By Farayi Mungazi
THE Africa Cup of Nations is a great platform for the continent to display the very best t
hat it has to offer.
Barring those who are absent through injury, this biennial football festival features an abundance of talent.
This is why predicting the tournament’s winner is a very tricky business. I should know.
In 2004, I was left with so much egg on my face I could have made an omelette for an entire team when Mali left Tunisia without the trophy.
Well, here we are, it is Nations Cup time again and everyone is wondering which of the 16 teams competing in Ghana will have the last laugh.
Am I tempted to make a prediction? You bet I am!
You see, with the likes of Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Egypt and the Ivory Coast all involved, there is something magical about the 26th edition of Africa’s premier football event.
But despite my best efforts, I am finding it difficult to look beyond the Ivory Coast — winners of this tournament after a nerve-shredding penalty shoot-out against Ghana in 1992.
You require something a little bit special to win the Nations Cup and the Ivory Coast certainly have that.
They are cut out to be African champions. So, I will stick my neck out and say anything other than an Ivorian triumph on 10 February would surprise me very much.
And what will I do if my prediction turns out to be wide off the mark? Threaten again to run the London Marathon? No chance.
For a moment, I thought of offering to chew up my baseball cap live on Ghana TV should the Elephants come unstuck.
But once bitten, twice shy is the expression that springs readily to mind. Besides, chewing up one’s baseball cap might lead to one’s dentist questioning one’s sanity.
So my prediction comes with this disclaimer: I am not a prophet nor have I any supernatural powers that enable me to see into the future, sporting or otherwise.
Nonetheless, I think the Ivorians will reign supreme and captivate football fans of all persuasions.
They have a solid defence featuring Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue – two men who play for one of the most exciting teams in the world, and know each other’s game well.
Didier Zokora brings creativity in midfield where he operates alongside the Barcelona star and Kolo Toure’s brother, Yaya.
Upfront, Didier Drogba has matured into the sort of striker every coach wants. There is simply no player quite like him when the clock is ticking down and nothing but a goal will do.
Put simply, “the Drog” is a player that sends chills down the spines of opposing defenders. Unlike Chelsea, the Ivory Coast do not rely sorely on him to make things happen for them.
They have a host of other forwards who can conjure up goals out of thin air and I think the Elephants will be hard to stop if they get on a roll. After losing to Egypt on penalties in the 2006 final, Drogba and co. will be determined to make things different in Ghana.
I hope you all enjoy watching them march to Nations Cup glory as much as I will! — BBC Sport.