Year of ups and downs, win­ners and losers

It’s been a quite re­mark­able year of highs and lows for Africa’s finest in club and na­tional team foot­ball, writes

African Independent - - SPORT -

NIGE­RIA rose from the ashes of Africa Cup of Na­tions fail­ure this year to stake a strong claim for a place at the 2018 World Cup at the ex­pense of more fan­cied Al­ge­ria. There has never been an edi­tion of the pre­mier African club com­pe­ti­tion quite like the 2016 one, with a team beaten in the qual­i­fy­ing phase go­ing on to lift the tro­phy.

Mamelodi Sun­downs of South Africa were fi­nal qual­i­fy­ing round losers, go­ing out on away goals af­ter a 2-2 ag­gre­gate draw with V Club from the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo.

But it was later dis­cov­ered that the Kin­shasa out­fit had used a sus­pended player in an ear­lier round and they were kicked out of the com­pe­ti­tion.

In­stead of tak­ing ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated South African close-sea­son hol­i­days, Sun­downs went back into Africa and won a three-team group af­ter En­tente Setif of Al­ge­ria were dis­qual­i­fied for crowd vi­o­lence.

Lucky to lose the first leg of a semi-fi­nal only 2-1 against Zesco United in Zam­bia, the Pre­to­ria club dom­i­nated the re­turn match to tri­umph 2-0 on the night and reach the fi­nal.

Af­ter two nar­row groups wins over five-time former cham­pi­ons Za­malek of Egypt, Sun­downs thrashed the Cairo out­fit 3-0 in the first leg of the fi­nal.

Liberian An­thony Laf­for and Te­bogo Langer­man scored in quick suc­ces­sion be­fore half-time in scorch­ing heat in a packed At­teridgeville sta­dium and an own-goal sealed the fate of the vis­i­tors.

Za­malek won the re­turn match 1-0 in Alexan­dria thanks to a sec­ond-half goal from Nige­rian Stan­ley Ohawuchi, but Sun­downs emerged con­vinc­ing over­all win­ners.

Record seven-time cham­pi­ons Egypt will be back at the Cup of Na­tions in Gabon dur­ing Jan­uary af­ter fail­ing to qual­ify for the past three edi­tions.

Mamelodi Sun­downs of South Africa won the Caf Cham­pi­ons League for the first time in ex­tra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances, hav­ing been elim­i­nated in the qual­i­fy­ing phase.

Here, the AFRICAN IN­DE­PEN­DENT presents a com­pe­ti­tion-by-com­pe­ti­tion guide to the drama that un­folded at na­tional team and club level this year.

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