After all the drama and uncertainty about whether the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations will happen at all, a draw that has thrown up what in theory some amazing games to savour. If the Confederation of African Football were hoping for a tournament that will be so good we will forget the inevitable off-field problems, we got a draw to suggest they will get one.
In Ghana there were those who were wailing at the sight of Senegal, Algeria and South Africa in the same group. In Johannesburg, Dakar and Algiers, there would have been those wondering just why they had to face this.
For the neutrals though group C and D which has Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Mali should serve up some sweet matches. Matches that will display everything football on the western side of the continent is about; skills, strength, brain, brawn, a lot of colour in the stands as well as good music.
And those providing the soundtrack will be spoilt for choice in terms of which games to watch. Group C alone offers many.
Ghana’s meeting with Algeria will be special for a few reasons. Algeria is Africa’s form team at the moment. They are the topped ranked side, have some really exciting players in Yacine Brahim and others and have been strong in recent years. But they will have finally have some real competition.
No matter what we say about how poor the Black Stars have become however, nobody in the Ghana camp will be quaking in their boots at the prospect of facing the Desert Foxes given the sheer experience they will travel to the tournament with.
Ghana-South Africa should be another good one. There have been many great battles between the two sides including the qualifiers for the 2006 world cup when Ghana finally put the demons of Bafana Bafana to bed.
In Nations Cup context though they have won two key games, in the semi finals in 1996 and in the quarter finals in 2000. History is however not the only reason why the meeting at AFCON 2015 is a fascinating prospect. South Africa has risen from their recent slumber with style and the guile and swagger with which they completely dominated a group that included Nigeria was hugely impreesive
Senegal-Algeria should be another heavyweight contest. The two countries have some of the best players on the continent. Saido Mane, Pappis Cisse, Yaccine Brahim, Feghouli, Bentaleb. It’s a genuine cast of really good players but above all the contrast in style should make it a really good watch.
Group D offers it’s fair share of must-see games and they won’t come bigger than the one between Cameroon and Ivory Coast. The Indomitable Lions are playing with their swagger again and took four points off the Elephants in qualifying thanks in part to a 4-1 hammering in Yaounde. Herve Renard and his team will be desperate for revenge.
Tunisia’s meeting with Congo DR looks a good prospect too. Sometimes the Congolese dazzle and if Yannick Bolasie is in full flight as he was when they beat Ivory Coast away from home, they are unstoppable.
The games to look forward to are by no means limited limited to the above. Gabon versus neighbours Equatorial Guinea could be a thriller given just how open group A is. Cape Verde are always exciting to watch which means it is worth keeping a good eye on group B too.
Everywhere to look there is reason to think the football will be so good we are likely to forget just how troubled this tournament’s journey has been.