Odion Ighalo send a message to his wife and kids after scoring against Cameroon

By

Reliable Reliance Udoenyin

The just-concluded Total AFCON 2019 had 52 matches played in total since this year’s showpiece had 24 teams for the first time in the tournament history.

The tournament hosted by Egypt had an attendance of 943,053, averaging 18, 136 per match.

The AFCON set a benchmark for subsequent 24 teams AFCON.

Poor goals count

102 goals were scored in total, averaging 1.96 goals per match. Odion Ighalo of Nigeria contributed 4.90% of this 102 to emerge as the tournament’s top scorer with 5 goals.

Nevertheless, would this serve as an improvement? In 2013 AFCON, 69 goals were scored in total averaging 2.15 goals per match. 2015 AFCON recorded total number of goals equaling what was scored in the group phase of this year’s AFCON alone, 68 averaging 2.12 goals per match.

In the 31st edition of the AFCON won by Cameroon, 66 goals were scored in total by all participating 16 teams averaging 2.06 goals per match. Hence the past 3 editions of this tournament featuring 16 teams produced a mean average of 2.11 goals per match.

By statistical analyses, the mean average of 67.67 calculated for the past 3 editions would mean 33.83 goals are scored by each 8 teams in the tournament. Therefore, when the tournament consists of 3 sets of 8 teams equaling 24 teams in total, it’s expected that the total number of goals to be recorded will be in the figure of 101.49 goals, recording a negligible thus insignificant difference with the real total of 102 recorded during the tournament.

Apparently, we are still where we were and the extension may have opened an opportunity for newcomers within the continent to have a feel of AFCON but it failed in improving goal-scoring, exposing the clinical deficiency in front of goal of strikers in Africa.

Consequently, it put to question the productivity of the known African energetic style of football, an argument also buttressed by appalling performances of nations outside the shores of Africa and at the global stage.

A breakdown of the total number of goals scored in this tournament shows 68 goals were scored in total at the group stage while the first-ever round of 16 in an AFCON, quarter-finals, semi-finals, third place and final recorded 19, 9, 4, 1 and 1 goals respectively.

The semi-finals of the 2015 tournament were however better since 7 goals were scored against the 4 goals recorded in this year’s semis and 2017. Same could be argued for 2015 quarterfinals that saw a total of 16 goals scored at this level but the 32nd edition’s quarter-finals recorded a drop to 9 goals and 6 goals were recorded for that of 2017.

How the podium finishers fared

In the end, Algeria emerged the 32nd winner of the trophy since its inception in 1957 beating Senegal at the final. Same Algeria also emerged as the highest-scoring nation with a total of 13 goals but conceded just 2 (against Nigeria and Ivory Coast) with 5 clean sheets.

Nigeria, who won Bronze for a record 8 times emerged as the second-highest scoring nation netting 9 goals in total although the 7 goals conceded by same nation could put that ranking to a debate. The country nevertheless, maintained 3 clean sheets throughout the tournament.

The 32nd runners up, Senegal finished with a total of 8 goals as they failed to increase their tally at the final which probably would have helped them take the match to extra time while increasing their chances of winning the trophy.

Nevertheless, Senegal kept 5 clean sheets in total. South Africa on their part left us with an amusing and maybe disappointing record to chew. The country who eliminated host nation and top favorites, Egypt at the round of 16 needed just 3 goals in all to progress to the quarter-final, an average of 1 goal per stage (Group stage, Round of 16 and Quarterfinal). This means South Africa conceded one goal more than they scored in the entire tournament before their eventual elimination at the quarter-final by Nigeria.

Senegal, another top favorite to win the trophy before the commencement of the tournament may have their poor goal conversion rating to blame which may in some quarters justify their second-place finish.

Best conversion rate goes to Madagascar, Algeria

Surprisingly, debutantes, Madagascar found themselves in good record book after ranking second-best team with good goal conversion of 19% behind champions Algeria who did 20% goal conversion and third will be Ivory Coast with 15%. Egypt and Nigeria are the other two in the top five with 14% goal conversion rating each. Again, this could make a case against Tunisia whose shadow could not be seen anywhere around this ranking but were in the semis and finished fourth.

Cautions and reds go to Algeria, Benin

African football is said to be played with energy, stamina and agility. Little wonder Algeria didn’t just win the trophy alone but won also the nation with the highest number of yellow cards, conceding 14 yellow cards in total as a team, 1 higher than second-placed Tunisia in the yellow card ranking but 2 higher than Benin and South Africa tied at 11.

In the end, CAF awarded fair play prize to Senegal however one may be tempted to ask how a team who conceded 10 yellow cards in total ranked fair ahead of Nigeria who played the same number of matches as did Senegal but conceded only 6 yellows in total. A twist to the plot could be that Senegal played in the final whereas Nigeria played at the apex of the third-place match. Whatever the rationale, the yellow cards ranking per team should have been factored in. In all, a total of 164 yellow cards were issued all-through the tournament averaging 3.15 yellow cards per match.

The group stage recorded 102 yellow cards issued and the knockout stages including the final recorded 62 yellow cards. Benin crowned themselves as the most undisciplined nation bagging 11 yellow cards and 2 red cards conceded by Khaled Adenon and Olivier Verdon. Other red card victims were Christophe Nduwarugira of Burundi, John Boye of Ghana and Philemon Otieno of Kenya summing up to 5 red cards issued in total.

The energy expended in the tournament led to a total of 1994 fouls committed in total with 1298 of this number recorded in the group stage alone. The final alone recorded 50 fouls in total, fourth highest in terms of total number of fouls committed per match, third being the match involving same nations at the group stage that produced 53 fouls, second being the match between Mali vs Ivory Coast that produced 54 fouls and last and first will be the match between Madagascar vs DR Congo who produced 56 fouls in total in this unwanted ranking.

The final complimented this number of fouls with 6 yellow cards which is the joint highest issued per match.

Resilient debutantes

One flamboyant memory of the AFCON will be the resilience of the debutante nations, Madagascar, Burundi and Mauritania. While Burundi (alongside Guinea-Bissau) exited the tournament without registering a single goal, their challenging performance against Nigeria is something to remember.

Moreso, Mauritania may have exited the tournament at the group stage with just 1 goal recorded to their first-ever AFCON appearance however, they weren’t the poorest side at least judging by the number of goals conceded as statistic shows that Tanzania who qualified for the showpiece for the first time in 39 years conceded the highest number of goals being 8 followed by Kenya with 7 tied with three times winners Nigeria and Madagascar.

Remarkably Madagascar set a benchmark for any AFCON tournament as debuting nation as they progressed in a fairy tale run from the group stage before seeing elimination at the quarter-final. The poor turn out of fans at the stands especially at the group stage even in matches involving giant of the tournament like Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria etc. is sad on to forget. No thanks to the host nation.

Twitter: @reliablerely

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