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AFCON 2019: A competition of numbers

Africa and the world at large have not survived from some of the shocks the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations brought their way. One would not believe, for instance that Morocco, who were dubbed favourites to win the trophy, would struggle to beat Namibia during the group stages, as it took an own goal from Itamunua Keimuine, which he scored one minute to the end of the match, to gift the Atlas Lions the victory.

No one would have guessed in their wildest dreams that Benin Republic would eventually knock out Morocco, led by Coach Herve Renard, who has two AFCON titles to his name  in the round of sixteen, with the Squirrels marching on to the quarter-finals of the AFCON for the first time in their football history.

It is still difficult to explain to the world how South Africa, who many overlooked to do great things in the Nations Cup, stunned the hosts Egypt, who appeared to be favourite to win the competition. The Bafana Bafana ranked 72nd by FIFA at the beginning of the competition, beat the Pharaohs 1-0 in the Round of Sixteen, with five minutes left to the end of the match.

The expanded Africa Cup of Nations, housing 24 teams for the first time since inception in 1957, recorded 102 goals  with an average of two goals per match. The first of these came from Mohammed Trezeguet on the first day of the competition when he hit in the goal, 41 minute goal against Zimbabwe, and Algeria’s Baghdad Bounedjah scored the last of the competition, which also turned out the fastest goal of the tournament, as it came one minute and twenty seconds into the match.

Sixty-eight goals were scored in total during the group stages, 34 goals got into the net from the round of sixteen to the final, and four matches reached the dreaded penalty shootout.  Nigeria’s Odion Ighalo got the highest goal scorer award of the tournament with five goals, the latest he got three minutes into the third place playoff match against Tunisia.

Burundi and Guinea-Bissau also made their presence felt and contributed to the number game of AFCON 2019. They became the third and fourth teams to fail to score a goal in their first three games at the Africa Cup of Nations after Ethiopia in 1957 & 1959 and Mozambique in 1986. Mauritania, also first timers in AFCON scored a single goal in Egypt. Madagascar on the other hand, got seven goals in the competition, which was also their debut appearance, as they bowed out in the quarter-finals.

Twenty-eight referees were in charge of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, with Sidi Alioum from Cameroon, officiating the opening match between Egypt and Zimbabwe, as well as the final between Senega and Algeria.

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) also made its debut appearance at the AFCON in 2019, when it came into play, awarding South Africa a goal against Nigeria in the quarter-finals, a decision the Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr termed “unfair”

Referees issued the yellow card 174 times in AFCON 2019 with 5 red cards also going out to different players.

Algeria ended up highest scoring nation in the competition. The Desert Foxes scored 13 times enroute to winning their first AFCON title in 29  years, conceding only twice, against Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria in the process. They had kept a clean sheet in the group stages of the competition

AFCON 2019 final was the fifth time two African coaches clash at the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, following the order of 1962, 1965, 1978, and 1998. Algeria’s Djamel Belmadi wrote his name in gold, becoming the twelfth indigenous coach to lift the AFCON title.

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