Stars reflect on Ghana 2008
Between the five of them, they boast one FIFA World Cup™, three CAF Africa Cup of Nations, one UEFA European Championship, six CAF African Footballer of the Year awards and three UEFA Champions League titles. They are Anthony Baffoe, Kalusha Bwalya, Marcel Desailly, Roger Milla and Abedi Pele, and the day after Egypt's triumph in the 26th CAF Africa Cup of Nations, these legends of the game spoke exclusively with FIFA.com about what proved to be a fantastic competition.
FIFA.com: What are your thoughts on Egypt's
Anthony Baffoe (former Ghanaian international): They were by far the most consistent team over the whole tournament. They're very well-organised, and proved that having your players playing in your own league helps the national team.
Kalusha Bwalya (former Zambian international): From the very first match, they showed they were a notch above the rest. They're a complete team and they really dominated this competition. Even more so than two years ago. The side playing the best football won it in the end.
Marcel Desailly (Ghanaian-born former French international): It was a real pleasure to watch them throughout the competition, thanks to their technique, tactics and teamwork. For me, they're the example that all the other countries in Africa should follow: especially in terms of having most of their players in their own national championship.
Roger Milla (former Cameroonian international): They're a very fine team, the complete package. I don't see the slightest weak point in their starting 11. But as a Cameroonian, I have to say their victory caused me pain. Our boys put in a huge effort to get so far and to lose on a mistake is very hard to swallow.
Abedi Pele (former Ghanaian international): I wasn't surprised at all. From the very first matches in this competition, I had a feeling this team would go all the way. Not only did they play well when they had the ball, they also displayed unparalleled commitment and motivation.
Which team surprised you the most?
AB: I've appreciated Angola's progress since their surprise qualification for the 2006 World Cup. Right now, they're one of the hotbeds of African football. I also got a lot of joy from watching Sudan. Their players may be a bit lacking physically, but technically they were a delight.
KB: I wasn't really surprised by anyone. As far as I'm concerned, the best teams all made it through to the quarter-finals.
MD: For me, the competition went as expected. Nobody went far that I didn't think were capable.
RM: I didn't expect Angola to be so strong. Just a few months ago, I thought they looked disjointed. But here they were solid in defence and inspired in attack. I really liked the talent of their players.
AP: Angola, of course. And their two strikers especially. I'm certain they'll be a strong team at the next Africa Cup of Nations in 2010. Playing at home, I wouldn't be surprised if they won it.
Which team disappointed you the most, on the other
AB: Mali and Senegal, without doubt. I don't know what happened to those two teams, but I hope they soon get back to their proper level. Both those countries possess huge talents.
KB: Once again, it's difficult to say because everyone knew who the weaker teams were. On a personal level, I'm disappointed that Zambia still have a long way to go. I expected to see my country in better shape.
MD: Nobody, to be honest. We saw a fantastic competition with lots of goals, and the quarter-final stage was made up of the best teams.
RM: Not one, but two: Morocco and Senegal. I recently picked out Morocco as one of my favourites following their draw with France. The same goes for the Senegalese, who came here with a lot of ambition. It was a real disappointment for me to see them eliminated in the first round.
AP: I expected Angola to go a bit further in the competition. I also realised how much work remains for South Africa. I didn't expect them to still have so much rebuilding to do.
Which player stood out for you as the revelation of the
AB: This isn't just about me being Ghanaian, but I'd say Junior Agogo and Anthony Annan. I didn't expect much from them and they carried our team. Even though I knew about him already, I also enjoyed watching Egypt's Amr Zaki play.
KB: Angola's Manucho was obviously a huge sensation, and I also really appreciated Guinea's Pascal Feindouno and Tarik Sektioui (Morocco). They demonstrated extraordinary talent.
MD: The trophy for best player picked up by Egypt's Hosni Abd Rabou was entirely deserved. He's the archetype of the modern player. He does everything: he performs both defensive and attacking duties, and always puts himself at the service of the team. I really liked him a lot.
RM: For me, it was the Egyptian centre-forward, Amr Zaki. He's got everything, he can do everything and he has above-average technique. He's the kind of forward I like watching in action.
AP: More than any revelation, I enjoyed seeing the continent's big stars playing at the same level as with their clubs. That hasn't always been the case in the past. I was also surprised by the attitude of Mohamed Zidan. He's a great player and, without complaints, he accepted that sometimes he'd be on the bench. I take my hat off to him.
How do you see the future of African football after this
AB: It will be important not to put too much pressure on them, but I see African teams playing at a high level in 2010. I think several sides are capable of reaching the semi-finals.
KB: You just have to look at the teams in the quarter-finals to see what needs to be improved: two sides from north Africa, five from the west and only Angola representing the south. Sudan were actually the only team to qualify for the competition from the east. We need to try to reduce this disparity between the different regions of the continent as quickly as possible.
MD: If Côte d'Ivoire manage to find some stability in attack, they ought to be very strong in 2010. The same goes for Egypt, who can make the most of a talented squad of players. I'm also crossing my fingers for Ghana. But the road is long and filled with obstacles.
RM: South Africa 2010 will be Africa's World Cup. I'm certain that one or even two of our representatives will go far.
AP: When I think back to my era, African football is really in a different dimension today. But when I say that, I mean it in a very positive way. We're on the right track and we'll be ready in 2010.