By: Enin Emmanuel
The 32nd edition of the continental showpiece in Egypt is beginning to take shape as we head into the second round of matches in the group stages.
This is the first time 24 teams are competing for the ultimate and also the first time it’s been played in summer.
The tournament has so far experienced some exciting fixtures that got the attention of many football enthusiasts across the continent. With 12 games played so far in the tourney, 26 goals have been recorded with the highest scoring fixture coming in Group E encounter between Mali and Mauritania which ended in a 4-1 win in favour of West Africans.
The games have not been boring to watch with nine wins out of the 12 games played and three draws which was not goalless.
Countries who are seen as favourites have started on a good note with the average performer grinding results regardless of how difficult the game turn to be. Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco and Ivory Coast had the same margin win in their opening games, 1-0. Others like Algeria, Senegal and Cameroon enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 in their opening fixtures.
However, DR Congo and Ghana are the only big names to have slow start; the Leopards tasted defeat in their opening game losing to Uganda by 2-0 on Saturday whiles the Black Stars recorded a two-all draw against the Squirrels of Benin.
In the case of refereeing, there are no major complaints about officiating so far with Video Assistant Referee (VAR) set to be introduced in the knockout stages.
The AFCON has so far produced twenty-five different scorers. Benin forward Mickael Pote lead the top scorer’s chart with two goals. Manchester City and Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez, Nigeria forward Odion Ighalo, Keita Baldé of Senegal, the Ayew brothers-Jordan Ayew and Dede Ayew of Ghana, Ivory Coast’s Johnathan Kodjie and Mali attacker Moussa Marega are on a goal each. On the assist chart, Farouk Miya sits atop after assisting both goals for the Cranes of Uganda against DR Congo.
Although on the pitch, everybody is enjoying the physicality and the ruggedness in the African game but the challenge has been the attendance in the stadium. It has been low after Egypt’s first game but apparently, it does happen in tournaments.
The second round of matches in the group stages promises to be more exciting as we continue to feel the breeze of the African game.