Best and worst of Afcon 2015 tournament
Best player Kolo Toure
It’s not often a defender dominates at the end of a tournament but so much of Ivory Coast’s improvement at the back was down to his shepherding of the youngsters Eric Bailly and Wilfried Kanon in a revamped back three. After all the near-misses, this was Kolo’s tournament to lead the team home, even as his brother Yaya struggled with injury.
In terms of impact, Herve Renard took over an Ivory Coast team in a rut and dragged them right out of it. Having won AFCON in 2012 with Zambia [bearing Ivory Coast in the final], winning it with a second team with a different nation had never been done before. His side’s may not be pretty but he’s kept his cool throughout, while his comforting words for a distraught Ghana team on Sunday night showed him to be a class act.
Best game Algeria 1 Ivory Coast 3
The feeling ahead of this quarter-final was that winners would go all the way. Algeria, led by the BBC African footballer of the year Yacine Brahimi, had a distinctive style and genuine quality. When Hilal Soudani equalised Wilfried Bony’s first-half goal, Ivory Coast were under pressure. They responded, Yaya Toure dragging them forward to an eventual 3-1 win. This was not scintillating stuff but it was two heavyweights in an intense contest.
Worst game Tunisia 1-1 Cape Verde
It’s hard to pick which of Tunisia’s games were the worst but unfortunately George Leekens’ side lived down to their reputation for defensive tactics and rotational fouling, culminating in a stinker of a performance in the quarter-final against the hosts.
Biggest disappointment Burkino Faso arrived as dark horses after their run to the final in 2013 and still with the formidable attacking talents of Jonathan Pitroipa and Alain Traore. But Les Etalons fluffed their lines in a winnable Group A, losing to Gabon in their opening game, drawing with Equatorial Guinea and then succumbing to Congo.
Best goal Javier Balboa, Equatorial Guinea 2-1 Tunisia
Balboa was Equatorial Guinea’s undisputed star, the 29-year-old former Real Madrid winger providing constant menace and inspiration. His winner against Tunisia in the quarter-final stood out not just for its quality, curled perfectly from 25 yards [in a tournament notable for its awful set-pieces], but its timing in the first period of the additional 30 minutes.
Strangest press conference South Africa
The South African press were irate in Mongomo when CAF media officers refused to translate Senegalese answers from French into English, ruling that “English is not an official language of AFCON”. South African manager Shakes Mashaba duly entered the room for his team’s press conference and, in a display of linguistic solidarity, answered Senegalese questions in Zulu.
Most promising team South Africa
The reaction in South Africa to Shakes Mashaba’s group-stage exit has been mixed: half the country recognising the difficulty of Group C and a series of entertaining displays; half the country furious at any contentment with lowered expectations. Underachievers since winning the title in 1996, this is a young side with the potential to progress next time around – if only they can stop surrendering first-half leads which happened three times here.
Mongomo, the President’s home town, is an isolated jungle town which nevertheless boasts a basilica, an international-standard golf course and the mansions of the regime elite. It also has a football stadium.
The Ghana fans in Malabo, under extreme provocation, and with dozens injured, behaved with admirable restraint throughout. If they hadn’t, there would have been many more casualties.