12 February 2013

Uganda: Afcon 2013's Best Moments


Johannesburg — IT was with a heavy heart yesterday that I packed my bags, paid my bills and prepared to say goodbye to South Africa.

Well, my 2013 Orange Nations Cup experience is over. Just one or two loose ends to tie off and I'll be heading home.

I must admit, as wonderful a time I've had here - professionally and personally - I can't overstate how draining the entire adventure of travelling from city to city has been. But I have truly loved it.

Will I ever return? I'd like to.

Now that the tournament is over, it's probably a good time to reflect on some of the top moments of the past three weeks.

What follows is a list of "best ofs" with me as sole judge. Of course, I can only go on what I've actually been in the stadium for, but nevertheless this is a pretty good guide to the tournament as a whole.

Best goal

There is nothing that truly defines tournaments than the quality of goals scored.

Alain Traore's goals against Ethiopia were amazing just like Tunisia's Youssef Msakni's winning strike against Algeria,

But for this, I will give it to Lehlohonolo Majoro. It was a goal from nowhere.

Deep into the second half against Angola, the South African striker skipped his way down the byline but with the goalkeeper perfectly guarding the near post, managed to squeeze it through the narrowest of gaps.

Best free-kick

This was as stunning as they can ever get. Emmanuel Emenike's free-kick was so far outside that the Ivory Coast could be forgiven for not thinking there was any danger to it. Emenike smashed this so powerfully that it simply flew past the goalkeeper.

Best game

I will go for Ethiopia's 1-1 against Zambia.

This was a thriller from start to finish. This was the fixture that ultimately ended Zambia's prospects in the tournament.

The Ethiopians had a man sent-off but sill possessed the ball, suffocated life out of the Chipolopolo before finding that all-important equalizer.

The atmosphere was electric and the standing ovation for the Ethiopians brought a tear to the eye.

Best moment of the game

It has to be Burkina Faso's shoot-out victory against Ghana.

The Stallions survived the most scandalous refereeing ever to secure a place in the final after 120 grueling minutes.

They had a legitimate goal cancelled, conceded a dubious penalty and had their star man Jonathan Pitroipa dismissed but still came through. It was amazing stuff.

Best ground

The Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban was high up there. Not only does it look out of this world, inside it is magnificent. The media seats were first class and quite close that you could hear the players shouting instructions to each other.

It was a marvel.

Best player

Burkina Faso's Jonathan Pitroipa had all the flair and was so influential for the Stallions.

But I will go with his teammate Bakary Kone. The Lyon defender was a giant at the back. He matched it with the best strikers in the tournament and his game-reading was immaculate.

Best team

At the start of the tournament, Ivory Coast was the obvious pick for the title, but they never fired. Talent-wise, there were a host of teams just behind them on paper such as Nigeria and Ghana.

But for me, the team of the tournament was the one that played with verve, with passion, with a positive attitude. It was the team that attacked and played the game with the right spirit and that was Cape Verde.

Best supporters

This is a tough one. The South Africans were obviously very loud, but I've disqualified them on the grounds of having an unfair advantage.

The Zambians were also loud, but too easily disgruntled. Anyway, who can blame them given the football their team played?

Given that they were relative beginners, and given that their passion obviously struck a chord with me, I will go for the Ethiopians as the best supporters.

Best coach

No brainer this one. If Luis Antunes was Ivory Coast coach, the Elephants would have won the tournament.

The transformation of Cape Verde under his stewardship has been simply amazing.

However, Burkina Faso's Paul Put deserves a mention for his ability to inspire the Stallions.

Best city

As much as I loved Nelspruit, it has to be Durban. Perhaps the city buzzed because of hosting three of South Africa's games. But the days there were memorable.

It is a beautiful city and one in which there was always something going on.

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