New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda/South Africa: Afcon - Stars and Flops

Johannesburg — THE 2013 Orange Nations Cup, whose curtains ccame down on Sunday evening at the National Stadium here, had a cocktail of just about everything.

Over the course of the tournament, there were players, managers, referees and fans that stood out for both the right and wrongs reasons.

Below, I present a list of those that excelled in the three-week tournament and those that decided to make a 'fool' of themselves in Africa's most prestigious sporting event.

The Stars

Seydou Keita

How can the Nations Cup success story begin outside this talismanic skipper?

True, he could not inspire the Eagles past the might Super Eagles but the reality is, everything else after their quarterfinal showdown against hosts South Africa was a bonus.

Keita was not just a leader but a spiritual leader, who excelled against the odds to bring some positive distraction to his war-torn country by marshalling the side to the semi-finals.

He proved beyond doubt that the Eagles are never the same without him. His patriotism was shown when he offered to pay his teammates bonuses out of his own pockets. A great man indeed!

Jonathan Pitroipa / Kone Bakary

Burkina Faso didnt win the Nations Cup but the Stallions' success in the tournament had a lot to do with Pitroipa and Bakary's dominant displays in attack and at the back.

It's such a big shame that the Stallions missed their best player in Sunday's final.

All through the tournament, the Rennes midfielder thrived on space and combination play to prize-open defenses.

He was versatile and often dictated Burkina Faso's approach to games -from initiating attacks to calming situations when under pressure.

How about Bakary? The Lyon defender has arguably been the best defender of the tournament. He was calm and composed and had good game reading to amaze.

Lucio Antunes

Antunes was the author of another story of an unknown team that played itself on the football map.

In July 2010, when Antunes left his full-time job as an air traffic controller to take up the reins of the national team, he knew what he wanted to achieve -success. Cape Verde's quarterfinal finish was far beyond expectation.

To prove that teamwork was integral to their success in the tournament, Antunes burst into a news conference after their group game against Angola with his entire squad, singing and dancing in front of reporters draped in the country's flag.

He was the team's father figure.

Agyemang Badu

I know Mubarak Wakaso has been superb for the Black Stars with a number of vital goals.

I am also aware that goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey has been excellent but Agyemang has been the engine of this Black Stars team. Although he has not scored since his first in the tournament against DR Congo, his man-of-the-match winning displays against Mali and Niger and in the quarters against Cape Verde were evidence of his precious qualities.

Dean Furman

When South Africa lifted the Nations Cup in 1996, the demographic of the team was distinct.

The team's captain Neil Tovey was 'white'; their best player was Lucas Radebe was 'black' while two-goal match-winner in the final was Mark Williams was from 'a mixed-race community' referred to as colourds here.

This time though, South Africa's best performer was a 'white' -the only distinct race in the team that defied all to marshal Bafana's engine room with aplomb.

The diminutive Oldham captain was left on the bench during South Africa's game against Cape Verde. But in the next games against Angola and Morocco, he was instrumental in the team's change of fortunes.

Ethiopian fans

These had two sides here -the good and bad, but we'll look at the good first.

The passion that was displayed by the Ethiopians throughout the tournament was remarkable.

But one moment stood out. I experienced something I never thought I'd ever see. It was not just about them and their team. When the Ethiopians noticed that Burkina Faso fans had been outnumbered by the Nigerians in the following game, they joined in numbers, supported the Stallions and it paid off with a late equalizer.

Nothing remarkable there, you might think. But here's the thing: they were singing along with the Burkina Faso fans, linking arms, as everyone piled together in a huge group hug. They were different cultures. It was an image that I'll keep with me for a long time to come.

Flops

We'll start with the Ethiopians. Remember they brought a lot of colour to the tournament. They had beautiful women and they added to the festive atmosphere as they packed the stadiums whenever their team played.

But their missile-throwing behavior while protesting decisions that often went against them during their 1-1 draw against Zambia was uncalled for. They were consequently fined $10,000 by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

Grisha Ghead

Still with CAF and its ruthless disciplinary hand, how can we forget the suspension that was slapped on Egyptian referee Grisha Ghead.

He took the shine off what could have been an exciting Group C game between Nigeria and Zambia. He mishandled the game and had to be sent home after the game.

Ethiopia's Kung-fu masters

Another disciplinary situation that had to be dealt with involved Ethiopia's two goalkeepers.

With the exception of 20-year-old Zerihun Tadelle, the other Ethiopian goalkeepers Jemal Tassew and Sisay Bancha lacked discipline.

It all begun with a dangerous kung-fu style lunge on Zambia Chisamba Lungu that saw Tassew red-carded in the first game.

Then in their last group match against Nigeria, Bancha was shown red for a second bookable offence after coach Sawnet Bishaw had made all his three substitutions.

It resulted in one of their key midfielders Addis Hintsa having to take over the gloves.

Daniel Bennet

Bennet was the other disaster at the tournament.

The South African referee registered a dismal outing in the game between Tunisia and Togo.

His decisions were suspect throughout the game and could have cost Togo qualification to the knockout stages.

Jdidi Slim

He is the scandal of the tournament. Forget Bennet, Slim's performance during the semi-final between Ghana and Burkina Faso is the worst African football will ever see in living memory.

He denied Burkina Faso two genuine penalties, disallowed a clear goal and controversially sent off danger-man Pitroipa.

Christopher Katongo

He was simply awful. No goal, no assist, no nothing. He had to be restricted to the bench for Zambia's final group game against Burkina Faso for very obvious reasons that he lacked both fitness and was a yard slower from the player that had inspired the team to success the previous year.

Manucho

He came on the back of rave reviews as one of the stars to watch but was never a threat to any side. He was a no-show!

Didier Drogba

He was a shadow of the player that had steered Premiership side Chelsea to the Uefa Champions League just last season.

Drogba spent more time on the bench than on the pitch. He wasn't just good enough.

Mbombela pitch

This was the worst pitch of the five venues that hosted the tournament.

Right from the first day, there were complaints about the status of the surface that simply deteriorated with subsequent matches.

Play was made difficult by the sandy grass.

Zambia

From the start, the Chipolopolo never looked like defending their title. Could the Cranes have done better? Maybe, maybe not but the fact is they were awful, no wins just draws in all three of their group matches.

They became the second defending champions since Algeria in 1992 to be knocked out in the first round.

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