The African Cup of Nations begins on Saturday in Equatorial Guinea, with the world set for a surprising dosage of international football in mid January.
Teams from around the continent, not renowned across the planet due to limited coverage, get set to show their stuff and try to win the coveted trophy. Minnows Burkina Faso and Zambia have surprised in recent years ahead of powerhouses such as the Ivory Coast and Ghana, which means it is a must-watch tournament, especially during the week without domestic action.
The Nations Cup boasts some of the world’s best stars, but also an element of madness that only African football can deliver. Here is what we are predicting to unfurl in the next few weeks.
Heard of the Congo keeper who bounces on his bum when his side scores? Or what about the maverick Ivorian Boubacar Barry? Well, both are as insane as each other when it comes to on-field shenanigans, and it appears to be a trend. They say goalies must be crazy, but these guys take it to another level. Nigeria keeper Vincent Enyeama can at least add some credibility to the tournament as he continues to show himself as one of the world’s best, but even he has a wild side because he has over 30 career goals!
Orchestrated but naff team celebrations
South Africa and Senegal have been pioneers in this category for years, having scored big goals in the World Cup, whilst Roger Milla did his ditty on his own in 1994. Celebrations are huge in Africa as teams spend more time practising rather than researching the opponent. Expect many more pants reactions and those clearly rehearsed beforehand.
The recent Club World Cup in Morocco saw pitches unsuitable for the world’s best, so what Equatorial Guinea will offer is anyone’s guess. The turf will surely cut up, especially if you have goalkeepers eating it, and any rain will make them worse. Don’t expect the officials to postpone the matches however, as Libya and Zambia found out in 2012.
Kits in every colour of the spectrum
The most colourful game in English football is surely Crystal Palace against Norwich, with red, blue, yellow and green on show. In Africa, there are kits with patterns, orange, yellow and reds all on one strip, and teams such as Cape Verde and DR Congo bring plenty of blue, but also other colours to the table. Ghana have a red and yellow striped away strip, whilst Burkina Faso play in a red and green combo more often seen at Christmas time.
African footballers aren’t all strength and brawn – plenty have silky feet that light up major European leagues. Honed on tough surfaces in Africa and Europe, many attacking players are fleet-footed and can produce a skill or two. On the big stage, expect plenty to try their routines out regularly. Players such as Yannick Bolasie and Thievy Bifouma need no indication to start off the tricks, as the Premier League has seen this season. Bolasie has all the attributes to make it to the top, if only he had an end product. The man couldn’t finish a sentence, or cross a road, but he’s epic to watch!