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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Africa certain of Euro glory
By Piers Edwards

Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure
Emmanuel Eboue celebrates Toure's matchwinner against Villareal

An African is certain to win a European Champions League medal when Spain's Barcelona take on Arsenal of England in Wednesday's final in Paris.

The main question though is whether a tenth African will win, or an eleventh as well, when Europe's finest clubs meet.

For should Arsenal's Gunners fire themselves to glory in the home town of French striker Thierry Henry, then the Ivorian duo of Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue are more than likely to pick up winners' medals.

Togo's Emmanuel Adebayor cannot play in the final for Arsenal since he is cup-tied, having represented Monaco in this season's Champions League.

Toure has been one of the Premiership's most consistent players this season, putting in a succession of solid performances as Arsenal have used European success to make up for domestic disappointment.

The 22-year-old Eboue meanwhile has risen from nowhere to become an integral component of the Arsenal back four.

Many Gunners supporters now wonder whether Cameroon's Lauren will return to the right back spot when he recovers from a long-term knee injury.

Eboue has come of age in 2006, performing well for Nations Cup runners-up Ivory Coast earlier this year before turning in fine performances in Madrid and Turin en route to Paris.

Arsenal have now gone ten matches without conceding a goal in the Champions League, which will present Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o with a challenge he will relish.

Bruce Grobbelaar and Michael Robinson
Bruce Grobbelaar was the first African to win the European Cup

The Cameroonian is the only African at the Catalan club but is a key figure, leading La Liga's scoring charts with 24 goals.

Although Eto'o's main focus will be winning the Champions League for the first time as a player, another sub-plot will be bubbling away.

Rivalry between Ivory Coast and Cameroonians has become intense recently ever since the Elephants qualified for the World Cup at the Indomitable Lions' expense.

Worse still for Cameroon supporters was that they were then knocked out of the Nations Cup in the quarter-finals by the Ivorians on penalties.

Nine Africans have won Europe's most prestigious club trophy in its various formats, with the competition having changed from the European Cup to the Champions League in 1992.

The first was Zimbabwean goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar who lifted the trophy with Liverpool in 1984, followed three years later by Algeria's Rabah Madjer with FC Porto.

Ghana's Abedi Pele won the competition with French side Marseille in 1993, while other Africans who followed him are Nigerian pair Finidi George and Nwankwo Kanu (Ajax, 1995) and Cameroon's Geremi (Real Madrid, 2000).

Another Ghanaian, Sammy Kuffour, lifted the trophy with Germany's Bayern Munich in 2001, before Benni McCarthy became the first South African winner in 2003 as FC Porto won the competition again.

The last African to win the Champions League final was Mali's Djimi Traore, who will never forget Liverpool's dramatic triumph over Milan in Istanbul last year.




SEE ALSO
Arsenal 1-0 Villarreal
19 Apr 06 |  Europe
AC Milan 0-1 Barcelona
18 Apr 06 |  Europe


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