AFCON 2021 is over. Let's review it

Summary of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

The 33rd Africa Cup of Nations ended with the final between Senegal and Egypt. After a 0-0 tie in extra time, Senegal won on penalties, thus winning the highest African competition for national teams for the first time in their history.

It was the tournament of the female referee, but it was also one of the tragedy at the Olembe stadium, where eight people died. An exciting edition, full of unexpected protagonists and bizarre events. Between lights and shadows, here is the summary of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

The tragedy of the Olembe stadium

The darkest moment of the competition was certainly the tragedy that occurred in Yaoundé-at the Olembe stadium-during the round of 16 between Cameroon and Comoros.

On January 24, outside the stadium, a crowd at the entrance to the stadium caused the deaths of eight people (including an eight-year-old child), ruining the party that day.

The crowd was generated by the fact that people, for fear of losing the first few minutes of the game, forced the gates to enter. At that point, the police tried to disperse the crowd, but during the escape, many people were trapped and crushed; in addition to the dead, there were also numerous injuries. The cause of the tragedy is certainly the disorganization of the event, with responsibilities to be shared between the local organizing committee and the CAF (African Football Confederation).

The organizing committee managed access to the facilities very badly, first imposing vaccination and a negative test just to give anybody access so as not to have half-empty stadiums, then distributing free tickets and ending up creating gatherings that, in the case of the challenge between Cameroon and Comoros, turned into a deadly crowd. A tragedy that will always remain etched in the history of this edition of the African Cup.

Total Playing Time:

  • Egypt: 801:49
  • Burkina Faso: 715:53
  • Cameroon: 713:29
  • Senegal: 704:39
  • Morocco: 515:48


The disaster in Tunisia-Mali and the missing anthem

Another shadow on the tournament was cast by the case created by Janny Sikazwe, the referee of the match between Tunisia and Mali, the opening match of group F of the group stage.

The referee whistled the end of the match twice in advance: the first, at minute 85 and with the score stopped at 0-1 for Mali, between the incredulity and the fury of the players on the field; upon realizing the mistake, Sikazwe corrected himself and ordered them to continue. Is everything solved? Actually no, because at 89 minutes and 44 seconds the referee whistled the end of the match again, without assigning recovery time and with the regulation time still not finished.

The Tunisian players protested, the coach as well, but the referee sanctioned the end of the match and the return to the locker room. With the coaches’ conferences in progress, the CAF then recalled the teams to play another three minutes but without the referee Sikazwe. Tunisia, however, decided not to return and appealed. But just a few days later, the claim was rejected and Mali won.

That day, however, was not finished at all. After the match between Tunisia and Mali, it was the turn of Gambia and Mauritania. Lined up in the field and waiting for the national anthems, there was no problem for the Gambian one, but not for the Mauritanian one. In fact, the wrong anthem started three times (an old version), and on the fourth, the speaker gave up, arousing nervousness and disbelief among the players even before starting the game.

The best goal

A magnificent consolation goal, a shot struck from long range. In the last-16 against Cameroon, Youssouf M’Changama’s free kick from 35 yards, which flew over Andre Onana and into the top left corner of the net, was the perfect illustration.

The first female referee

However, the recently finished edition of the Africa Cup did not only offer tragedies or blunders, but was also a competition of unexpected protagonists and incredible stories.

The world of football takes a further step towards gender equality. The credit goes to Salima Mukansang, a 33-year-old woman recognized as one of the best referees in her country. However, the turning point in her career came in the current edition of the Africa Cup: The Rwandan is in fact the first woman to have refereed a match in the competition, the one between Zimbabwe and Guinea.

This could be an epochal turning point for a continent like Africa, which is finally beginning to recognize equal rights for women in the world of sport. She was also assisted by three other women in the roles of linesmen and VAR staff (the video control system of the matches). Now we hope that it will not remain a sporadic episode.

Tournament Averages- Attacking Data


TournamentGamesGoals P.GShots P.G
AFCON 2021521.9223.3
Euro 2021512.7824.4
Copa America 2021282.3222.3
Gold Cup 2021312.8724.8
AFCON 2019521.9623.1

Biggest Surprise

Burkina Faso’s arrival at the semi-finals was fabulous, but it’s hard to ignore Gambia’s reaching the quarter-finals in their first AFCON. They took seven points from a group that included Mali and Tunisia, defeated Guinea in the last-16, and were eliminated only by the hosts in Douala.

Biggest disappointment

Algeria was unfortunate to take just one point and score one goal at AFCON 2021. They had the highest average possession, the third most shots per game, and faced fewer shots per game than Egypt.

In any case, there is no justification; we expected the reigning champions to reach the quarter-finals, and the Algerian FA did as well. If they lose their World Cup playoff against Cameroon next month, Djamel Belmadi will almost certainly be fired.

The team of the tournament

  • GK: Mohamed Abou Gabal (Egypt)
  • DF: Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)
  • DF: Saliou Ciss (Senegal)
  • DF: Edmond Tapsoba (Burkina Faso)
  • DF: Mohamed Abdelmonem (Egypt)
  • MF: Martin Hongla (Cameroon)
  • MF: Mohamed Elneny (Egypt)
  • MF: Ibrahima Sangare (Ivory Coast)
  • FW: Sadio Mane (Senegal)
  • FW: Sofiane Boufal (Morocco)
  • FW: Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon)

Top Scorer award— Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon)

He’d only scored one goal in eight appearances (363 minutes) in both the 2015 and 2017 tournaments.

Two goals in the first half of the tournament opener against Burkina Faso got him started, followed by three more in the group stage against Ethiopia (2) and Cape Verde (1).

He then, at that point, scored three more goals after the group stage, including the eventual winner in the round of 16 against the Comoros, as well as a late goal in a comeback draw with Burkina Faso in the third-place playoff, which they eventually won on penalties.

He equaled Laurent Pokou’s from the 1970 edition with Ivory Coast, but fell one goal short of Zaire’s Ndaye Mulamba’s record-breaking competition record, set in 1974. (9).

Most Goals Scored at a single Finals

  • Mulamba (Zaire): (1974, 9).
  • Aboubakar (Cameroon): (2021, 8).
  • Laurent Pokou (Ivory Coast): (1970, 8).
  • Hassan (Egypt): (1998, 7).
  • McCarthy (South Africa): (1998, 7).

Where to Next

Africa’s attention is currently concentrated on the World Cup semifinals. The round-trip matches, which will determine the five continental teams in Qatar 2022, will take place between March 23 and March 29. The intersections are fascinating.

The most notable of these is Egypt-Senegal, Algeria-Cameroon, Ghana-Nigeria, Mali-Tunisia, and Morocco-Democratic Republic of Congo.

The 2023 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) will be played in June and July of that year in the Ivory Coast.