By Louis Monnier
ATfter 9 games, only 9 goals were scored giving an average of one goal per game. Cameroon, the host country had however launched hostilities against Burkina Faso by winning 2-1 with a double from Aboubakar. Thereafter, 9 of the 11 other matches ended with the score of 1-0, not enough to make the crowds tremble. We have tried to find explanations for this sad record.
Lowest total since 2002
This CAN poor in goals is not the worst in this area. The 2002 edition organized in Mali had only recorded a total of 8 goals after the end of the first day of all hens. At the end of the competition, the average goals per game was only 1.5 goals.
Clinton Njié, Cameroon player promises more goals. Asked at the microphone of the communication unit of the Cameroonian Football Federation, he said that it is not always easy for the favorites to win in this AFCON “The matches are never easy. Senegal won 1-0 and Algeria 0-0 against Sierra Leone. It’s good for African football. It really shows that there is no small team. On our side, we will continue the work and we will try to score a few more goals”. Done for the Indomitable Lions who won this Wednesday 4-1 against Ethiopia.
Favorites not yet at the level
Algeria, defending champion, could not do better than a 0-0 against a very good goalkeeper from Sierra Leone. Senegal endowed with a golden generation, for its part, struggled against Zimbabwe by scoring a penalty at the last minute by the intractable Sadio Mané. Nigeria was no exception to the rule, winning 1-0 against a weak Egypt team led by Mo Salah.
Absentees who tested positive for Covid and players just returning from quarantine are plausible reasons for this phenomenon. Mendy, Koulibaly for Senegal as well as Aubameyang and Lemina were thus affected.
Premier League players have had little to no rest following Boxing Day. Stars like Mané, Salah, Keita or Mahrez therefore concede a certain fatigue.
The quality of the pitches has been strongly criticized by viewers and the stadiums often with reduced capacity due to the pandemic ring hollow. The exceptional atmosphere which accompanied the opening match, Sunday at the Olembe stadium in Yaoundé, seems to have subsided very quickly. But barely an hour later, for the second match in the same stadium between Ethiopia and Cape Verde, the stadium had emptied and hardly more than 20% of the places were occupied.
The weather is also problematic for the 2 p.m. matches. With a barometer approaching 30 degrees, the temperature difference is quite difficult to bear for players who for the most part played during the winter period in Europe.
A series of hiccups
-An unprecedented arbitration scandal: During the match between Tunisia and Mali, Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe signaled the end of the match twice. A first in the 84th minute of the game and a second time in the 89th minute, both times before the end of regulation time. Victim of an alleged sunstroke, the referee in question is quite experienced, he who has already officiated at four previous CANs and the previous World Cup in Russia. He had been provisionally suspended for corruption in 2018 by CAF before being rehabilitated in January 2019.
– The deflated balloons of Egypt-Nigeria: During the match at the top of Group D which opposed the Super Eagles to the Pharaohs on Tuesday, it was the deflated balloons that attracted more attention than the spectacle between the two big calibers of African football.
Indeed, and in the space of nine minutes, the meeting was stopped by the referee twice, not for injury, to treat a player or to consult the VAR but rather to replace the leather which was badly inflated. The match ended with a narrow 1-0 victory for the Nigerians.
-The Mauritanian anthem sung a capella: After three unsuccessful attempts by the organizers to launch the right Mauritanian anthem, the stadium announcer had to apologize to the Mauritanians during the formal pre-match session. The organizers were content to sing the Gambian anthem only.
Exasperated at having listened to their former national anthem and the silences that followed, the Mauritanian players sang their national anthem a capella. One more unique fact…