Ghana stunned by Libya in the 2014 CHAN finals while the curse of the host nation continues
By Alula Abraha,
Libya had triumphed over Ghana in the final that saw the two fatigued nations slogging it out their guts to a goal-less draw late last night to decide the 3rd CHAN African championship.
It’s the second time the two sides played with each other in the same tournament after they had tied 1-1 in their group stage, where Ghana qualified as a group winner and Libya as a runner-up. But Libya was the one that had asserted its upper hand in the most important match of the tournament. Both teams had won their subsequent semi-finals in penalty-shoot-out after both drew 0-0 after 120 minutes of extra-time play.
The other losing semi-finalists had played in an earlier play-off for the 3rd place and Nigeria had successfully dispatched off Zimbabwe 1-0 for the consolation Silver medal.
However, the misery of the host nation, South Africa, has continued after the Bafana-Bafana has gone absolutely belly-up with their curser as a host nation again.
In the last 3 and half years alone, South Africa has hosted three major footballing events (the FIFA World Cup in 2010, the CAF African Nations’ Cup last year and now the CHAN African Championship) but none of its home advantage, state of the art football stadiums and the support of its Vuvuzela-tooting home fans seems to give south Africa that extra impetus to get them past the preliminary group stage let alone the final.
It’s bad enough for the Bafana-Bafana side finding themselves unable to go past the group stage in the FIFA 2010 World Cup and knocked out by Mali in the Quarter final of the ANC (African Nations’ Cup) last year in front of their own fans but to get out of the CHAN African Championship again early in the group stage has indeed hit the final nail on the coffin of the South African side.
In terms of tournament format, the CHAN African championship is similar to that of the African Nations Cup but only differing in that the CHAN doesn’t allow foreign-based pro-players in the national sides. All the players have got to be picked from their respective home leagues. South African side was pooled in group-A along with Mozambique, Mali and Nigeria.
Despite a deceivingly tough looking group, Mali and Nigeria were not actually the real team we all know that includes star names of the likes of Chelsea’s Obi Mikel, Liverpool’s Moses, Barcelona’s midfield Maestro, Seydou Keita and all the rest. In the CHAN championship, the fact that the usually strong Western and Northern African sides are usually represented by a relatively weakened home-based players, giving the tournament a good balance as well as a relative opportunity for others to shine in it.
Up until the last group-A matches, the Bafana-Bafana side were topping their group after beating Mozambique & drawing 0-0 against Mali but their 3-1 loss against a weakened Nigerian side has meant that the South-African are again out of the competition for the 3rd time in a row since the summer of 2010.
Just as in the African Nations’ Cup, the CHAN also have 16 nations pooled in 4 groups of 4 nations in each group with only two nations in each group able to qualify for a place in the quarter final. The Countries’ pre-qualification for the CHAN championship itself was more fair than that of the qualification process for the African Nations’ Cup. The CHAN is more representative of all regions of Africa in the right proportion across the continent. It’s based on a generous regional quota of 5 nations from the numerous West African countries, 2 from amongst the Magreb North Africa nations, 3 from Central Africa region, 3 from Southern African Nations & finally 3 more from the the weakest East African (CECAFA) region.
Uganda, Burundi and Ethiopia had represented the CECAFA family of Nations from our region. Ethiopia’s initial journey for the CHAN qualification came courtesy of a forfeit awarded to it last year in the very preliminary round against Eritrea. Lucky Walya’s were joined by Uganda and Burundi but none of these three CECAFA nations had managed to progress beyond the group stages in the 3rd CHAN African Championship. With only one more group matches left for each to play, Uganda and Burundi were looking promising after they both topped their groups (B & D) with 4\four points each, respectively. But a carbon-copy of what had happened to the host Bafana-Bafana side, losses in their last group matches and other results not going their way had caused Uganda and Rwanda to tumble down from top to 3rd position in their respective groups and both missing out on a quarter final place.
As for the other CECAFA representative of our region, Ethiopia, it was another bad experience its fans want to forget. From the get-go, everything had gone absolutely belly-up for them. After three decades of footballing doldrums, it was remembered that Ethiopia was brought in from the cold in the 2013 African Nations’ Cup last year, courtesy of the new quota system that allows, at least, one of the CECAFA nations to be guaranteed a place in the ANC. But the “Ethio-Walyas” had a miserable experience finishing bottom of their group as well pinned firmly bottom in points (1) as well as goal difference (-5) from amongst all the 16 nations that took part in the ANC last year.
For the “Walyas”, the on-going CHAN African championship has proved even as worse experience than in that of the CAF’s. In the last year’s ANC, at least, they had managed to score one goal in three matches, courtesy of their 1-1 tie against Zambia, but this time around, the “Ethio-Walyas” had been sent packing without even having a sniff at their opposition’s goal in their 3 group matches at the CHAN. After losing their first two group matches against Libya and Congo, Ethiopia were already confirmed out of the tournament even before they had played their last group-C match against Ghana. Following that loss, the Walyas had ended their campaign as the only team with a blank score sheet in 3 matches. No goal scored and Zero point.
Their lowest point for the Ethio-Walyas came when they ended up losing 2-0 in their opening group match against Libya, the only clean-sheet scoreline with 2 clear goal-difference scored in the whole of the tournament’s 32 matches played. And knowing that the CHAN tournament allows players based in their respective countries’ league ONLY, the pundits had wrongly predicted that the Walyas should have an easy ride over the Libyan side, simply because Libyan football league has no existence at all for the last 3 years since the downfall of Ghadaffi that is still causing instability in that country. Yet, Libya has become the surprise team of the 2014 CHAN by managing to win the final against all odds after beating Ghana 4-3 in a PSO (penalty-shoot-out) following their 0-0 draw in 120 minutes of Extra-time football. Both Libya and Ghana had triumphed over their semi-final adversaries in a PSO after they both drew 0-0 again against Zimbabwe and Nigeria, respectively. The route to the final was even more painful for Libya as it had an agonizing Quarter final against Gabon that went down to the wires, again decided on a PSO (penalty shoot-out).
After Libya and Zimbabwe tied 0-0 in 120 minutes of play, their PSO also went 3-3 after the 5 penalties. They had to go through 3 more of agonizing sudden-death penalties. In the end, Libya held their nerves while Zimbabwe buckled under pressure.
Another of Libya’s last minute winner that guaranteed its very place in the Quarter final came in their last group match against Congo. With 15 minutes left on the clock, Libyan side were almost out of the tournament trailing Congo by 2-0 before Libyan side found their spark deep in injury time (90+3 Minutes). But the hero of the match was their top goal scorer, Omar who gave them a glimmer of hope in the 75th minute and then creating the chance for the most important equalizer right at the death.
Libya had never given up in their relentless search for the all important equalizer. Their sheer pressure paid off in the end deep to stick the sucker-punch goal in the back of the net that knocked Congo out of the tournament almost in the last kick of the match. This hero is not Mo-Omar Gaddaffi that was lynched to death, nor the famous Omar Sherriff that died resisting fascist Italia but this one is the new Libyan hero called AbdulSalam Feraj Omar.
Coincidentally, Libya were supposed to have hosted this 3rd CHAN tournament until the CAF decided to shift the hosting nation from Libya to South Africa due to worrying insecurities and instability in that war ravaged country. Ironically, while the make-shift host nation were knocked out early in the group stage, the league-less that was judged not fit to host the tournament has actually come all the way from North of the continent to South to win it. It’s indeed a marvellous story & Libya will host the next one in 2016. It was remembered that Tunisia had also managed to win the last CHAN held in Sudan while the country had been engulfing in the Arab spring revolution.
The other semi final between the West African derby rivals was also decided on another cruel penalty shoot-out. Ghana won the PSO 4-1, after it had scored all their penalties that Nigeria needn’t hit their last two penalties simply because they had missed their first two attempts. Ghana seem to have overcome their omen in the very same place after they were cruelly knocked out in the penalty shoot-out of the 2010 world cup Quarter final against Uruguay.
Despite a total of 360 minutes of extra-time plays, both the CHAN semi-finals and final had ended in a tight goalless draws. Almost all the rest of the matches played so far were also as tight, particularly, out of the 7 knock-out matches played that included 4 Quarter-finals, 2 Semi-finals & a Final, five of the matches had gone down to the wires, of which 4 were decided on PSO. The fact that the other two quarter-finals were also tight matches that ended with only a slender one goal difference(1-0 and 2-1) is indicative of the strength of African football more much more in defence than that of their dismal and timid record up-front, offensively. At least that has also been the problem with that of the Eritrean football team for a long time. Very good at the back but lacking fire-power up front. Lack of tactical discipline has been Achilles heel in our deficiencies & inefficiency going forward. That seems to be the case in most of the African nations too, particularly those in our region.
Libya’s emphatic triumph in the final of the CHAN championship last night has helped it scoop a three-Quarter of a Million dollar allocated for the 2014 CHAN winner.
Despite having no home-league played for over three years in that war ravaged country and despite consecutively playing three grueling extra-time matches (QF, SF & final) in a space of only 6 days, the Libyans had won it against all odds.
Many Congratulations for the first ever major win!
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