Highs and lows from the Africa Cup of Nations

Highs and lows from the Africa Cup of Nations
Highs and lows from the Africa Cup of Nations

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The end is nigh

Later today, Cameroon will host a colorful closing ceremony for the final match of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament—but not for its own national team. The Indomitable Lions came close to the final, but their hopes were dashed after they missed three penalties in the semifinal against Egypt. That means the Pharaohs will challenge Senegal’s Teranga Lions for this year’s $5 million prize and a place in the World Cup.

Whoever wins, it will bring an end to festivities that started on Jan. 9 at the newly built Olembe Stadium in Yaoundé. There have been high moments in the competition, especially for countries like Comoros and the Gambia. But there have also been lows, including a Jan. 24 pre-game stampede that killed eight people and left 40 others wounded. The fatal event reopened questions about Cameroon’s initial preparedness to host the tournament.

Today’s final will be played at Olembe, with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and Cameroon’s local organizing committee reportedly satisfied that enough measures have been taken to prevent a repeat tragedy. Cameroon’s players also asked their soccer administrators to donate some of their performance bonuses to the stampede’s victims.

Cameroon might get some consolation in the third-place game against Burkina Faso, which has had to put aside the distraction of a military coup at home. But whatever happens, the continent will miss coming together for a month-long party that, barring one devastating event, has truly been a thrill. —Alexander Onukwue, west Africa correspondent


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