African Nations Cup Diary: All's well as two best teams line up for final

Read all about riot police breaking up dancing Egyptians and today's African Nations Cup final in the last instalment of Jonathan Wilson's diary

Sunday

What reward for reaching the quarter-final? In Angola’s case it was a set of plush new benches, longer and discernibly more luxurious than the ones used in the Estadio de 11 Novembro during the group stage. Apparently they would have been in use during the group stage but, like so many things in Angola, were stuck on the docks in Luanda.

Angola became the first hosts to miss out on the semi-finals since Ghana in 2000 as they failed to break down Ghana’s present crop, Manucho missing three fine opportunities. Whatever the cause for the present woe at Manchester United, it’s safe to say it wasn’t letting him leave. The favourites Ivory Coast then crashed out to Algeria, the familiar lack of midfield creativity compounded by some dreadful defending.

Monday

The press conferences become ever more farcical. It’s hard to believe any preview of Egypt’s quarter-final against Cameroon did not include the fact that Ahmed Hassan, by moving to 170 international appearances, would break his compatriot Hossam Hassan’s Africa caps record, yet after their 3-1 victory the first question was to ask why he was wearing a T-shirt bearing the number 170.

There followed a series of paeans to the glory of the Egyptian nation before an interruption to present the Samsung Fair Play player of the match award (given to the least bad player on the losing side) provoked Cameroon’s coachPaul le Guen to walk out. Nigeria, who have stumbled from crisis to crisis like Rasputin avoiding assassination, staggered into their fourth semi-final in five tournaments with a penalty shoot-out victory over Zambia.

Tuesday

Still, at least a press conference is an opportunity to talk to players, albeit in badly translated gobbets of about three-and-a-half seconds. That seemed an improbable luxury to journalists manhandled away from Egypt training without explanation by local police. It later transpired that even though we’d been invited by Hamada, the Egyptian press officer, two hours earlier, Hassan Shehata, Egypt’s coach, had decided on a closed session after an Algerian journalist had found his way into the lobby of the team hotel. The police applied his dictat in typical act-aggessively-first-think-up-vaguely-plausible-explanation-later style.

Wednesday

Another day of frustration as Algeria decided they could match Egypt for bolshiness. Well done. CAF, of course, unlike every other confederation, does not insist on mandatory press conferences the day before games. In an unrelated note, a CAF official asked why African football so rarely gets serious coverage in the European media.

Thursday

If you thought Egypt v Algeria was bad on the pitch, you should have seen the press box. Local organisers had strung four European journalists between the Algerian and Egyptian press like a line of peacekeepers, but it proved an insubstantial barrier. The five Egyptians immediately in front of me – all paunchy fiftysomethings – goaded the Algerians with magnificent childishness, mainly through the medium of slow, arse-wiggling dance.

The ringleader, who boasted a superb waxed moustache, alternated between giving it the full Saturday Night Fever and an ostentatious re-adjustment of his cuffs, which may not sound irritating, but drove the Algerians wild. Inevitably as the final whistle went, the Algerians poured forward, leaving me trying to file my match report while flinging elbows backwards and shouting impotently “Monsieur, s’il vous plait. Je travaille.” In the end it took about a dozen stewards and a couple of riot police to separate them.

Friday

Nigeria arrived back in Benguela for their third-and-fourth place game with the future of their coach Shaibu Amodu still in doubt. He was reportedly told he had to reach the semis if he was to keep his job till the World Cup, but did so in such unconvincing style it would be no surprise to see him go as the political wrangling between the Nigerian Football Federation and the Presidential Task Force, set up to oversee the World Cup campaign, goes on.

When he said, wearily, that he “couldn’t be bothered” responding to criticism, you wondered if even he cares any more.

Saturday

Play-off for third and fourth places, but nobody really cares. However, off the pitch comes the ridiculous decision to ban Togo from the next two Cup of Nations.

Today

It has been a patchy tournament, but at least the final of this Cup of Nations will feature the two best teams as Egypt face Ghana. For the Pharaohs, seeking self-validation after again failing to qualify for the World Cup, this could be an unprecedented third straight Nations Cup, while Shehata, could become only the second coach to lift a third Nations Cup.

The only other manager to achieve that was CK Gyamfi, so it seems fitting that the Black Stars will be defending the record of the man who led them to the title in 1963, 1965 and 1982. Egypt have been the more fluent, rattling in 14 goals to Ghana’s four (althoughthey have played a game more), but Milovan Rajevac’s young side have improved as the tournament has gone on, and have kept three successive clean sheets.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape