BEFOREHAND WE ASKED: Which African team will lift the Cup at the 30th edition of the African most prestigious soccer showpiece, which took off on Saturday, January 17, and will glide to a close on February 8? Which country will come second? And third? Which player will emerge as the Golden Boot winner? We asked those questions.

As it turned out, Côte d’Ivoire clinched the coveted trophy by beating Ghana 9-8 in a penalty shoot out.

WE HAD ADMITTED…
Although all the 16 teams in the four groups have gone round one another, it is still unsafe to tip any country as the possible winners. Nevertheless, Algeria’s Desert Foxes are the odds-on favourites to clinch the trophy. The Black Stars of Ghana also have the pedigree to run away with the trophy for a record fifth time.
Football is not mathematics, however. Pundits are permitted to do their calculations and come up with the possible champions on February 8. Fans also have the right to tip the eventual winners. But the team with the right character and resilience will eventually carry the day.
The experience of 2013 AFCON should caution anyone not to make any prediction until the last four nations emerge in the semi-finals. For example: The Super Eagles of Nigeria were not given a dog’s chance of flying beyond their group in 2013. But they flew on against all odds, and feasted on countries like Zambia, winners of the 2012 tournament, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Burkina Faso and the Red Devils of Congo to clinch the coveted trophy for a record third time, the first being in 1980 and 14 years later for the second.
Missing in action
Virtually all the teams that featured at the last championship staged in South Africa made it to Equatorial Guinea. Aside from the Pharaohs of Egypt that have been missing out after winning the trophy for a record seven times in 2010, the other powerhouse of African soccer absent at the tournament are the Super Eagles of Nigeria. The winners of the last trophy could not make it to the oil-rich nation to defend their title. The Atlas Lions of Morocco are also not in the championship.
Also missing out are the Squirrels of Togo. They were in South Africa but could not advance beyond the group stage. Guinea Bissau were not at the last tournament but they were hemmed in another pool of death featuring Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali.
Ebola scared Morocco…

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