ABIDJAN / Lawrencia Nyamekye Adjei, AIPS: You are most likely going to taste fufu or Acheke when you come to Ivory Coast. You probably may add a little French vocabulary to your diction. Even better is if you are in the West African country, you dance whenever you hear Tam Sir’s Coup du Marteau.

Nothing prepared the African continent and world football for the unthinkable. The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations has been termed the giant slayer and the respecter of none.

If you held your breath after exit of former champions Tunisia, Algeria, Zambia, and Ghana, then get an incentive spirometer because Ivory Coast 2023 has presented a script fit for a blockbuster movie.

Writers, broadcasters and fans across the world had easily predicted that holders Senegal and World Cup semi-finalists Morocco – Africa’s top two teams in the FIFA world rankings – would go all the way due to their form, class and pedigree.

However, this year’s tournament totally reiterated that African football is different and best understood when the tournament is underway, because how do you explain a total wipe out of all eight quarter finalists from AFCON 2021 – the last edition of the tournament?   

It remains a mystery how Equatorial Guinea struggled against Guinea. The team who scored nine goals in the group stage failed to find the back of the net in their last-16 tie, including missing a crucial penalty. When it mattered the most, Emilio Nsue couldn’t give his team what they needed the most.

In a post-match interview, Nsue apologised to their fans and promised to do better. “We tried our best. I personally apologize for missing the penalty but all my teammates, we tried our best. We have to learn about this mistake to continue working”.

The Pharaohs of Egypt who have won the tournament record seven times were banking on the brilliance of their goalkeeper Gabal to be the hero of the night during the penalty shootout against DR Congo, but football has a way of turning heroes into villains as Gabal ended up missing his penalty kick. DR Congo, who earlier in the tournament held their own in 1-1 draw against Morocco, kicked out Egypt.

The two-time Africa Cup of Nations champions according to Jeff Kinyanjui is his most exciting team so far. “My most exciting team has to be DR Congo. I like the fact that they gave Morocco sleepless nights on and off the pitch. They are playing really nice football. They are playing as a team. They say football is a team sport and they have really showed that.”

Two-time quarter-finalists Cape Verde have continued to amaze the continent with their impressive play. The Blue Sharks are making their 4th appearance a memorable one like they did in their debut in South Africa 2013 when they reached the quarterfinals.

Their quality caught the attention of Ugandan journalist Clive Omutegeke who says: “My most entertaining team in the AFCON without a doubt has to be Cape Verde. I am not shocked that they have gotten this far in the competition. They are playing beautiful, organized football and i hope they can stay longer.”

At the Charles Konan Banny Stadium in Yamoussoukro, Ivorians were confident that round of 16 game was their last game in the tournament. They turned up in their number (19,184) for what they thought would be their last dance.

So unlike in their 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea where fans started leaving the Alassane Ouattara Stadium after conceding their second goal, the Ivorian fans clad in white, orange and green cheered the team until the end.

Who would have thought that Senegal the country who played in the finals of the last two AFCONs would bow to Ivory Coast who needed Morocco to win against Zambia to scrape in the the knockout stage?

As if the world had not had enough surprises Bafana Bafana of South Africa took theirs to an absolute insane level. Outright favourites Morocco failed to score, including Hakimi missing a penalty which could have changed the fortunes of his side. And against the odds, South Africa enjoyed a 2-0 victory.