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Thrills and Frills of Super Eagles participation at AFCON 2023

Posted : 13 February 2024

As the dust continues to settle on the 34th African Cup of Nations (AFCON), concluded on Sunday, February 11, 2024, ending with the best intriguing suspense as a team once considered outsiders eventually became the champions.

AFCON 2023 recorded 119 goals, an estimate of 2.29 goals per match, and also grossed a total of 1,109,593 fans, an average of 12,338 fans watching each of the 52 matches played in the tournament.

On the awards, Emilio Nsue of Equatorial Guinea took home the Golden Boot for the highest scorer with 5 goals; Gelson Dala of Angola got the Silver Boot with 4 goals, and Mostafa Mohammed of Egypt, who also had 4 goals, got the Bronze Boot.

Four players scored own goals in the tournament, namely Edmond Tapsoba of Burkina Faso against Mali; Estebean Obiang of Equatorial Guinea against Guinea Bissau; James Gomez of Gambia against Cameroon, and Opa Sangante of Guinea Bissau against Nigeria.

There were 168 yellow cards or 3.2 yellow cards per match and 13 red cards flashed at the tournament. Eventual winners, Cote D’Ivoire got the highest number of yellows, a caution in football matches having 14; Burkina Faso and Nigeria were next with 11 cautions each while Algeria and Ghana had 9 cards each. Cote D’Ivoire alone had two of the 13 red cards, but no Nigerian player got sent off in the entire duration of AFCON 2023.

Two Ivorian players had the highest number of 3 yellow cards each, Christian Koname and Serge Aurier; three fellows got 2 yellow cards each, namely Julian Jeanvier of Guinea, Abdou Diallo of Senegal, and Alexander Djiku of Ghana. Nigerian Coach Jose Peseiro got a yellow in the finals.

Notable players in the red cards books are Adilso Neblu of Angola; Ebrima Adams of Gambia; Francois Kamano of Guinea; Frederico Bicoro of Equatorial Guinea and Grant Kekona of South Africa.

Angola was reckoned to have the best attacking squad in the tournament with 39 shots at goal and 23 on target. The worst defense was the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon; the team had 8 goals scored by them with 20 shots at goal and only 8 on target.

On shots attempted, South Africa had the highest with 63 shots at goal and 35 on target; DR Congo had 60 shots at goal with 20 on target; Ivory Coast had 56 shots at goal with 21 on target and Nigeria had 50 shots at goal with 20 on target.

Nigeria emerged as the roughest team at the African mundial with 114 foul calls; Mali was next with 91; Cape Verde had 78 each with South Africa and Guinea had 77.


Afcon: Nigeria Super Eagle Qualify For Semi Final

Nigeria's desperation for goals also accounted for the team to record the highest times caught offside – 17; South Africa – 11; Namibia – 11; Cape Verde – 10 and Burkina Faso – 9.

Incidentally, the country with the best ball possession, Algeria, left the tournament early with 69% ball possession, while Cameroon and Ivory Coast had 61% each; Mali had 58%, and Egypt had 57%. Teams that can hold the ball are said to be in dominance of their games and can or should plan better.

It was stunning to soccer pundits that CAF would award the FAIR PLAY TROPHY to South Africa, one of the top teams with rough tackles though they had no red card.

Mamelodi Sundowns Goalkeeper and Captain of South Africa, Ronwen Williams beat Stanley Bobo Nwabali of Nigeria to win the Golden Gloves for Best Goalkeeper. Williams saved 4 penalty shots in a single match at the tournament to equal the record of former Nigerian Goal tender, Vincent Enyama.

Nigeria’s stand-in Captain William Troost-Ekong of PAOK of Greece was the "Player of the Tournament" while 22-year-old Brighton FC of the UK and tormentor-in-Chief of the Nigerian Defence, Simon Kofi Adingra who was born at Sunyani in Ghana on January 1, 2002, was the "Best Young Player".

Perhaps a choice that received massive applause was the "Best Coach of the Tournament" that was given to the Ivorian ‘Pathologist’ who brought back the Elephants of Ivory Coast from the dead to become African Champions. Ivory Coast, fondly called Abiku by Nigerians, a terminology used by a child that is said to have died several times, was brought back by Emerse Fae, former Ivory Coast U-23 coach, and assistant coach to the Manager, 70-year-old Jean Louis Gassiet, who was fired for underperformance after the group stages.

It is being argued freely in Abidjan that Fae was actually divinely destined for use to lift up the weak trunks of the Elephants.

Ivory Coast had a wonder in Sebastien Haller who shot down the Super Eagles of Nigeria and was just two years diagnosed with Testicular Cancer.

He returned to football in January 2023 and halted the dreams of Nigeria to win the continental trophy for the fourth time.

Egypt still holds the record of 7 times winner; Cameroon is next as 5 times winner; Ghana won it 4 times; Nigeria and Cote D’Ivoire each had the title 3 times; Algeria and DR Congo got it twice each while the following countries had the trophy once each Morocco; Ethiopia; Senegal; South Africa; Sudan; Tunisia and Zambia.

Some coaches lost their jobs for little performances. Ivory Coast sacked their Head Coach, Jean-Loius Gasset and his assistant Ghis Lain Printant due to insufficient results. Algeria too sacked their Coach Djamel Belmadi after the two times Champions crashed out.

Some underperforming Refs were sent home during the knockout stages of the tournament.

There was some drama when Moroccan Referee Redouane Jiyad protested to CAF that he should be the one to handle the final match between Nigeria and Ivory Coast instead of Mauritanian Referee, Dahanne Beida. Jiyad took the next available flight to Morocco and abandoned the 3rd place match. CAF promptly replaced him with Bamlek Tessema Weyessa of Ethiopia.

His matter, it was learned, has been referred to CAF Disciplinary Committee by CAF Referee Committee.

Thus Ivory Coast was African Champions; Nigeria took the Silver; South Africa won the Bronze and DR Congo was 4th.

African Football Confederation (CAF) upgraded the prize of the AFCON games as the winner carted home with $7 million dollars or N6.2B; Runners-up pocket $4 million or N3.5B; two Semifinalists will have $2.5 million or N2.2B each while four quarterfinalists will receive $1.3 million or N1.1B each.

The winner receives $7 million prize money, which is a 40% increase from what immediate past Champions, Senegal received when she won the cup two years ago. The money is $2 million higher than what Qatar received as winners of the Asian Cup.

The next AFCON Men’s tournament will take place in Morocco next year.


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