Kampala. From their first match when they beat Kenya 2-0, Algeria looked the team to beat and looked special from the rest of the other 23. They were more at home than even the hosts Egypt because of their vocal and passionate fans and journalists.
The first summer Africa Cup of Nations started with a bang when the home team beat Zimbabwe 1-0 with goal by Mahmoud Hassan Trézéguet. It was perfect start and the tournament ended with perfect winners Desert Foxes of Algeria, by far the best side.
The first 24-team tournament playing 52 matches passed the 100 goals mark. Riyad Mahrez 89th winner against Nigeria fittingly was the 100th while Baghdad Bounedjah, scored the 102th goal against Senegal in the final. His only other goal in the tournament was in opening match against Kenya.
The tournament set a new goals record of over century goals beating the previous record of 99 goals in 2008 edition in Ghana.
However, it remains a record for a tournament with 16 teams with 32 matches. Fifty four (54) goals were scored in 1974 under the old-eight team system.
In the past tournaments, knockout matches usually had fewer goals with teams trying to play safe and hope for penalties.
After the group stage when 68 goals were scored in 36 matches, it looked unlikely the 16 knock out matches will yield 32 to notch up 100.
But the magnificent pitches allowed teams to express themselves and maintain the attacking football which has made the first summer Afcon a joy to watch and stay long in the memories. The tournament will also be remembered for VAR which brought joy to some and despair to others. The VAR was used in only in eight matches yet other teams were demanding to be applied in group stage matches.
Ghana Black Stars still bitter with South African referee Victor Gomes who denied the opener against Tunisia and TV replay showed it was a legitimate one.
Where are the strikers?
Despite over 100 goals, no individual striker lighted up the tournament. Past strikers like Samuel Eto’o, Patrick Mboma both of Cameroon, Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast showed their presence on the field. It will be hard to break the nine goals in a single tournament which was set by the late Pierre Ndaye Mulamba of DR Congo (Zaire) in 1974.
Odion Ighalo, was top scorer with five goals, matching Rashid Yekini’s record of 1994, three players Adam Ounas (Algeria), Sadio Mane (Senegal) and Riyad Mahrez (Algeria) all tied on three goals.
One area where there was improvement was the red, only five players in 52 matches received matching orders while170 yellow cards were shown. Spare a thought for Nigeria, when they edged out Tunisia in play off for third place, they recorded eighth bronze medal at the Afcon. Can they turn bronze into gold, over to Cameroon 2021.
Goals galore. The expanded Afcon, housing 24 teams for the first time since 1957, recorded 102 goals. 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 penalty shootout.
“This is one of the most difficult career decisions I have had to take. It’s been an amazing five years journey, but after due consultation ... I have decided it’s time for me to retire from the national team.”
Odion Ighalo , 2019 afcon top scorer
Distribution of goals
Group Stage 68
Round of 16 19
Quarter finals 09
Algeria 13 goals