Full Time: Burkina Faso 1-1 Ghana (3-2 Penalties)
I know it’s rather unusual for anyone to start writing about a football tournament in the semi-finals, especially the second game of the semi-finals. It’s not that I’ve not been watching the matches- I’ve watched more than twenty five of the thirty or so games played so far- rather it’s because of the appalling quality of football on display and the equally poor preparation by the South African authorities (remember the goal which fell?).
However after watching Burkina Faso play Ghana earlier tonight I found a game worth a blog post and a few minutes of my time. So here are the five things I learnt from tonight’s match and the tournament in general:
1 CAF Should Know That Respect is Earned
The pitch where Burkina Faso played Ghana in Nelspruit was terrible, totally unsuitable for a semi-final of the continent’s biggest football tournament. If the Confederation of African Football (CAF) wants anyone to take it seriously then it should show seriousness in its planning and preparation.
2 Referees are Killing the Beautiful Game
Several matches in this tournament have been marred by terrible officiating, most notable being when Tunisia played Togo, Cape Verde versus Ghana, but nowhere was it as apparent or as important as today. The Burkinabe had several dubious decisions go against them: they were denied a penalty in the opening minutes and a short while later Ghana received an undeserved penalty which they converted. Most shocking of all was the red card shown to Jonathan Pitropia for diving when he was clearly fouled and deserved a penalty deep into extra time. Sadly the Burkinabe will miss the final and we will not get a chance to watch a talented footballer helping his team in their first ever AFCON final.
Whatever the Tunisian referee Slim Jdidi drank before the match must be made illegal.
3 Football is About Teamwork
On paper Ghana were clearly the better side by a mile but on the pitch the Black Stars were trampled by the Stallions. The Ghanaian team was outplayed and outpaced by the Burkinabe even though the Black Stars obviously had more talent in their side simply because as a team the Burkinabe were perfect.
Just as the star studded Ivory Coast were shown by Nigeria, Ghana too learnt football’s most important and enduring lesson: Football is about teamwork, and sometimes the whole is not necessarily a sum of the individuals.
4 Convert Your Chances
Ghana failed to convert several good chances and were punished for it. Burkina Faso also failed, but as Ghana are more experienced and have consistently played at this level they were expected to do better.
5 And a Man Called Aristides Bance
One word for the peroxide dreadlocked Burkina Faso striker: Cool. Cool as ice. The striker calmly scored his side’s goal and nonchalantly scored his penalty, taking his time on both occasions. He also came close several times, having a header cleared off the line and several shots saved or going just wide.
Although slow, the striker will surely give the Nigerian defence lots of problems on Sunday. Perhaps he will be the one to lead the Land of Upright Men to their first African title.
Who knows, more unexpected things have happened before and this is the African Cup of Nations- where there are no sacred bulls.