CAN 2013 - Decisions, decisions

If Nigeria and Burkina Faso play to their full potential the Cup of Nations will have a cracking final.

Nigeria were always an outside bet to arrive at the final, but the Burkinabe? Who’d saw that coming?

They’ve played well and been on an even keel throughout, unlike some of their more illustrious rivals who have either sunk or swam in the knockout phase.

The evolution of a team and allowing that change to take place has long been part of the DNA of tournament football.

Sometimes this happens by chance, sometimes it takes the bravery of a manager to make changes and use his squad. Joseph Yobo started as Nigeria’s first choice centre-half and captain but injury cost him his place and Nigeria have prospered without him. I don’t expect him to start the final as I’m predicting an unchanged Nigerian team for the third game in a row.

Ivory Coast’s Sabri Lamouchi made the fatal decision to bring back a patently unfit Didier Drogba. Drogba wasn’t in the starting line-up for second group game against Tunisia which was the Elephant’s best performance. Half a season in China has clearly taken the edge off his game and Lamouchi would have been better served if he had left Drogba on the bench.

Easier said than done.

Just like the decisions that left Ghana bereft of creativity in the middle of the park. This was going to be the tournament that put Kwadwo Asamoah up there with Ghanaian icons of the past. He’s been in sparkling form for Juventus in Serie A and the Champions League, but here he never took off.

Perhaps its got something to do with playing with better players at Juve. If we take that as a factor then could Ghana really afford to leave Dede Ayew at home for disciplinary reasons?

Ghana have been a real Jeckyll and Hyde outfit. At times brilliantly incisive. At other moments they’ve been desperately plodding and soporific.

There were times in the knockout phase when their passage in the competition has seemed almost CAF ordained because the refereeing decisions in their favour have bordered on the comical.

It’s somewhat ironic that they should be eliminated via a penalty shoot-out given the part penalties played in their progress.

The penalty they were awarded in the quarter-final against Cape Verde was nothing more than Gyan showing a lack of upper body strength in a shoulder to shoulder incident.

Whilst I’m on the subject of Gyan I’ll say that playing in the UAE has robbed him of the debatable sharpness that he once had. I think he always needed too many chances for a really top drawer striker and bullying weak UAE defences for a fist full of dollars has not helped Ghana.

Back to the penalties. Their semi-final penalty was equally soft and unbelievable. But then every possible decision that could have gone against them went their way. People talk about the luck of the Irish but perhaps the new phrase should be the luck of the Ghanaians.

CAF have a big decision to make in overturning the ban of Jonathan Pitroipa and because it’s CAF you can’t rely on them to get it right.

Already we have begun to see backtracking and saying it depends on what the referee’s report says. Pitroipa was clearly tripped and denied a goalscoring opportunity. The final will be poorer without him and a player who has had an outstanding three weeks will be denied the game of a lifetime.

Let’s have the right decision and a great final.










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