Alexa

Experienced players struggle at African Cup

Experienced players struggle at African Cup

They may have been in the spotlight before the tournament, but the likes of Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o never really sparkled at the African Cup of Nations in what was often a frustrating time for the more experienced players.
Drogba and Eto'o only collected three goals between them, while Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita managed to score three but was powerless to prevent his Mali side from being eliminated at the group stage.
Moumouni Dagano, who shot to the top of the continental scorers' standings with 12 goals in World Cup qualifying, failed to find the net for Burkina Faso, which also made a group stage exit without a single goal.
French coach Claude Le Roy, best known for leading Cameroon to its second continental crown in 1988, blames Eto'o and Drogba's less convincing scoring form in Angola on a lack of support from teammates.
"When playing at Chelsea, Drogba is heavily dependent on other players, especially those on the wings," Le Roy told the Associated Press. "I didn't see him get much of that support here."
Former England forward John Barnes thinks that Drogba, who has netted 19 goals for Chelsea this season, scores more easily in English football because defenders there aren't physically a match for him.
"Drogba terrorizes defenders in England every week," said Barnes, who was in Angola to promote England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup. "Here, he can't do that because there are defenders that match his physical stamina."
Drogba's Ivory Coast and Eto'o's Cameroon lost in the quarterfinals to Algeria and Egypt respectively.
Rigobert Song, making his eighth appearance at the African Cup, was at fault as Cameroon lost a group opener to Gabon. He blundered again against Zambia but Cameroon survived and went on to win 3-2.
He never returned to the starting lineup for his side and he may not do so again.
Iraq coach Bora Milutinovic, who took five different teams to the World Cup including the United States and Nigeria, believes that experience is a key element to success, but also reckons that players like Drogba get distracted by high expectations from fans.
Tactics employed by coaches at club and national level are also different, the well-traveled Serbian said in Luanda. "A player has to deal with different set of tactics. It's not always easy."
While some of the established players fumbled, the younger ones seized their chances.
Ghana didn't need Steven Appiah, John Mensah, John Paintsil or Michael Essien to reach the final. The first three missed the tournament with injuries while Chelsea's Essien only lasted 45 minutes of his team's opening game against Ivory Coast before withdrawing with a knee injury.
Zambia unexpectedly made it through the group stage with its fringe players and went on to face Nigeria in the quarterfinals, only losing 5-4 on penalties after a 0-0 draw. Despite boasting Premier League players such as John Obi Mikel and Nwankwo Kanu in the squad, Nigeria continued to struggle in the semifinals, where it lost 1-0 to Ghana.
While Kanu's only contribution was a single substitute appearance against Egypt, little-known Samuel Inkoom of FC Basel in the Swiss league, starred in all matches for Ghana.
Egypt is an exception when it comes to experience, with its 37-year-old goalkeeper Essam El Hadary being the oldest player in the tournament. A win for Egypt would give 34-year-old team captain Ahmed Hassan his fourth title, while defender Wael Gomaa, also 34, is hoping to pick up his third.