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Angola 2010: Tragedy and triumph

Egyptian players celebrate with the Nations Cup trophy in Luanda
Egypt became the first team to win the trophy three times in a row

By Matthew Kenyon
BBC Sport, Luanda, Angola

Egypt's historic triumph in Luanda on Sunday night was a fitting finale to any tournament - and a great way to end what has at times been a difficult Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

Even before it had started, Angola 2010 suffered a grievous blow, when a rebel faction attacked the Togolese team as they travelled into the northern enclave of Cabinda.

The death and serious injury which resulted, and the Hawks' subsequent withdrawal, damaged both the tournament and the reputation of the organisers.

Cancellation was never a serious option though and football did return to the centre stage eventually, with a flurry of matches which caught the imagination.

Angola's 4-4 draw with Mali, when the hosts surrendered a four-goal lead, and Malawi's fabulous 3-0 win over World Cup qualifiers Algeria particularly stand out.

The group stage certainly demonstrated that the opportunities exist for underdogs to make their mark at a Nations Cup.

But by the time the quarter-finals came around it was, mostly, the big names which had made it through - with the honourable exception of Zambia's Chipolopolo, who deservedly made it through after playing with verve and style.

Togolese police officers  carry the coffin of one of the victims of the attack on the Togo team bus
The fatal shooting at the start of the competition overshadowed the event

Ghana's young side rode their luck in scraping through in second place from a three-team group.

Normally the Black Stars would be amongst the favourites for any Nations Cup - but this was a side shorn of most of its top players, using youngsters whose chief experience was winning the Under-20 World Cup a few months before.

Yet after their opening defeat to Ivory Coast, Ghana found the discipline to run all the way to the final in a display which bodes very well for their prospects at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Of the other African World Cup qualifiers, Algeria impressed in the later stages - especially with their resilience against Ivory Coast.

The Desert Foxes' earlier defeat against Malawi may have been a hangover from their long, drawn-out World Cup campaign.

The Elephants themselves were deeply disappointing - a collection of talented individuals rather than a team, although the effect of being in Cabinda after what happened to Togo should not be underestimated.

Nigeria's progress to the semi-final represented a respectable performance from a somewhat limited team.

Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen still has work to do, after his side were denied a place in the semi-finals by a team not going to the World Cup - namely the eventual champions Egypt.

Nothing can detract from Egypt's magnificent performance - but in the end Angola 2010 will be remembered for more than just football

The Pharaohs were stung by their failure to qualify for South Africa, and they will feel their absence all the more keenly after another superb display at the Nations Cup.

Missing players of the quality of Mohamed Aboutrika, Mohamed Barakat and Amr Zaki, Hassan Shehata's side racked up the goals and the wins, and maintained their remarkable unbeaten run - which stretches all the way back to Tunisia in 2004.

Mohamed "Gedo" Nagy finished as the top scorer, despite coming on as a substitute in every match.

Indefatigable captain Ahmed Hassan passed 170 international caps and won player of the tournament for the second time in a row.

And collectively they made history by becoming the first team ever to win three consecutive Nations Cups.

That would be a good thought on which to reflect at the end of the tournament.

However, Caf's decision to ban Togo for the next two Africa Cup of Nations tournaments the day before the final ensured that all our thoughts returned to what happened to Emmanuel Adebayor and his teammates right at the start the competition.

Nothing can detract from Egypt's magnificent performance - but in the end Angola 2010 will be remembered for more than just football.



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see also
Ghana 0-1 Egypt
31 Jan 10 |  African
Togo ban is outrageous - Adebayor
31 Jan 10 |  African
Africa Cup of Nations photos
31 Jan 10 |  Football
Ghana 1-0 Nigeria
28 Jan 10 |  African
Le Guen sends warning to players
26 Jan 10 |  African
Egypt 3-1 Cameroon (aet)
25 Jan 10 |  African
Malawi 3-0 Algeria
11 Jan 10 |  African
Angola 4-4 Mali
10 Jan 10 |  African
Togo footballers shot in ambush
08 Jan 10 |  Africa
Africa Cup of Nations fixtures
07 Jan 10 |  African
Africa Cup of Nations tables
07 Jan 10 |  African


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