By Reliable Reliance Udoenyin
Sixteen teams will play in the next phase of the Africa Cup of Nations starting from Friday, July 5, 2019, with the last round of group games producing 25 goals, nine more than the second round but two less than the first round.
This means a total of 68 goals have been scored in this AFCON group phase. This figure equals the total number of goals scored in the entire 2015 AFCON but 1 shy of the total scored in the entire 2013 AFCON that saw Nigeria emerge as third-time winners of the trophy.
Interestingly, the 68 goals scored in the group phase of 2019 AFCON is 2 better than the total recorded by the conclusion of the 2017 AFCON. However, these goals records tend to overshadow the toothless and lackluster display in front of goal by the teams in the competition. Remember this is the first time there will be 24 teams in the AFCON.
Poor goals average in 2019
In 2013, 49 goals were scored in total after the group phase averaging 2.04 goals per match. At the conclusion of the group stages in 2015, 45 goals were recorded averaging 1.87 goals per match. 2017 AFCON saw a remarkable increase with 52 goals in total at the group stages, by 16 teams.
At the end of the group phase in the 2019 edition, Group C emerged winner in terms of the total number of goals per group with 16 goals in total, seconded by group A with 13 and group B with 11 goals.
The last round of group matches, unlike the second round, saw a flurry of goals with DR Congo defeating Zimbabwe 4:0, Ivory Coast beating Namibia 4-1
In the same vein, Algeria defeated Tanzania by 3 goals while Senegal recorded their win over Kenya with the same scoreline. Only two matches were decided barren at the end of regulation time. These are the matches involving Cameroon vs Benin (0:0) and Tunisia vs Mauritania (0:0).
Algeria are top scorers
Algeria are the highest goal scorers in this tournament thus far having scored 6 goals without conceding. Next on the ranking is Egypt with 5 goals without conceding and Mali third on the ranking with 6 goals but conceded 2 alongside Senegal who has scored 5 goals but conceded 1. Morocco is another team yet to concede a goal in this tournament with 3 goals to their record thus far in what seems to be a battle of goals and clean sheets among the North African countries. It is worthy of mention that debutants Madagascar has scored 5 goals, higher than any other team in group B although they conceded 3.
No goals for Burundi and Bissau
Burundi and Guinea-Bissau will have an AFCON to forget after bidding their byes to the tournament without registering a single goal throughout the group phase.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Mauritania, and Angola will have sore disappointment staring in their faces after scoring just single goals each in the tournament.
South Africa, however, have an opportunity to redeem themselves having progressed to the last 16 as a beneficiary of the best third-placed finisher arrangement.
Cautions, red cards and all
The group phase was not devoid of some physical football and a traditional energetic style peculiar to Africa as statistics show that some 423 fouls were committed in the 3rd round of matches, 17 less than the figure of fouls recorded after the second round of group matches.
In all, it could be concluded that discipline on the field of play improved since there was a drop in the total figure of fouls recorded in the last round against the first round figure of 435 and second round figure of 440 fouls, summing up to 1298 fouls committed in total in the group phase.
However, the fact that only this round recorded two red cards could put that assertion to an interesting argument. More so, this last round of group matches saw a tremendous increase in the number of yellow cards issued with 38 yellow cards in total against 30 recorded on the conclusion of the second round.
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon contributed 4 yellow cards to this 38 of the last group matches being the highest defaulter as did Angola, the second highest defaulter with 3 yellows to their unwanted AFCON 2019 record.
In total, 102 yellow cards have been issued so far in this tournament averaging 2.83 yellow cards per match.
Where are the strikers?
Although the lack of fans in the stands during matches remains a major talking point, probably for some, the lack of an outstanding goal scorer in the numbers after the group phase will amaze many since the highest goal scored by a single player so far in this tournament is 2.
Mo Salah of Egypt, Sadio Mane of Senegal, Jordan Ayew of Ghana and 8 others have recorded this figure of goals.
The highest assist of the tournament thus far is credited to Franck Kessie of Ivory Coast with 3 assists to his name and country.