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North Africa surrender AFCON grip to West

MQONDISI DUBE
Cameroon celebrate their first Africa Cup of Nations victory for seven years while Guinea-Bissau players despair on Wednesday PIC: GETTY/AFP IMAGES
With the Africa Cup of Nations in full swing, there appears to be a rapid shift of power from the north to the west while the south haplessly watches from the touch line.

Once upon a time, the Pharaohs of Egypt were nearly invincible while Tunisia and Morocco were devastating on their day.

But that memory is quickly being banished to the history books as new forces emerging from the west of Africa have seized control.

Egypt have seven titles under their belt but have wilted badly since their last title in 2010.

They almost slid into oblivion, missing the subsequent three editions before bouncing back this year.

But the current crop lacks the charisma and sting which the likes of irrepressible midfielder, Mohammed Aboutrika possessed.

Since 1998, when Egypt edged South Africa in the final, this is the longest drought that has seen the North Africans go for three editions without laying their hands on the trophy.

In the last 20 years, the cup has gone to North Africa five times (to Egypt four times and once to Tunisia) while the re-emerging West Africa has taken it four times (Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Nigeria).

The last three editions have gone to West and southern Africa with Zambia breaking the duck for the southern tip of Africa in 2012 after a long wait.

South Africa had been the last southern African country to walk

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away with the title after an emphatic 2-0 over Tunisia in 1996.

While it appears West Africa is poised to add another feather to their cap with Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Cameroon the sides to beat, it’s gloom and doom for southern Africa with only one representative, Zimbabwe. East and Central Africa have DR of Congo and Uganda but prospects of lifting the title appear dim, while West Africa’s real threat, the north, appears powerless. Algeria might be Africa’s top ranked nation, but despite having the lethal Riyad Mahrez, don’t appear like continental beaters.

Morocco are simply struggling while the Pharaohs do not appear like stepping out of the cocoon.

That leaves the door wide open for another title to head west.

The tournament itself appears to diminish in excitement with each passing edition, largely due to most African players’ focus on club careers in more rewarding leagues abroad, particularly in England.

Some players, who would otherwise breath life to the fading CAF flagship competition, retire early to preserve their club careers.

Liverpool’s Cameroonian defender, Joel Matip says he has long retired, at only 25, robbing the tournament of one of the many fine talents.



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