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Ranking AFCON Host Performances in the Past Decade

Ranking AFCON Host Performances in the Past Decade

Ranking AFCON Host Performances Afrocritik

The 2023 African Cup of Nation in Cote d’Ivoire brings with it the rare opportunity for the Elephants to secure a win on home soil and join an exclusive class of African Giants who have justified and validated the term “home advantage”.  Can Cote d’Ivoire pull it off? Precedents over the last decade of AFCON suggest otherwise.

By Destiny Chibuzor

It’s that time again in football when National teams contend for continental bragging rights after a two-year hiatus. Africa kicks off the biennial tradition of the continental tournaments and will hope to set the tone for Europe and the Americas, whose tournaments are scheduled for around mid-year, later in the footballing season. With the stage set for the 34th African Cup of Nations (AFCON), football fans across Africa and elsewhere are hoping for their respective countries to put on a show and possibly clinch the gold. More than any other group, Ivorians will be hoping that their superstars can muster the differentia to secure a historic AFCON gold as a host nation. The feat has been achieved 11 times in 33 editions of the African Cup of Nations by nine host nations. Cote d’Ivoire is not one in this number, having hosted just once, in 1984, and failing to manage even a podium finish on that occasion.

The 2023 African Cup of Nation in Cote d’Ivoire brings with it the rare opportunity for the Elephants – the country’s national team – to secure a win on home soil and join an exclusive class of African Giants who have justified and validated the term “home advantage”.  Can Cote d’Ivoire pull it off? Precedents over the last decade of AFCON suggest otherwise. But before making any bold statements on how well or not the Elephants will perform at this year’s tournament, it might prove useful to look at the trends in the competition over the past decade or so for host nations.

Cameroon (2021) | Winner: Senegal

The last meeting to date of African nations on the AFCON stage was in Cameroon in 2021. The Teranga Lions of Senegal left the Colosseum with grins as wide as a crescent moon, while the Egyptian Pharaohs, who had hoped to fill their wound from 2019 with Gold were left dismayed after securing what is at times the worst take-home from tournaments — the Silver medal. For host Cameroon, it wasn’t the expected result, but a positive for them, as they made it to the semifinals.

To kickstart their campaign, Cameroon’s talisman and captain, Vincent Aboubakar, rose to the occasion to inspire a comeback in the first half, converting two penalties after Burkina Faso took the lead in the 24th minute. A similar story unfolded against Ethiopia who were in the ascendancy just four minutes into the game. Once again, Aboubakar scored a quick-fire brace, this time in open play in the 53rd and 55th minutes. Karl Toko-Ekambi similarly registered a brace, scoring on either side of his captain’s goals; first on eight minutes and later with 23 minutes of regular time left.

Cameroon hosts AFCON in 2021 - Afrocritik
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In the final game of the group stage, the Cameroonians were happy to part with two points as they played out a draw with Cape Verde, who cancelled out Vincent Aboubakar’s 39th-minute opener with an equaliser in the 53rd minute. Qualifying on seven points, Cameroon got back to winning ways in the round of 16 with a 2-1 victory over debutants, Comoros. Regardless of the loss, Comoros won people’s hearts, having made it to the playoffs with a fixer-upper of a squad. More than 10 of Comoros’ first-team players were sidelined for the AFCON tie due to COVID-19 and injury. They had braved the tournament with an improvised squad and against Cameroon, played a natural outfield player in goal. The game was perhaps a reality check and an indication that the Gold wasn’t in store for the hosts, as they scrapped for a win against a broken-up Comoros side who had conceded a red card only seven minutes into the game.

Toko-Ekambi’s fine run of form continued in the Quarter-finals as he netted twice – seven minutes apart – to secure all three points in a dominant Cameroon showing against the Gambia. In the Semis, the Cameroonians were faced with an immovable object in the jersey of the Pharaohs and weren’t quite the unstoppable force they needed to be to go through. A nil-nil stalemate sent them to penalties where they missed three consecutive kicks out of four while Egypt netted all three kicks they took.

The third-place playoff against Burkina Faso was a nail-biting and swearing episode for Cameroon faithful. It would seem that the quality of the 2013 runners-up was underestimated by the Cameroon tacticians, as they made some rotations to afford the less favoured squad members some minutes. Burkina made a meal of this and had Cameroon down three goals in under 50 minutes. Consequently, they presented Cameroon’s Captain a stage for AFCON heroics and one more reason to have his name etched up there with other Cameroon greats. Aboubakar, who came on in the second half scored a clutch brace on 85 and 87 minutes to send the game to Extra Time after Stéphane Bahoken got Cameroon’s first on 71 minutes. Cameroon would go on to win 5-3 on penalties, earning a bronze, after a goalless ET period.

Egypt (2019) | Winner: Algeria

The Pharaohs, in 2019, were at the centre of a landmark moment in AFCON history when they hosted the 32nd edition of the African Cup, and the first to feature six groups as opposed to four. The AFCON system was tweaked to allow increased participation and intensify competition. As usual, the top two teams from every group made it to the knockout stages. Third-place finishers were then ranked based on points and goal difference, after which the best four were granted a place in the knockout. The addition of two more groups and the “best loser” system introduced the round of 16 to the AFCON as knockout qualifiers doubled and along with it came certain twists.

Egypt dominated the group stage and this came as no surprise. They looked sharp in the qualifiers, where they secured four wins in six games played, suffering one loss to Tunisia and settling for a draw with Niger in the final game of the qualification stage. The competition group stage was a stroll in the park for the Egyptians, as they secured maximum points, winning 1-nil, 2-nil, and 2-nil against Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda respectively.

2019 Africa Cup of Nations Host - Afrocritik
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The game against Zimbabwe was one not properly represented by the scoreline. The Pharaohs were well and truly dominant in the park, amassing 59% of the possession, completing 537 passes against their opponent’s 369, landing nine shots on target, and forcing seven corners while Zimbabwe managed 2 on both stats. In the end, the lone goal by Trezequet was enough to secure all three points. 

DR Congo was a tougher nut to crack for the Pharaohs; a game of chess more so than it was a game of football. The Congo national team brought the heat and dominated Egypt in what was a tightly-matched clash. Egypt trailed in every aspect of the game except finding the back of the net, a trend we see very often in football games. The Pharaohs were happy to soak up pressure to allow for counter-attacking openings wherein they could apply the pace of the likes of Mo Salah.  For all their industry, DR Congo got no respite as The Pharaohs claimed all three points at the sound of referee Victor Gomes’ whistle, to call the game after 90 minutes plus stoppage time. Egypt went on to repeat a similar strategy against Uganda, who huffed and puffed and came to nought.

But in an unexpected turn of events, a dazzling South African side which had crept into the knockouts on three points from group D (under the best loser policy) kicked the Pharaohs out of their party. Egypt became the first team to lose the African Cup of Nations round of 16 playoff and the only host nation so far to have crashed out at that stage. To compound their embarrassment as hosts, they had yielded to an out-of-form Bafana side.

Gabon (2017) | Winner: Cameroon

Gabon followed in the steps of their 2012 co-hosts and 2015 hosts, Equatorial Guinea, successfully bidding for and hosting the 2017 edition of the AFCON independently.  This was as much as they could manage in tandem with the steps of Guinea. They went on to record an abysmal display at the competition – unlike their predecessors –  failing to make it out of their group and into the last eight. On the one hand, it isn’t hard to see how this happened, considering that the hosts were grouped with eventual gold finishers, Cameroon, and bronze medalists, Burkina Faso. One would say their campaign was already doomed from the onset.

Gabon to host AFCON - Afrocritik
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Gabon secured one point each from their group-stage games against Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon; a tally which offered no security to their title dreams.  The match against Guinea Bissau ended in a 1-1 draw at the Stade d’Angondjé, Libreville. Pierre-Emerck Aubameyang gave Gabon the lead inside 53 minutes and Gabon looked good for the win, being 1-nil up on 90 minutes. However, the heady Guinea Bissau side drew level with 91 minutes on the clock and held out to salvage a point. Against Burkina Faso, the game’s highlights were concluded in the first half with Burkina taking the lead inside 23 minutes and Gabon drawing level from the spot on 38. Both sides’ fans could have headed home thereafter and missed no thrill.

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The Cameroon tie was a nil-nil stalemate after 90 minutes of no real breakthroughs from either side attack-wise and concluded the group fixtures for group A. Both Cameroon and Burkina Faso beat Guinea Bissau in their second and final games of the group stage respectively, claiming all three points and going through to the knockout stages both on five points. They had shared the point one-a-piece in their meeting in their first game of the tournament.

Equatorial Guinea (2015) | Winner: Cote d’Ivoire

In 2015, the African Cup of Nations was held in Equatorial Guinea. It was the first time the nation would host the African Cup independently, having chaired the 2012 edition as co-hosts with Gabon. This landmark achievement in the country’s football history was anticipated by its supporters to be followed by an impressive display at the event and maybe a statement win.  The hosts were truly impressive. Not many had envisaged the quality they brought to the parle to make it to the tournament finals. A one-a-piece draw against eventual group leaders Congo in their first game of the campaign and a two-zero victory against 2012 allies, Gabon, in the group’s second-place decider were perhaps the early signs of the possibility of a fairy tale finish. A scoreless match-up against 2013 runners-up, Burkina Faso had the fans believing and arguably was a morale boost to go on and dominate Gabon.

2015 Africa Cup of Nations
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Impressively, the Equatorial Guinea team also came up trumps in their quarterfinal game against Tunisia, keeping their title hopes alive if only for a while longer. Their task would get much tougher as they faced the Black Lions of Ghana in the Semifinals of the tournament. Two quickfire goals in the opening half; first by Jordan Ayew who converted from the penalty spot inside 42 minutes, and then from Wakaso Mubarak who doubled down for the Black Stars just four minutes later dimmed the hopes of the Guineans. In the 75th minute, the older Ayew brother and Ghana’s giant, Andre,  put Guinea’s lights out netting a third. It was over.  The downcast Equatorial Guinea team would go on to botch the third-place playoff in penalties after a cagey nil-nil draw against DR Congo.

South Africa (2013) | Winner: Nigeria

The 2013 African Cup of Nations was a memorable one for Nigerian faithful, who were delirious after  Sunday Mba’s strike in the 40th minute won the Green and White their third Nations Cup, following a one-nil thriller against Burkina Faso.  South Africans did not share these sentiments at all after a rather disappointing display for the Bafana Bafana national team. South Africa managed five points from three group stage games and just one win in four games all competition before crashing out in the quarterfinal playoffs. The hosts were slow against a resilient Cape Verde side in their first game of the campaign, failing to get a goal and settling for sharing the points in a nil-nil draw. Their second outing of the tournament, which was against Angola, ended in a two-nil victory; their first and last win of the campaign as they went on to draw two goals to two and one-one against Morocco and Mali in the final game of the group stage and quarterfinal playoff respectively. A 2-1 loss on penalties saw the host’s dreams of lifting the title buried hastily, on home soil by the Eagles of Mali.

2013 Africa Cup of Nations -
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The last time a host won the AFCON was in 2006. The Pharaohs had hosted the cup and won what was their first in a historic three-peat. Since then, eight seasons have come and gone without a host winning. AFCON 2023 host, Cote d’Ivoire, faces off against Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea Bissau — all of whom registered fewer points in qualifying than them — in group A and look assured of a round of 16 qualification. This is almost certain, considering their drubbing of Sierra Leone last Saturday, in contrast to unconvincing displays by Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, and Equatorial Guinea in the pre-AFCON warm-up friendlies. However, whether or not Cote d’Ivoire has the quality in reserve to take in the gold remains to be seen.

Destiny Chibuzor is a writer with an interest in sports, poetry and lifestyle. He constantly loses his voice singing at the top of his lungs or debating football with friends. He believes Real Madrid is the best club in the world and that Cristiano Ronaldo is the GOAT.

Cover Photo: Sporting News

 

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