Algeria blew a 1-0 lead and a second-half penalty before scraping past Ivory Coast in a dramatic shootout in their Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final on Thursday.
The tense shootout saw Algeria win 4-3 and move one step closer to winning the title for the second time and first since 1990.
AC Milan and Les Elephants midfielder Franck Kessie spoke to media after the epic clash.
Watch what he said above:
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Africa Cup of Nations favourites Senegal face Benin in the quarter-finals of the tournament as they bid to reach the final four for the first time since 2002.
Senegal finished runners-up that year after losing out to Cameroon on penalties following a goalless draw.
Aliou Cisse who missed the deciding penalty in the shootout, now manages the national team and in captain Sadio Mane he has the tournament’s joint top scorer.
Benin will be the overwhelming underdogs having failed to qualify for the previous four editions of the tournament.
‘The Squirrels’ have made history in Egypt after reaching the knockout stage for the first time.
First, he played a prominent role as his club side mounted a highly impressive campaign to secure their league title by a country mile.
Then, when summer arrived, he headed off with his national team and enjoyed similar levels of success, starting every game to help his country claim a prestigious continental crown.
No doubt about it, when it comes to this year’s Ballon d’Or award, there can only be one serious candidate…
Yes, that was a rather facetious, tongue-in-cheek comment.
Of course, Coutinho should not and will not be anywhere near the Ballon d’Or podium after an entirely underwhelming season which has left his future at Barcelona in doubt and saw several others play far more meaningful parts in Brazil’s Copa America triumph.
But the case of Coutinho serves to underline how nonsensical it is to award individual trophies such as the Ballon d’Or on the basis of collective titles gained. Because if that really was the criteria, he would have to be a major contender.
Yet it seems to be happening more and more. Every time a team wins a trophy, especially if it’s their second (or more) of the season, headlines eagerly pronounce that players x, y or z should start preparing their wardrobes for a night of glitz and glamour at sport’s biggest and most self-congratulatory annual ego-fest.
We saw it a few weeks ago when Portugal won the inaugural UEFA Nations League and Cristiano Ronaldo subsequently received a big boost to his hopes of regaining the Ballon d’Or, even though he didn’t do an enormous amount in the final victory over the Netherlands (whose central defensive lynchpin Virgil van Dijk apparently suffered a blow in his quest for the shiny gong by having the temerity to lose one game).
THERE’S NO ‘I’ IN TEAM
And we’re seeing it again now following Brazil’s triumph at Copa America, which has led some supposedly serious observers to suggest that Alisson Becker should be considered for individual recognition after also winning the Champions League with Liverpool. His club teammate Mo Salah, however, is thought to have irrevocably ruined his hopes by failing to lead Egypt to glory in the African Cup of Nations. Yes, a whole season of toil has been scuppered by one defeat to South Africa.
This is all the wrong way around, surely. Team awards are for teams, who win them by the startlingly logical route of winning games and therefore winning trophies. Individual awards are, well, for individuals, who could be the best player on the pitch in every single game they appear but still fail to seize any silverware due to the deficiencies of their teammates or other circumstances beyond their control.
That doesn’t really help, though, because judging the contribution of individuals to a dynamic game involving 22 moving parts is bound to be highly subjective, with some players having their individual contributions overstated while others are downgraded due to myriad factors including media profile, playing position and nationality.
Take the case of Jan Oblak, for example. For several years the Atletico Madrid goalkeeper has been a model of consistent brilliance, routinely making jaw-dropping saves to help make his defence the best in the world (he kept 20 clean sheets in 37 league games this season, for instance).
As an individual, Oblak could not have done any more. But because he is a pretty uncharismatic goalkeeper lacking a superstar agent and playing for Atletico and Slovenia, who have not been good enough to win a major trophy, you will never see him even mentioned as a possible Ballon d’Or winner, never mind a leading contender.
Is Oblak the best player in the world? Depending on how you choose to answer such a wide open question, it can easily be argued that he has as good a claim as anyone else. He’s certainly as good as Alisson. But we all know it just doesn’t work like that.
These days, to win the Ballon d’Or it’s necessary to win a trophy, ideally two, play for a fashionable club and/or nation, and have a strong media profile. Scoring a big goal in a big game also helps, even though that doesn’t necessarily do anything to reflect a whole year’s worth of work. And try not to be a defender, although that’s not necessarily an immovable obstacle if the other plucked-out-of-the-air criteria are all fulfilled.
So where does that leave us…confused? If so, that’s just as well. The Ballon d’Or – an individual award in a team sport where personal performances can never truly be removed from the collective context – is an inherently confusing award, so it doesn’t really deserve any clarity or logical thinking.
Judge it however you want, it really doesn’t matter. Just don’t give it to Coutinho.