It was a breakthrough victory for a perennial contender at the 39th annual Nations Cup.
Team Africa won the men’s Open Division title for the first time since 1995 – capping a perfect five-game run with a 5-1 victory over Canada Sunday at the annual summer soccer showcase in Richmond.
Led by netminder Miguel Hof, Africa – with players of African heritage – stymied the Canadians despite the host team holding an overall edge in possession. Hof produced a couple of brilliant stops when the match was still very much up for grabs and a lethal transition game spirited the Africa team to the title.
The squad, composed of players from the Burnaby-based Kotoko FC of the Multicultural Soccer League, enjoyed a well-deserved breakthrough after years of being on the cusp at the Nations tourney.
“They’ve had some unlucky results the last couple of years where they looked like they could be very competitive,” said Nations Cup president Jeff Wilson. “They can look really, really good and always put on an exciting and compelling game with the way they play.”
Africa opened the scoring early on a free kick, then added another soon after. Supplying the offence were Nicolas Budisa, Yassin Essa, Robert Giezen, Edris Najm and Jake Starhiem.
It was a frustrating night for a Canadian team that had ended India’s six-year run as a finalist hours earlier.
The “host” country was trying to win its first Nations Cup since 2004.
“Canada is another team that has been a bit unlucky over the years. They usually have a really good pool of university players,” continued Wilson.
Africa’s Giezen and Brendan Skinner picked up the Most Outstanding Player and Top Defender awards.