The Cup Of Nations 2008 – Disappoiting Performances
The Elephants were even more stunned than the Ghana fans, whose hopes of a dream final with their neighbours evaporated at the semi-final stage too. Michael Essien of Ghana had talked about wanting to meet his Chelsea team-mate Drogba in the tournament decider. Instead they had to settle for a duel in the third- place play-off, which Ghana won 4-2 after trailing 2-1 at half-time.
Ghana had invested in four new stadiums and sought to host the tournament on the back of the 50th anniversary of independence celebrations which had made the country the focal point for the continent over the last 12 months. As one of the forerunners of the “winds of change” that swept across Africa in the late 1950s, Ghana has long provided political leadership and, with four previous CAN successes, they have been among the superpowers in the footballing arena too. But Ghana suffered a serious setback before they even started when captain Stephen Appiah had to pull out because of a serious knee injury, which sidelined him until the end of the season. Striker Asamoah Gyan then ran into injury problems and when captain John Mensah was sent off in the quarter-final for a professional foul, and subsequently suspended, their team was left without a spine.
Although Leroy lauded Ghana’s squad for their gutsy efforts, there was just not enough depth available and in the end the home nation had to settle for bronze medals. But they did get some smug satisfaction from eliminating arch rivals Nigeria in the last eight, coming from behind to win 2-1 to send the capital Accra into a delirious frenzy of celebration.
Nigeria coach Berti Vogts had talked of wanting to win the trophy before the tournament kicked off but his future was left in serious doubt after an unspectacular performance from the Super Eagles, who limped through the first round without much conviction.
There were also disappointing performances from Mali, Morocco and Senegal, whose coach Henri Kasperczak resigned during the tournament after they lost to Angola. And it is to the southern African country that the CAN heads next. The Palancas Negras built on the foundation that saw them surprise qualifiers for the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ by reaching the last eight of the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time.
Coach Luis Oliveira Goncalves believes they will be serious contenders two years from now. “We are gaining the experience that can make us one of African football’s super powers,” he said.