Ghanaian legend Abedi Pele said Africa’s big guns paid the price for underrating their opponents after failing to qualify for next year’s African Cup of Nations finals.
Seven-time African champions Egypt, who won the last three editions of the biennial tournament, had a qualifying campaign to forget after finishing at the bottom of their group with five points from six games.
South Africa, who were drawn in the same group, also failed to make it to the Nations Cup finals after their under-fire coach, Pitso Mosimane, bizarrely misinterpreted the rules of qualification.
Cameroon and Nigeria, who won the title six times between them, finished second in their respective groups after being outshone by Senegal and unfancied Guinea respectively.
“Their absence will surely affect the tournament. Those are the high-profile national teams in the continent who also proved their worth on the international stage. Four of these teams played at last year’s World Cup,” Pele said in an interview with Ahram Sport.
“But they are responsible for what happened because, simply, they underrated their opponents and thought they could make up for the points they lost at the beginning of the qualifiers.
“Their absence is a fair punishment for them because you have to respect your opponents to win,” the three-time African Footballer of the Year added.
Egypt’s revolution effect
Pele has also pointed the finger at Egypt, but said they were partially affected by January’s revolution, which forced a lengthy stoppage of football in the country.
“Egypt also underrated their opponents, but they were also unlucky due to the political turmoil in the country,” the 46-year-old said.
“The players were primarily concerned with what’s going in the country, football was a secondary issue. That’s why the Egyptian people were not overly concerned when the team failed to reach the Nations Cup. Their reaction would have different if the country was stable,” he added.
Egypt’s Nations Cup flop led to the sacking of highly successful coach Hassan Shehata. Former United States manager Bob Bradley succeeded him.