By Reliable Reliance Udoenyin
The first ever Round of 16 in the Africa Cup of Nations ended on July 8, 2019, and it saw 19 goals scored in total.
The 19 goals total is not any different from the total number of goals scored in an AFCON phase with 16 teams.
In 2013, only the third round of the group phase saw a total of 20 goals but round two and one saw a total of 16 and 12 goals respectively.
2017 emerged with consistency in the 20 goals total tally since round two and three of the group stage recorded 20 goals each bettering the figure of 12 recorded at the end of round one.
The Algerians are ruthless
Algeria continued to show their ruthlessness in front of goal becoming the highest scoring nation in the round of 16, having put 3 goals past Guinea without conceding.
Nigeria came close to this margin with a 3:2 win over perennial rivals, Cameroon in a match that saw 2 goals scored under 3 minutes by Bahoken (41st minute) and Njie (44th minute) both of Cameroon.
Following the elimination of Egypt by South Africa and Cameroon by Nigeria, Algeria remains the only nation in this tournament thus far with a clean sheet and a total of 9 goals higher than any other team.
On the other hand, South Africa will be playing in the quarter-final (against Nigeria) with just 2 goals to their name throughout the entire competition thus far. What a record! Debutantes Madagascar continue their fairy tale run in this competition progressing to the quarterfinals via penalty ahead of DR Congo.
As a result, three matches were decided via penalty shoot -outs. These are Morocco vs Benin, Ghana vs Tunisia and Madagascar vs DR Congo with Benin, Tunisia and Madagascar progressing to the quarter finals. However, no match ended barren of goals by regulation time.
Cautions and all
Surprisingly, the number of yellow cards issued at the round of 16 equalled the total figure recorded in the first round of the group stage despite the reduction in the number of teams to 16.
In a set containing only the teams who have progressed to the quarterfinals, Benin and South Africa were joint highest defaulters with 3 yellow cards each. This implies that Benin have conceded 9 yellow cards in total thus far, joint highest with Tunisia.
Closely following in this ranking is South Africa with 7 yellow cards in total and Algeria with 5. Outside the above-considered set, Uganda and Ghana jointly conceded 6 yellow cards, 3 apiece making both teams joint top defaulters with Benin and South Africa.
In summation, 30 yellows cards were issued at the round of 16 taking the total tally issued thus far to 132 after 44 matches. The red card issued to K. Adenon of Benin was the only red card issued in the round of 16 summing the total figure issued thus far to 4 red cards.
The yellow cards statistics may undervalue the significant reduction in the number of fouls committed in this round albeit for obvious reason. A total of 343 fouls were committed. However, when compared to round one of the 2017 AFCON group stage that had 16 teams, this figure (i.e. 343) may not truly reflect a round of AFCON improving from 32 teams to 16 teams since the least recorded in the group stage of 32 teams is 433 and 277 fouls were committed in the first round of the 2017 AFCON with 16 teams.
Battle for the Golden Boot
Despite criticism from many in his home country, Odion Ighalo of Nigeria who netted 7 goals to emerge top scorer in the qualifiers prior to this tournament is on the verge of becoming the highest goals scorer in the tournament, leading the race with 3 goals alongside Sadio Mane of Senegal and Adam Ounas of Algeria. Others who will have opportunities to contest this crown when the quarterfinals kick start on Wednesday 10th July by 5 PM are Wilfried Zaha of Ivory Coast, Mickael Pote of Benin, Caralus Andriamatsinoro of Madagascar, Riyad Mahrez and Youcef Belaili both of Algeria. These players have all scored 2 goals each thus far.