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5 key talking points as Afcon enters the knock-out phase in Côte d’Ivoire

Judging from media and on-line process, this has been probably the most mentioned Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in a few years. That’s no longer simply for the reason that event, held each two years, is turning into a significant event at the global soccer calendar. It’s additionally as a result of there was once so much at stake this 12 months – for competing countries, groups, organisers (the Confederation of African Soccer or Caf) and hosts (Côte d’Ivoire).

That is, in any case, the third Afcon to check the new format of 24 nations within the ultimate level as a substitute of 16. Has the transfer to carry extra “smaller” groups to the large level made the sport extra aggressive? Would Senegal and Morocco turn out they deserved their powerhouse reputations? Côte d’Ivoire invested closely in website hosting the event: would they pull it off? And did the brand new Caf boss, Patrice Motsepe, have the revel in to take the event to the following stage?

As a sports scientist with a analysis focus on African soccer, I’ve been staring at traits with prepared passion. Because the event heads into the second one spherical this weekend, with 16 groups nonetheless status, I’ve defined what the 5 key speaking issues are – or no less than will have to be – at an upbeat Afcon this 12 months.

1. Upsets make gripping tournaments

8 groups were eliminated to this point. This comprises groups that experience gained the event sooner than – Ghana, Algeria and Tunisia. Others eradicated are Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, The Gambia, Zambia and Tanzania. However the greatest shocks had been that Algeria, the 2019 champions, and Tunisia, the 2004 champions, completed closing of their teams.




Learn extra:
Ghana won Afcon four times, but the last time was 40 years ago. What went wrong with its football team?


The nations that exited on the initial level have inquests occurring into their failure. Algeria, Ghana, Côte D’Ivoire, Tunisia, The Gambia and Tanzania have fired their coaches.

These types of surprise exits supply fodder for fanatics to have interaction with the game on social media and debates at circle of relatives and neighborhood ranges. The drama generates pleasure and it’s transparent that including 8 underdogs has paid off.

2. All eyes on Senegal and Morocco

The last Afcon was once held in Cameroon and gained through Senegal, who’re beneath force to recapture the trophy and turn out that they’re the most efficient workforce in Africa. Since then, Morocco have become Africa’s first soccer workforce to make the International Cup semi-finals. They’re the highest ranked African workforce, beneath force to check that standing with an Afcon identify.

Up to now, Senegal have excelled. They strolled to victory over The Gambia, Cameroon and Guinea. Morocco have no longer displayed the type of fluidity and workforce chemistry that was once on display within the International Cup. Then again, they beat Tanzania and Zambia and drew with DR Congo to guide their crew.

The competition between the 2 best ranked groups will proceed into the following spherical and supply gas for plenty of heated conversations amongst fanatics.

3. The taking part in box is levelling

The initial spherical of Afcon has proven that the distance between the standard superpowers and minnows of African soccer is shrinking speedy.

Despite the fact that west and north African nations have historically dominated, there are potentialities for brand new nations to place a mark at the event.

Lesser identified soccer countries like Cape Verde, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Mali ruled their teams and exhibited very good soccer. It’s been refreshing to look them, in addition to Namibia and Mauritania, assert themselves at Afcon.




Learn extra:
Afcon’s decision to allow 24 countries to play is paying off – and having dramatic repercussions


Higher identified soccer countries like Egypt, Nigeria, DR Congo, Cameroon, Côte D’Ivoire and South Africa got scares sooner than making it to the following spherical. Will those nations be informed from the early slip-ups?

4. Being a bunch with probably the most

Côte d’Ivoire is staging its 2nd Afcon in 40 years, the primary having been in 1984. All eyes had been on whether or not the rustic would have the ability to pull it off. Up to now, it has finished an outstanding activity in a brand new generation of web, social media, streaming and world passion.

The event is being held in six stadiums positioned in 5 host cities throughout Côte d’Ivoire, involving an enormous injection of cash into infrastructure, which is able to in the long run spice up the country’s financial system. With a a hit Afcon, Côte d’Ivoire will get pleasure from its new world visibility.




Learn extra:
Africa Cup of Nations showcases the continent’s finest footballers – and China’s economic clout


Then again, arrangements for the event weren’t with out controversy. President Alassane Ouattara had tongues wagging when he sacked the top minister, Patrick Achi, in October closing 12 months after the pitch infrastructure at a showpiece stadium in Ebimpé, which hosted the outlet and can host the overall fit, failed to fulfill event requirements. It required remedial paintings, regardless of the USA$257 million spent on it.

There are many courses right here for long term hosts. Fanatics in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania might be staring at as their nations get ready to co-host the event in east Africa for the primary time in 2027.

5. Patrice Motsepe put to the check

It’s Caf’s activity to make certain that organisationally the entirety runs easily at Afcon. South African businessman Patrice Motsepe’s debut event as Caf president was once in Cameroon, beneath COVID-19 restrictions. It was once a bloodstained get started. 8 people died and greater than 38 had been injured on account of deficient crowd-control measures at Yaoundé’s Olembé Stadium. The tragedy, the primary of its type within the historical past of Afcon, left a query mark over Caf.




Learn extra:
The four big challenges facing Patrice Motsepe, Africa’s new soccer boss


The present Afcon is subsequently a check of each Motsepe and Caf. Going through the sphere show, high quality of officiating and total organisation, together with media protection, Caf’s organisational requirements were given a facelift this 12 months.

Those parts – skilled organisation and website hosting, rising fanbases and, most significantly, gripping fits – are what is going to be required on a sustainable stage if Afcon is to keep growing in stature and amplify its world attraction and viewership.

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