They are easily the best team that we have seen so far at the Afcon (Africa Cup Of Nations). They are mobile, confident, skillful, organised and refreshing to watch. No I am not talking about the usual big boys of Africa. I am talking about Ethiopia!
Yesterday Ethiopia took on defending champions Zambia and, for many, it was not a question of who the victors would be (which many assumed would be Zambia) but by how much they might win. End result 1-1. The victory went to the Ethiopians in a moral sense.
As the game progressed it became clear that the Zambians were just as surprised as we all were at the quality of the Ethiopians. They are ranked as the least team in Africa by Caf and Fifa (31st in Africa). Parading a team of all home-based players they reminded me in so many ways of Barcelona of Spain. Yes they were that good!
Playing in a 1-4-5-1 formation with an extremely talented Said Saladin up front as the lone striker, they created goal scoring chances, ran rings around the Zambians with their passing game and put on constant pressure to prevent them from playing. They even the luxury to miss a penalty by Saladin.
They unfortunately had their goalkeeper sent off in the midpoint of the first half and played over an hour with one man less. The ‘Kung Fu kick’ by Ethiopia’s goalkeeper on the goal-bound Zambian deserved a red card.
However, here comes the interesting part. If you had missed the red card episode you would have thought that they were the team with one man more.
They kept on playing as if nothing happened.
Zambia eventually, against the run of play, took the lead via Mbesuma Collins, only to concede an equaliser minutes before the final whistle via Ethiopia’s Adane Grima.
Who says African coaches are not world class? The game plan, tactics and choreographed movements by the modest Ehiopian players are the brain work of their impressive coach, Sewnet Bishaw.
His astute decision to send in midfielder Addis Hintsa 25 minutes before the end of the encounter was key. He started the flowing move that led Adane Grima to the ball to score for Ethiopia.
Were they very good or were the Zambians just below par, or below what they had us used to last year? Well I feel it was a bit of both and slightly leaning to the fact that the Ethiopians were just better.
Their fans knew this before us all and were very vocal and present, to the delight of all neutrals.
Having said the above, I am curious to see how they confirm this five-star performance in the next group game v Burkina Faso. Confirm it or not they have made African football better and sent scares through their future opponents. Only time will tell us more.