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AFCON2017 wrap-up: The talking points

AFCON trophy 1
The AFCON trophy

Finally, the lineup is complete. Sixteen of the best teams of the continent would gather in Gabon from 14 January to 5 February and the line up suggest that as always it would be a superb festival of African football.

There are the powerhouses, the debutants, countries who are back after prolonged absence in the wilderness, the star names, Africa’s favourite players and those who would be seeking redemption on the big stage.

African powerhouses Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Morocco and Senegal had booked their places before the weekend matches but Ivory Coast left it late. They needed at least a draw against Sierra Leone in Bouake and eventually, found a way but there were many scary moments. Jonathan Kodjia scored the opening goal for them, Kei Kamara equalised for the visitors before he had an effort cleared off the line with the final kick of the game.

Sierra Leone, coached by Ghana’s Sellas Tetteh swore they should have had a dramatic last minute penalty because they were convinced the Ivorians had cleared the ball with a hand.

Debutants Guinea Bissau booked their place before the final round of matches which left them in a very comfortable position going into their last game against Congo.

Zimbabwe meanwhile back at the Nations Cup for the first time since 2006 but did that long before this weekend.

On a dramatic final day of qualifying, Togo scored five goals, DR Congo and Tunisia four each and Burkina Faso won with a goal nine minutes into stoppage time.

But no celebrations could match those of Uganda, whose last of five appearances at the African football showpiece was in 1978, when they finished runners-up to hosts Ghana. Coach of the cranes, Milutin Sredojević told the BBC after the game that it was a personification of his reign as Uganda coach and a crown for three years of hard work. In a way, he sounded like a politician who had fought so hard and had finally gotten elected to represent his people.

Tunisia won Group A by trouncing Liberia 4-1 in Monastir with a Wahbi Khazri goal after only five minutes setting the tone.

Liberian Mark Paye cut the deficit to 2-1 on 71 minutes only for the Carthage Eagles to respond in resounding fashion with two more goals in the remaining six minutes.

Togo hammered whipping boys Djibouti 5-0 in Lome to claim one of two places reserved for the runners-up with the most points.

The Togolese shared second place in the runners-up standings with Benin and Ethiopia, but had a vastly superior goal difference.

WAFA striker Komlan Agbegniadan got two goals in the final four minutes for the Sparrow hawks, who are coached by former Ghana and DR Congo man Frenchman Claude Le Roy.

Togo appointed Leroy as their new manager in April and he has had a huge impact on them and despite the threat of a being taken to jail for allegedly involving in shrewd transfers at Strasbourg in France. He is now in line to coach at a record-extending nine Nations Cup tournaments

Group B also featured a clash between the top two, with the possibility of DR Congo or Central African Republic going through as winners.

The pressure was on visitors Central African Republic, who needed a victory while DR Congo needed only a point, and it proved a big task for the politically-troubled nation as they were soundly beaten 4-1.

Equatorial Guinea, 2015 Cup of Nations hosts and semifinalists, scored four goals within 16 minutes to crush South Sudan 4-0 in a Group C match in Malabo that had only pride at stake.

With the tournament to begin in barely 3 months away, teams will be limbering up to pick up the coveted prize and chance to be tagged African Champions.

By Michael Oti Adjei|TV3 Sports|Ghana
Twitter: @3newsgh

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