As far as AFCON tournaments went, this one was as good as any.
Despite instances of fan violence, costly refereeing mistakes and a finale that almost fell short of its promise, this year’s Africa Cup delivered fantastic goals, a colorful audience and most importantly, underdogs.
That fact was reaffirmed by the redemption of a 35-year-old outcast goalkeeper turned national hero, Boubacar Barry, who led the Les Elephants to victory and an end to their drought on the continental stage.
After 3 weeks of uninterrupted action with the finest football in Africa, we look back at some numbers that defined this year’s competition.
That’s the total cost of hosting the tournament, according to some sources. Equatorial Guinea took on the costs of hosting and organizing following Morocco’s refusal last year to host the tournament citing fears of Ebola. The nation that co-hosted the tournament two years ago with Gabon stepped in and delivered a decent event with only two months’ worth of preparations. Of course, there were some issues…
That’s the amount in fines that was imposed on two federations: Equatorial Guinea and Tunisia. Equatorial Guinea got hit with most of that amount, for its inability to control fans in the semifinal game against Ghana. Tunisia got slapped with a $50,000 fine after players went on a rampage following their quarterfinal loss to Equatorial Guinea. The Tunisians were irate about a controversial, late-game penalty that resulted in Equatorial Guinea tying the match in extra time, before going onto win it all. The Tunisian team damaged their stadium locker room.
That’s the total number of goals scored in the tournament, which works out to 2.13 per match. That falls well short of the record 99 goals scored in 2008 when Ghana hosted the tournament, but if spectacular goals get any extra credit then this tournament has surely delivered. Christian Atsu’s wonder strike and South Africa’s Mandla Masango’s looping volley against eventual finalist Ghana take our awards for best tournament goals #1 and #2 respectively.
The age of Boubacar “Copa” Barry. The substitute who only came on because the first choice goalkeeper was injured saved two penalties and converted the winning one to become an instant national hero. In a team surrounded by proven goalscorers such as Wilfried Bony, Yaya Toure, and Gervinho, no one expected the sidelined keeper to singlehandedly earn Les Elephants a trophy they’ve desperately sought out for over two decades. (Whether Bony, Toure and Gervinho played up to their full potential is another discusiion altogether of course.)
Here’s how Didier Drogba, one of the finest Cote D’Ivoirian players of his generation, reacted upon Barry’s winning goal:
The age of the player voted to be Man of the Tournament: Christian Atsu. The Chelsea winger scored two goals, including the goal of the tournament, to lead Ghana to the finals. If his presence on the national team is any indication, Ghana will definitely get more chances to take the continental cup in the future, if not other trophies. For now, Atsu’s future lies with Everton, for whom he’s playing on loan. Judging by the current performance in the Premiership, they’re probably desperate for his return.
The number of penalties taken in the final game. That’s only two short of the record 24 penalties taken in Senegal in 1992 to decide the winner between…you guessed it, Ivory Coast and Ghana. Les Elephants won the shootout 11-10.
The number of countries currently in contention to host the 2017 tournament. Libya had been scheduled to host, but that country’s continuing instability has CAF organizers casting around for an alternate host: in the running are Algeria, Egypt, Gabon and Ghana.
We hope you enjoyed our light-sided coverage of AFCON 2015. Thanks to Sonny Young for letting us crash his Sonny Side of Sports blog for a few weeks.
If you have complaints or questions about VOA’s coverage, or if there other sporting events you’d like to see us cover– in Africa or elsewhere– leave a comment and let us know!
Until next time!