CBC Sports Online's soccer expert, John Molinaro, takes you inside the world of soccer and offers his insights about the action on the pitch and in the front office.
African Cup of Nations full of excitement
Wednesday, February 6, 2008 | 03:44 PM ET
The biennial African Cup of Nations has to be the most under-rated international soccer tournament on the planet.
I was home sick Tuesday nursing a terrible cold, which meant instead of being tied to my desk at the office I was parked on my couch watching the tournament's quarter-final matchup between Cameroon and Tunisia.
And let me tell you something: it was one of the best games I've seen in a long time.
Tunisia trailed 2-0 but fought back to knot the score late in regulation before Stephane M'Bia scored a cracker of a goal in extra time to send the Indomitable Lions through to the semifinals.
The thrilling Cameroon-Tunisia contest came one day after hosts Ghana and Nigeria battled it out in another exciting quarter-final match, with the Black Stars advancing to the final four following a 2-1 win.
I've been very impressed with the quality of play at this tournament - much more so than last year's Copa America tournament - and a major reason why is that unlike their South American counterparts, African players care about playing in their continental championship.
Witness the difference in attitudes between players such as Michael Essien, Samuel Eto'o and Didier Drogba (who told their respective clubs in no uncertain terms they would not miss playing in the African Cup of Nations for anything) versus Kaka and Ronaldinho, who skipped last year's Copa America competition in Venezuela.
Kaka and Ronaldinho cited fatigue after a long club season for skipping the Copa festivities, which is hardly a legitimate excuse when you consider fatigue didn't stop them from playing in the 2006 World Cup.
By contrast Essien, Eto'o and Drogba are leaving their teams while they are in the middle of heated title races in order to represent their countries. That's commitment!
It's this kind of passion that fuels that African Cup of Nations, which, for my money, trails only the World Cup and Euro as the best international tournament - the Confederations Cup, Gold Cup and Copa America can't compare.
African soccer is often maligned as being tactically naïve, and African players are too often labelled "great athletes" who lack skill and intelligence.
Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.
Essien, aside from his physical strength, is a skilled midfielder - one of the best in the world at his position - while Eto'o and Drogba rank among the top goal-scorers in the world.
This year's tournament in Ghana has been fantastic, and should go a long way to dispelling the myth that African soccer is not up to snuff.
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About the Author
John F. Molinaro is a reporter for CBC Sport Online whose chief love is international soccer. John served as senior editor of Sports Online's Euro 2004 website, which helped him win a CBC.ca Award of Excellence, and was the driving force behind our coverage of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He holds an honours BA in sociology from York University and a print journalism diploma from Sheridan College, and is also the author of The Top 100 Pro Wrestlers of All Time (Stewart House, 2002).
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