The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON)  kicked off 6 days ago, and we have witnessed endless drama, incredible goals, and giant-killing performances in the opening round of matches.

As the group stage heats up, we look at the highlights of the tournament so far.

The tournament in Ivory Coast has witnessed surprising results and intense competition from supposed underdog teams, setting it apart from the 2022 edition. Notably, Namibia, who shocked Tunisia with a hardworking, diligent display, and Cape Verde secured unexpected victories, while Equatorial Guinea and Mozambique earned creditable draws when no one gave them a chance, reflecting AFCON’s unpredictability and competitiveness.

AFCON 2023 – Goals galore

One major difference between this year’s AFCON and the 2022 edition is the number of goals scored. There is an emphasis on attacking football, with teams pushing forward from the first whistle, a departure from the typical cautious African style of football. 

There have been 27 goals through the first round of group stage matches (2.24 goals per game) compared to just 12 at this stage of the last AFCON. 

For bettors, the over 1.5 has landed in 10 of the 12 group games so far, compared to just 4 games at the last AFCON.

Key Talking Points

Host nation Ivory Coast made light work of Guinea-Bissau on the opening day, with a fine 2-0 win to thrill the home support. Goals from Seko Fofana and Jean-Phillipe Krasso gave The Elephants the perfect start to the tournament, and Jean-Louis Gasset’s men look great value to finish ahead of the Super Eagles of Nigeria in Group A and go all the way. Watching that opening day performance and the ferocious home support, it is hard to bet against them.  

Speaking of the Super Eagles, Jose Peseiro’s men stumbled to a disappointing 1-1 draw against Equatorial Guinea in their AFCON opener, going behind to the minnows before Victor Osimhen’s leveler. The performance raised more questions than answers about Peseiro’s ability to set a team up to play on the front foot and dominate a game from start to finish. 

Despite the setback, the Super Eagles will bounced back against the hosts in Abidjan, with a hard-fought 1-0 win thanks to a penalty from William Troost-Ekong.

AFCON -Nigeria defeats Ivory Coast

Egypt needed a dramatic 97th-minute penalty from Mohamed Salah to avoid defeat against Mozambique in a thrilling 2-2 draw. The Pharoahs dominated from start to finish but failed to put away their chances. However, they will back themselves to do better when they take on a disappointing Ghanaian side in their next outing.

The Black Stars lost 2-1 to huge underdogs Cape Verde in their AFCON opener, and another defeat could see them hanging on for dear life. The Ayew brothers, Jordan and Andre, came under tremendous criticism for their performance in that defeat, and an early exit from the tournament could also signal the end of the road for head coach Chris Hughton.

Defending champions Senegal defeated Gambia 3-0 in their opener and Sadio Mane’s failure to get on the scoresheet was probably the most surprising thing about that game, as the Teranga Lions dominated from start to finish. On the evidence of that performance, Senegal will take some stopping.

 There is a solid spine throughout the team with Kalidou Koulibaly and Abdou Diallo in defence, the midfielders and attackers have the assurance required to express themselves.

Finally, Morocco sent a message to the rest of Africa with a superb performance in the 3-0 win over Tanzania.

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