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Editorials, Sports

AFCON 2023: Key Observations from the Group Stage

The group phase of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations has concluded. BOUNCE reviews the events of this continental football spectacle.

  • Toyosi Afolayan
  • 25th January 2024

The group stage of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations has concluded, leaving fans with numerous noteworthy occurrences that have added drama and excitement to the tournament.


BOUNCE takes a look at the observations that stood out during this phase.


Goal Extravaganza:


The goal tally in the group stage of AFCON 2023 reached remarkable heights, with 89 goals scored. This impressive figure almost eclipsed the total goals scored in both the 2021 and 2019 editions of the tournament. The average of 2.47 goals per game surpassed the previous five tournaments, highlighting the attacking prowess witnessed in this year’s Cup of Nations.



Ivory Coast’s Struggles:


The host nation, Ivory Coast, faced unexpected challenges in the group stage. Despite an initial convincing victory over Guinea-Bissau, the Elephants suffered setbacks against Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea, culminating in a humbling 4-0 defeat.



This marked the heaviest defeat ever suffered by a host nation in the AFCON finals, leading to the departure of coach Jean-Louis Gasset.


Nigeria’s Offensive Concerns:


Despite advancing to the knockout stage, Nigeria faced offensive concerns in the group stage. While securing two clean sheets, the Super Eagles struggled to convert chances into goals. Victor Osimhen’s profligate finishing, highlighted by Opta data, became a focal point of discussion.



Manager Jose Peseiro expressed concerns about the team’s poor conversion rate, emphasizing the need for improvement in the knockout rounds.


Equatorial Guinea’s Surprise Success:


Equatorial Guinea emerged as a surprise package in Group A, finishing at the top. Led by Emilio Nsue‘s exceptional performance, scoring five goals, the Nzalang Nacional showcased their resilience. Nsue’s hat-trick against Guinea-Bissau marked a historic moment, making him the first player since 2008 to score three times in a single AFCON game.



Equatorial Guinea shattered previous barriers, advancing as group winners and exceeding expectations.


Ghana’s Disappointing Exit:


Ghana, a four-time African champion, faced consecutive ignominious exits in the group stage. Despite the efforts of Mohammed Kudus, Ghana struggled to hold on to advantageous situations, leading to early elimination.



The Black Stars’ inability to secure favorable results resulted in the departure of coach Chris Hughton, marking the team’s third consecutive underwhelming performance in major tournaments.


Coaching Changes:


The disappointment of group-stage exits prompted coaching changes. Ghana parted ways with Chris Hughton following their early elimination, emphasizing the need for a new direction. Gambia’s coach, Tom Saintfiet, resigned after his team’s exit, citing the impending expiration of his contract as a contributing factor. 



As the tournament transitions to the knockout stage, these observations have set the stage for further excitement and unpredictability in AFCON 2023.


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