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Thursday, 9 February 2012

ORANGE POWER: Chipolopolo Continue Their Bloody Rampage and Les Elephants Stampede Their Way To The Final

Proudly Zambian :)
WOWWEEEEEEEE!!! Last night was an excellent footie extravaganza!  The AFCON semis did not dissappoint! The Chipololo have continued to show why Zambia is a football nation and what passion we have for the game by continuing to shoot to kill and have made us proud.  I have been watching AFCON 2012 from the group stage of course and will recap everything in a round-up post after the Final. For now, I just want to bask in the Chipolopolo's valiant and successful bid to reach the AFCON Final since 1994, which was a year after the tragic loss of our most promising national team off the coast of Gabon in a plane accident.  How fitting it is that almost 20 years after that tragedy, we are honouring the players by reaching the Final in the manner we have.

Semi 1: Chipolopolo vs the Black Stars (Zambia vs Ghana)

We started off with all cylinders firing and confirmed Gyan's fears that we were going to be a force to be reckoned with.  That lasted for all of 5 minutes when Ghana made their first surge which sent our defenders into a state of panic and by the 7th minute Gyan was awarded a penalty and Zambia had their first yellow card.  However, no one could have predicted that Gyan would fumble and make the most uncommitted and timid penalty attempts and that Mweene would make a great save to keep Zambia's hopes alive! Was he intimidated? I don't think so.  I think Gyan is rusty from playing in the Middle East.  Pathetic attempt in the semifinal of an AFCON championship! However, this did have a positive effect on the rest of the Black Stars who changed gears and ramped up the pressure, and for the rest of the first half Ghana assaulted the Zambian goal by continually flustering defenders and if it wasn't for Mweene's goalkeeping poise, grace and determination we would have been down 3/4-0 by half time! While Ghana constantly questioned us, we sporadically showed what we were capable at the other end.

At this point I was in conniptions as it is no secret that Ghana is my favourite African team and I was already distraught that my national team had to play them! My rickety ticker was letting me know that I am too old for this sort of match. I was starting to think that Renard had spent too much time picking out which blue jeans and white shirt he was to wear out of all of the blue jeans and white shirts he dons on the sidelines at matches and even more likely that he spent too much time in the mirror individually placing each strand of hair in its proper place! However Renard proved that you can be metrosexual and a master football tactician by bringing in his secret weapon: Mayuka the Bazuka who was substituted in for the second half.  He showed Ghana that when you have an opportunity to score you not only take it but you make sure the ball hits the net with a beautiful goal within 20 minutes of being on the pitch. My theory is that Renard wanted to keep Mayuka fresh in case we were down by halftime so he could salvage our hopes if need be.

About 10 minutes to go we started to get a bit cocky with fancy dribbles and things and though I love me some football flair, the game was not won yet. Up 1-0 is not enough to be complacent, especially with the calibre of  team such as Ghana, who kept pummelling and probing in our half till the bitter end.  Thank God for Renard who continued shouting like a banshee although I didn't hear  him tell the boys to hang on for "2 minooootes" like he did in the group stages, which got him a mancrush from one of the BBC commentators who unfortunately did not cover this game as I have enjoyed him expressing his love for Renard's antics and accent.

Man of the match without shadow of  a doubt was Mweene: if he hadn't protected our goal so valiantly throughout the game and particularly during the first half's constant barrage from the Black Stars, by the time Mayuka scored, his goal would have been meaningless.  Absolutely awesome possum!  Fantastic goalkeeping display!

Honourable mentions: Of course to win you have to score and Mayuka showed how you shoot stars out of the sky. Absolute clutch performance! Jordan Ayew was the source of most of Ghana's chances.  His work on the wings to feed the ball into the box were absolutely brilliant.  Both these young lads show great promise and I look forward to seeing them play in the future.

I can't believe I'm saying Gyan was the worst player.  I am really not happy with him at all.  May he go back to Sunderland and play football at a higher level as playing in the Middle East has rusted his football brain.  His penalty attempt was so lacklustre and his performance lacked precision and true direction, commitment and dare I say passion?! His miss at the 2010 World Cup quarters was forgiveable as it was just an unfortunate game for Ghana altogether but there was just no excuse last night. His performance was just as bad as Senegal's overall performance in the group stages.  A complete waste of talent!

Semi 2: Les Elephants vs Les Aigles (Cote D'Ivoire vs Mali)

Cote D'Ivoire have been focused, humble and determined the whole of AFCON and it is clear that they are remedying the underperformance that has plagued them in the last 10 years.  They have trampled their competition, scoring 8 goals and conceding none.  And they continued to keep a clean sheet by never giving the Eagles the chance to soar in true Elephant style by keeping them firmly on the ground, stamping on them and finally burying them by winning the match. It was incredibly physical but with Cote D'Ivoire firmly in control.  Nothing happened unless they allowed it to. They stampeded their way to the Final in style :)

Man of the match was definitely Gervinho who finally has found his form with his first goal of the tournament, and what better a time to find it!  His run from beyond the half-way line, leaving Malian after Malian in the dust and finishing off his efforts with a beautiful strike culminated in grabbing the lead in the dying minutes of the first half and ultimately secured Cote D'Ivoire's progression to the Final on Sunday. His coverage of the pitch, his ball skills and his striking precision created one of the most sublime moments of AFCON 2012 for sure!

Honourable mentions: Cote D'Ivoire defenders protected their goalkeeper and Barry had little to do the whole game and no goals were conceded once again.  The Toure brothers were impactful in the back, midfield and in the box through the middle and Gosso did the same on the wings.  Kalou was impactful in the box trying to make things happen despite being clearly hampered by his hamstring injury. It is no secret that I  do not like Drogba and his style of play which involves divo (if you don't know that's male for diva) antics among other things which I have expressed before, but he has shown a maturity on the football pitch during AFCON and particularly in this game in which he was not his best but he tried to make and impact in the box and elsewhere on the field and at times when he fell and would have normally appealed for a penalty or free kick he picked himself up, dusted himself off and just got on with it.  I wonder if his game was affected by the fact his wife is Malian? Talk about awkward!

Worst player was clearly Seydou Keita.  He has been a brat all tournament and continued his petulant streak  by arguing with the ref and finding dubious ways to get fouls and cards against his opponents.  I love Barca, they are my fav team in Europe and a lot of that has to do with their professionalism and clean playing style.  These dirty tactics clearly come from Keita himself when left to his own devices.  He should be ashamed he did nothing on that football pitch but show that he has a rotten personality.

Now although my favourite animal is the elephant and I am vehemently against poaching, come Sunday I expect Zambia to use copper bullets to shoot some elephants and take ivory as trophies, I want them to storm the beach and capture the coast! At the beginning of the tournament I expected Zambia to carry me to the quarters and for my favourite African teams Ghana and/ or Ivory Coast to take over and keep me invested in the Final.  Zambia have shown that indeed "this is our time" as our Skipper, Christopher Katongo decreed before the semis. I am very proud of my national team's passion, determination and execution and expect another bloodbath of a footie match.

Now to make sure we win we have to play like we did against Senegal in the group stages and more importantly we have to win the toss to wear orange jerseys.  As the scientific findings from the semis show, teams in orange won, those in white lost. If Les Elephants lose the toss they wear white, upping their chances to lose and giving us even more of a chance to win when coupled with the power of us wearing the orange jersey.  For those skeptics who will bring up the Dutch wearing orange and losing in the 2010 World Cup Final I will kindly inform them that the Dutch only had one element in common with the teams that won the AFCON semis and that is the orange jersey, but those who hail from Holland are not from the motherland.  Being African brings the juju element in so Zambian sangomas do your thing: we want the ORANGE coz we know what to do with it and that's WIN ;}


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