This was the same question I asked when I started my series on Afcon 2013.
After three weeks of incredible football drama I know better than to predict. My crystal ball has gotten the critical end of Afcon 2013 wrong.
I ‘apologise’ to South Africans for raising their hopes and making them believe that playing with one of the weakest teams in the championship, Bafana Bafana could still have overcome the odds, ridden on the back of unprecedented national passion and support and bulldozed their way to the finals.
When the critical time came the elements settled on their luckier conquerors – Mali. So ended the South African dream along with the mystique of the oracle!
I also apologise to the surprise team of the championship, the Burkinabe Stallions, who have exceeded themselves, defied ALL pre-tournament analysis, tradition and predictions and created a new page in the history of Afcon. They are in the final match for the first time in their history and deserve it! The oracle had given them no chance.
I had thought Ghana were the most complete team coming into the championship. If Cape Verde stretched them to the limit, Burkina Faso humbled them by reducing them to nothing in what appeared to be a deliberate script (through the shameful antics of Tunisian referee Slim) to make Ghana get to the finals.
Ivory Coast, everyone’s pre-tournament favourites, were good to watch and were on course to winning the championship until they ran into a brick wall called the Super Eagles, a team that was wired to prove all skeptics wrong. They were completely outclassed and overwhelmed by the power, speed and strength of the Nigerian forwards, a well-organised midfield conducted by Mikel Obi and the typical fighting spirit and unpredictability for which Nigeria is well known and dreaded.
Since playing on lush green turf for the first time in the tournament the Eagles have been soaring. I must now concede that there was no conviction in my earlier analysis that Nigeria would win the championship, even if I knew that they had the capability.
As we reach this weekend’s dramatic climax, the last two teams standing are Burkina Faso and Nigeria. We are about to settle the million-Dollar question: Who wins Afcon 2013?
The setting for the final match cannot be more dramatic.
So, what are the chances of the two finalists?
Both teams met at the start of the championship and, with the ‘help’ of a very bad pitch, shared the honours with a draw. That result was the best the Stallions have ever achieved playing against Nigeria at all levels in the history of African football.
Before then, both countries had only met once, in the 2002 Afcon, and Nigeria prevailed.
This has given most Nigerians the confidence that Burkina Faso are not about to re-write the established tradition of always losing against the Eagles. That’s why the Super Eagles may have the slight psychological edge at this final hurdle.
But these Stallions look different!
At Afcon 2013 they have fired the imagination of all Africans. History could be in the making if Burkina Faso can now do away from home what the country could not do in 2002 when it hosted the championship. With the manner the team has played, and particularly their dramatic performance in their last match against Ghana to get to the final, everyone has woken up to the real possibility of this team winning. The Eagles can depend on history and under-rate them at their own peril.
If the present setting were to be a movie it could not have been better scripted for suspense, excitement and drama. In Aristide Bance, the Burkinabe have a one-man fighting machine; a big, bold, clumsy but deadly forward, whose performance on the night could give Burkina Faso the slimmest chance of taking away Africa’s most coveted football trophy.
However, the Super Eagles have grown through the rounds of this championship and now look like genuine champions. They are now within touching distance of the trophy, just as I predicted all along. The team has played, in their last two games, some of the best and most entertaining attacking football in the championship. They have now settled down to play like potential kings, reminding everyone why football is described as ‘the beautiful game’.
The final visit to the crystal ball
It is evening.
I see the king of birds gliding and soaring majestically high in the sky, heading westwards and looking down at a moving object.
I look closer. The moving object is a beautiful stallion galloping along with speed, elegance and grace, also heading westwards!
I look ahead into the distance, in the direction they are both headed.
I see a crown glittering under the spell of the yellow rays of the sun, flooding the fields and setting fast.
This is obviously a race for the crown. The fading evening dulls my vision.
The race is very close.
Just as the sun drops off the horizon and darkness envelopes the land, I manage to catch the final scene as both Eagle and Stallion make for the crown. Night descends suddenly and the scene disappears. I am gasping for breath. My crystal ball is staring back at me in anticipation of a comment on the last thing I saw.
Do not let me spoil the fun for millions of Africans waiting now for the drama of the final match by revealing the last secret of the crystal ball. Just know that, whoever wins, the trophy will be heading West.
Article first published on Supersport