years earlier and which managed to stay the course. After the salvo of virulent criticism launched by the media and the Algerian public opinion, the teammates of Riyad Mahrez must react quickly in March against Cameroon to try to qualify for the Qatari World Cup. Otherwise,
• Novices transformed into outsiders
Three selections participated for the first time in a CAN. These are Equatorial Guinea, Gambia and the Comoros Islands which have not been unworthy.
Admittedly, these teams did not manage to achieve the master stroke of the beginner but managed to have a most honorable course for a first participation.
The Comoros Islands and The Gambia left the tournament after being beaten with difficulty by the host country, Cameroon, which disposed by two goals to one of the Comorian Islanders, who although weakened (an outfield player ensured in the cage, the three goalkeepers tested positive for Covid-19) delivered a heroic performance.
It was in this match that Youssouf M, Changama, by reducing the score nine minutes from time to shake Indomitables until the end, scored an anthology goal by shooting from a distance of 35 meters a shot lodged in the net of the excellent goalkeeper Andre Onana.
The Gambian “Scorpions”, for their part, succeeded in the group phase to sting the experienced Tunisians and the Mauritanian Mourabitounes by the narrow score of 1-0 and to constrain the Malian Eagles to the parity score (1-1).
In the round of 16, the teammates of Barrow, member of the Italian club FC Bologna, outclassed the Guinean national Silly and found themselves in their first participation among the 8 best teams of the tournament, before they were eliminated by Cameroon (2-0), which is a breathtaking performance in itself.
• Gabaski and Aboubakar: two players who stand out
Beyond the eleven type chosen by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), an eleven dominated by the Senegalese, which is all in all logical, there are two players who have pulled out of the game by their performances out of the ordinary. They are the Cameroonian striker Vincent Aboubakar, the tournament’s top scorer, and the Egyptian goalkeeper, Mohamed Abou Gabal, known as “Gabaski”.
Author of eight goals in seven games, Vincent Aboubakar, current striker of the Saudi club Al-Nassr Riyadh and former member, among other Portuguese teams of FC Porto and Turkish Besiktas, was one of the best players of the tournament thanks to his goal and his physical power but did not manage to beat the record held since 1974 by the Zairean, Pierre Ndaye Mulamba, author of 9 goals, the highest number of achievements in a single match.
As for Abu Gabal, the goalkeeper of the Cairo club Zamalek, he surprised more than one with his parades and his deployments. At the height of his 32 years, Gabaski, who only started the championship against Ivory Coast in the round of 16 after the exit on injury of the first goalkeeper, Mohamed El Shenawy, was exceptional against the big cars which were set up on the way to Egypt.
Indeed, both against Morocco, Cameroon and Senegal, Gabaski was a solid bulwark against the onslaught of world-class attackers, particularly in the final against Sadio Mané’s teammates. Gabaski notably saved several penalties during the penalty shootout against Cameroon and Senegal, including one shot by Liverpool striker Sadio Mané during the game.
• Repeated non-sporting hiccups
Apart from the sporting issue, the 33rd edition of the CAN was marked by a series of hiccups, particularly at the start, which was a godsend to the critics of the organizing country and of Samuel Eto’o, president of the federation. Cameroonian football player who had engaged in a standoff to maintain the organization of the competition on the scheduled date; a postponement or a relocation were more than conceivable a few weeks before the launch.
It is in this context that we witnessed an unprecedented arbitration scandal, deflated balloons in the middle of a match and a national anthem sung a capella.
An unprecedented arbitration scandal
The match between Tunisia and Mali was marked by an unprecedented arbitration scandal, not only at the continental level but also worldwide.
Indeed, the Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe, who officiated the meeting, whistled the end of the match twice. A first in the 84th minute of the game and a second time in the 89th minute, both times before the end of regulation time.
There followed an imbroglio and a dispute justified by the Tunisian technical staff. More than half an hour later, CAF decides to resume the match for three minutes, equivalent to additional time, which was refused by the Tunisian players while the Malian team and the refereeing trio returned to the rectangle green, but without the Zambian Sikazwe, who was replaced by the fourth referee.
Information relayed by the media, a few hours after the end of the match, reported a deterioration in the state of health of the referee who suffered from diabetes.
It should be noted that the referee in question is quite experienced, he who has already officiated at four previous CANs and the previous World Cup in Russia. He had been provisionally suspended for corruption in 2018 by CAF before being rehabilitated in January 2019.
The local, continental and global media which have widely relayed the information, oscillating between indignation and sarcasm, are wondering about the attitude that will be adopted by CAF, which must identify a solution to this unprecedented configuration, tossed between Tunisia’s refusal to resume the match and the monumental error made by the referee who ended the match before the end of regulation time.
– The deflated balloons of Egypt – Nigeria
In the match at the top of Group D which opposed the Super Eagles to the Pharaohs, it was the deflated balls that attracted more attention than the spectacle between the two big calibers of African football.
Indeed, and in the space of nine minutes, the meeting was stopped by the referee twice, not for injury, to treat a player or to consult the VAR but rather to replace the leather which was badly inflated.
The Gambian referee, Bakary Papa Gasama, therefore had to whistle twice, in the 16th and 25th minutes, to stop the match, to replace the deflated and badly inflated balloons, which is quite rare during a match. continental competition.
– The Mauritanian anthem sung a capella
During the Group F match between Mauritania and Gambia, spectators witnessed an unprecedented event, that of seeing al-Mourabitoun sing their national anthem a capella.
After three unsuccessful attempts by the organizers to launch the good Mauritanian anthem, during the formal pre-match session, the stadium announcer had to apologize to the Mauritanians. The organizers were content to sing the Gambian anthem only.
Exasperated at having listened to their old national anthem and the blanks that followed, the Mauritanian players sang their national anthem a capella. One more and too many new facts.