5 AFCON Facts You Didn’t Know About

One thing about the tournament is the fun facts that almost never get spoken about. Here are five things you probably didn’t know about AFCON
January 24, 2023
Written By
Astorre Cerebróne
In this Article

As is well known, AFCON is the most fascinating international tournament in the world, with its remarkable stories, epic matches, and fun narratives. One thing about the tournament is the fun facts that rarely get spoken about. We have decided to highlight five you probably didn’t know about, as the ongoing tournament heats up:

  1. Cote d’Ivoire have never scored in an AFCON final

2023 Hosts Cote d’Ivoire have been involved in four AFCON finals to date They first reached the final in 1992 where they faced 4-time champions Ghana. The game was a nailbiter, which ended 0-0 in normal time and extra time. When it went to penalties, it ended up becoming the first international final in which every player took a kick. Cote d’Ivoire eventually won it. They also reached the final in 2006, 2012, and 2015, failing to score in any.  All four finals ended 0-0 in normal time and extra time and were decided on penalties. They had the chance to finally break their final deadlock in the 2012 final when Gervinho won them a penalty. Didier Drogba, however, stepped up and skied it. If they make it to the final in this ongoing tournament, especially as they are hosts, they might finally end their goal drought.

  1. Only Ghana have made the final in their first four tournaments

AFCON has had three debutants go on to win it. The first team was Egypt in 1957, when there were only 3 teams in the competition. It should have been four – South Africa got an invite to that inaugural edition but got excluded because of their Apartheid laws. They remained excluded until Apartheid ended and they were free to participate, hosting and winning it in 1996 as debutants. The other debutants to win were Ghana in 1963, with 6 teams participating for the first time, following a tournament expansion. They won it again in the following edition in 1965, going on to make the final in the next two tournaments after that, which they lost. While Ghana reached the final in their first four tournaments, no team has even made four consecutive finals.

  1. Samuel Eto’o won back-to-back golden boots without scoring in the knockout stage

In his prime, Samuel Eto’o was one of the best players in the world, and arguably the best striker in the world for some years. In that time, he was able to win back-to-back golden boots at AFCON, scoring five goals in both tournaments; 2006 and 2008. But there was something remarkable about those golden boot wins. In 2006, he was on fire in the group stage, scoring 5 goals in 3 games. He was possibly the hottest striker on the planet, fresh off winning the third consecutive CAF African Player of the Year award and finishing 3rd in the FIFA World Player of the Year rankings. But the knockout stage brought a big tie against Cote d’Ivoire, who had already denied Cameroon a World Cup ticket. Eto’o failed to shine and missed the decisive penalty in the shootout which eliminated Cameroon. He had scored the first one, but everyone else scored and he had to take a second penalty. In 2008, it happened again. He scored 5 in the groups but failed to score in the knockouts in Cameroon’s run to the final. Those 5 group stage goals, however, proved to be enough to win the golden boot, on both occasions.

  1. Between 1970 and 1992, 10 out of 12 defending champions exited in the group stage

One very underrated thing about AFCON is how hard it is to reproduce your title-winning form in the next edition. It is as if everybody comes prepared, ready to humble you. So teams know they have to raise their game and play at an even higher standard, with so much more pressure. We see it even now. Since 2010, no defending champions have gotten past the round of 16. In 2012 and 2015, the defending champions didn’t even qualify to defend their titles. In 2013, 2017, and 2021, they didn’t make it out of the groups. However, it was between 1970 and 1992 that the defending champions had the hardest time. 10 of the 12 champions exited the next tournament in the group stage. The two exceptions were Congo who finished fourth in 1974 and Cameroon, who finished as runners-up in 1986. Cameroon would go on to win the 1988 tournament.

  1. Congo and DR Congo are the only countries with 100% records in finals

20 different teams have played in AFCON finals, with 5 of them failing to win a title. Of the remaining 15, only 2 are unbeaten in finals; Congo and DR Congo. Congo has been to only one final, in 1972, when they defeated Mali 3-2. François M'Pelé, who scored the winner, was named Player of the Tournament. After appearing in the 2000 edition, their 6th appearance, they have only played in one AFCON tournament, back in 2015. DR Congo, on their part, has played in 2 AFCON finals – in 1968 and 1974 – winning both. The 1968 final was a 1-0 win against Ghana, but it was a lot harder in 1974 when they needed a replay to triumph over Zambia. A 120th-minute equalizer by Brighton Sinyangwe, denied them the title after a brace by Ndaye Mulamba, nicknamed “Assassin”. But he would not be denied in the replay, scoring another brace to finally break the resistance of the Zambian team.

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