Africa Cup of Nations 2012: The story untold


Zambia v Ivory Coast; Africa Cup of Nations; Libreville; Sunday 12 February 2012, 19:30 GMT

This year's Africa Cup of Nations has left me underwhelmed - in terms of what the tournament has provided both on and off the pitch.

This weekend marks the end of the competition with a match between two sides with expectations at complete opposite ends of the spectrum, who meet in Sunday night's showcase final in Gabon's capital city, Lebreville.

Zambia caused a major upset by beating Ghana 1-0 on Wednesday evening, to set up a showdown with the pre-tournament favourites Ivory Coast.

It is difficult to look past Cote d'Ivoire for the win and – while Zambia deserve their place in the final, having scored nine goals of their own en route to the final – the Copper Bullets would not be many people's first-choice of opponents when looking for a team to trouble the likes of Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and co.

The Elephants have made light work of their progress in the competition thus far with five wins from five games. They have scored nine goals and are yet to concede at the other end, so it's no surprise that another comfortable victory is expected.

The general feeling ahead of the game can be best described as flat - which is about par for the course of the level of excitement and emotion on show in a knockout competition that made its name as a passionate advert for the world game. The question is why?

There are two things that have been particularly disappointing - the overall quality of some of the games, and the attendances. To see a semi-final for the Africa Cup of Nations between Ivory Coast and Mali with nobody there, you have to wonder what has gone wrong.

Can the people not afford to pay for tickets? Are the prices too high? There is clearly a deep, basic problem with this tournament - there is nobody there.

Ivory Coast look to be a cut above everybody else in the tournament - their level is not comparable to any other team - leading to accusations that the competition is already a full-gone conclusion before it even started.

As Africa's top-ranked team, I would be amazed if Francois Zahoui's side fail to end their 20-year wait for a second continental title - it will be a huge surprise if the team doesn't triumph at Stade de l'Amitie.

With Drogba in form and leading from the front, as well as fellow Premier League stars Gervinho, Yaya and Kolo Toure also in impressive form, a first triumph after disappointing failures over the last two decades is within reach.

Having said that, Zambia - twice the losing finalist - will be inspired to go one better this time round by the tragic plane crash 19 years ago that killed 18 members of the national squad and seven federation officials.

The 1993 disaster off the coast of Libreville robbed Zambia of one of its best-ever teams, and provided the 2012 group with a poignant motivator on its return to the Gabon capital.

News Now - Sport News