It would be a shame if the crowd disturbances which marred the Africa Cup Of Nations second semi-final match were to overshadow the fact that two neighbouring football-crazy nations have reached in the final of a tournament which has improved significantly in terms of entertainment since the knockout phase began. Each of the games since the group stage ended has produced at least three goals and the final provides a clash between two countries which have been at the forefront of African football for many years.
Ivory Coast qualified for the final via 3-1 victories against Algeria and DR Congo and the team has proved that they can function as a unit without having to rely on the legendary Didier Drogba within the ranks, while Ghana disposed of Guinea 3-0 before eventually eliminating the host country Equatorial Guinea by the same scoreline in their semi-final.
French speaking Ivory Coast and Ghana, where English constitutes the colonial language, are true footballing nations where there exists a multitude of soccer academies with varying degrees of scruples and where youngsters will also find any available plot of land in which to play the game with anything resembling a ball. Quite often, youth tournaments are organised within these countries with several European scouts and agents in attendance, and an abundance of young players are always keen to impress.
Not only do Ivory Coast and Ghana compete for international trade with their extensive port facilities but they are also keen rivals on the football field despite two recent civil wars in Ivory Coast hindering normal life within the country. Although Drogba became a national hero due to his exploits on the international stage and in diffusing civil unrest back home, the current squad also contains a share of personalities and skilful players with Yaya Toure becoming the midfield talisman of the team and both Wilfried Bony and Gervinho offering flair and dynamism in attack.
For Ghana, Michael Essien was one of the more prominent players within their team for many years but the charismatic Asamoah Gyan has now assumed the captaincy and is regarded as one of the more popular players to have been produced by the country. His participation in the final is subject to some doubt after incurring an injury in the quarter-final tie but the Ayew brothers, Jordan and Andre, are capable attacking players currently playing Ligue 1 French football.
When both teams enter the pitch for the final, it is to be hoped that the watching public is entertained by the more appealing nature of African football typified by improvised flair and attack-minded initiatives with the violent scenes witnessed on Thursday hopefully consigned to history. The tournament would rather be remembered for a footballing spectacle between two neighbouring nations than for unwelcome events off the field.