Cote d’Ivoire win Africa Cup marred by off-field issues

By Hilton Yip Source:Global Times Published: 2015-2-9 23:18:27

Like the Asian Cup a week ago, the Africa Cup of Nations finished with a showdown ­between two of the continent's biggest powers.

When it was over, Cote d'Ivoire emerged victorious in a tense penalty shootout. It may not have been the most thrilling finale, but it capped a tournament that saw significant ­action on and off the field.

It was a fitting win for Cote d'Ivoire's "Golden Generation," with Yaya Toure and his brother Kolo set to retire from international action soon.

Cote d'Ivoire topped a competitive group with Cameroon and Mali, then defeated favorites Algeria, led by captain Yaya Toure, the Manchester City star.

Ghana topped an even ­harder group featuring Algeria and Senegal, then easily won both their quarterfinal and semifinal matches.

Back in November, the tournament was in danger of not taking place as original hosts Morocco asked to postpone it over Ebola concerns. The African soccer body CAF refused and had to ask around before Equatorial Guinea stepped in.

After a mediocre start that saw a high number of low-scoring draws, the tournament became more eventful. One of the highlights was DR Congo's comeback from 2-0 down to beat their neighbors Congo 4-2 in their quarterfinal.

The tournament was especially competitive as attested by the early knockouts of 2012 champions Zambia, 2013 finalists Burkina Faso, and 2012 and 2013 semifinalists Mali.

African soccer is always full of action and surprises. Unfortunately, a lot of it takes place off the field.

The semifinal between the hosts and Ghana was marred by serious crowd violence that saw players run for cover from objects thrown by home fans and a police helicopter swoop ­meters over the stadium.

This should never happen at a soccer match, much less at a major regional tournament.

Morocco received a hefty punishment from CAF, being banned from the next two tournaments and ordered to pay over $9 million in fines and compensation.

Africa may have enjoyed a decent tournament this time, but the off-field problems are still very much apparent.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.

Posted in: Extra Time

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