Ivory Coast win the AFCON 2015
Ivory Coast won their first Africa Cup of Nations since 1992, dramatically beating Ghana 9-8 on penalties. Manchester City’s new signing, Wilfried Bony smashed his spot-kick against the crossbar but the Elephants recovered in the shoot-out, eventually taking the title when goalkeeper Boubacar Barry saved from his opposite number Razak Braimah and then stepped up to score. It was an exciting end to a game that had been anything but exciting, with Premier League stars Bony and Yaya Toure unable to create enough in the 120 minutes played. Toure forced Razak Brimah into a save from an early free kick, and was generally more involved than he has been in the tournament’s previous games. However, once again, the Ivorian captain was nothing like the star we know he can be when played further forward. Ahead of him Bony was even more frustrated, unable to get into the game and pose any form of goal-threat that we have grown accustomed to see in the Premier League. Time after time City’s newest striker failed to hold the ball, or to find a teammate once he had got it under control. Christian Atsu, who has shown throughout this tournament why Everton made such an effort to secure him on loan this season, was the best player on the pitch for much of the game. His excellent play on the right wing created most of Ghana’s attacking threat, most notably when he got in behind and crossed for captain Asamoah Gyan in the 70th minute, only for the former Sunderland striker to miss his kick and it was again Atsu who came closest to finding the net during the 90 minutes. The Everton winger struck the post with a lovely dipping shot that had beaten Boubacar Barry completely, but didn’t quite have enough bend to take it into the corner of the net. Ghana hit the post again not long after, Andre Ayew getting in behind the defence and wrong-footing Barry, only to see his shot go behind off the frame of the goal.
Having said this though, neither side looked much like breaking the deadlock with the Elephants, who were content to sit back and let Ghana have the majority of possession, playing much of their best football on the break. Gervinho was a menace from the start, running at defenders with the mix of skilful play and uncontrolled chaos that has become his speciality. He really should have scored in the second period of extra time, but took a poor touch when he was through on goal. The one time that Gervinho did pick the perfect pass the opportunity was spurned by Max Gradel, who was in on goal, only to blast his shot over the bar. It was the Ivoirians’ best chance in a game noticeable more for the three red cards that didn’t happen than for anything that did. Asamoah Gyan was the first beneficiary, when he stamped on Eric Bailly off the ball, Gyan’s team-mate John Boye was equally lucky when he head butted Eric Bailly in the second half, and Gassama again failed to notice, but how the official contrived to let Serey Die stay on the pitch, is another matter. There is no question he saw the kick to Wakaso Mubarak’s groin, which though not malicious was certainly painful for the Celtic man, and prompted a yellow card. He also awarded a free kick when the Ivorian midfield cynically chopped down Atsu to stop an attack, but inexplicably decided it was not worthy of a second yellow card.
And so it was, as the best football predictions had said it was going to be, the Elephants clinched Africa Cup of Nations, but what nobody had predicted, keeper Boubacar Barry ended up being the hero of the day!