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Biggest Winners And Losers From AFCON Last 16

And then there were eight. The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations has served spectacle upon spectacle, and the Last 16 stage did not disappoint.

South Africa

And then there were eight. The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations has served spectacle upon spectacle, and the Last 16 stage did not disappoint. Penalty heartbreak, last-minute drama, red cards, and shock results were the order of the day(s). A few teams and players stood out in the last few days, both positively and negatively. Winners & Losers is here to review the football action statistically, and this week’s focus is the Last 16 stages of the Cup of Nations.


Bafana Bafana

A night that will not be forgotten for a long time. The World Cup semi-finalists, who beat Belgium, Spain, and Portugal just a year ago in Qatar were beaten comprehensively. This was not a smash-and-grab last-minute win or a deep-block protection of an early lead. Bafana were methodical in their approach to the ball. Off the ball, they frustrated the likes of Amrabat to the point of getting sent off. Here are some numbers from a memorable night:

  • This was the first time since AFCON2000 that Bafana scored two goals in a knockout game, while +2 is the nation’s biggest margin of victory in a knockout game since the 1996 final.
  • Morocco failed to score in an AFCON game for the first time in 13 matches, ending their longest run of scoring in the competition.
  • Bafana have maintained their record of never losing a knockout game at AFCON after scoring the first goal (now W8 D2 L0 since 1996).
  • Against no other nation has Bafana won more games at AFCON than Morocco (3*). Indeed, against no other nation has Morocco lost more games at AFCON than South Africa (3*)

Ronwen Williams

It’s hard (maybe even unfair) to single out one player after such a night, but special praise to the defensive unit at Bafana, in particular Williams. It will be forgotten in the hysteria, but Morocco’s captain Hakimi had a chance to score from the spot with five minutes to go. Diving in the right direction and at the right height proved decisive even if Williams did not get a finger to it. His players celebrated as if he did.

1 – Williams is the first goalkeeper in Bafana’s history to keep three consecutive clean sheets at an AFCON tournament.

Hugo Broos

He may not be the perfect manager and certainly a straight talker diplomatic, but the plaudits are well deserved and should be more common.

1 – Hugo Broos has lost just one of the 10 games he’s managed at AFCON (P10 W6 D3 L1 with Cameroon & Bafana)


For the first time in AFCON history, Angola managed to win a knockout stage game. Their previous two games in the knockouts had all ended in defeat, losing to Egypt in 2008 and then Ghana in 2010 by one goal margins. Incredibly, they were assigned a 0.5% chance of winning AFCON when the tournament started, the joint-lowest of all teams. Now, they end the first knockout round as the biggest winners, and a national record to be proud of.

1 – The 3-0 win over Namibia was Angola’s biggest-ever win at AFCON.

Ademola Lookman

He is not the biggest star in this Nigerian team – that recognition goes to Victor Osimhen. Maybe the absence of the spotlight has helped Ademola Lookman get about his business.

6 & 15 – No Nigerian player has created more chances than Lookman (6) and no player in the tournament has taken more shots than Osihmen (15).

The Super Eagles

Now the favorites to lift a fourth title, the Super Eagles’ tournament has gone from strength to strength. Their chances of becoming champions have gone up from 8% when the tournament started to 29% today.

1 – This is the first time since 1990 that they have won three consecutive games at a single tournament without conceding a goal.

DR Congo

Four games, four draws and somehow DRC are into the quarter-finals at AFCON. If you need proof of how unpredictable this tournament is, look no further than this freak run of results.

2015 – This is the first time since 2015 that DR Congo have progressed past the first knockout game, having been eliminated in 2019 (Last 16) and 2017 (Quarter-final, there was no Last 16).

Ivory Coast & Holding Their Nerve

The Ivorians made it through to the Last 16 by the skin of their teeth. Statistically, they were the lowest-placed qualifier from the groups. But they are using that opportunity to fan the flames of recovery.

5 – Cote d’Ivoire have won five of their 11 penalty shoot-outs at AFCON; only Egypt (6) have won more shootouts in the history of the competition.


1 – This is the first time in AFCON history that none of the quarter-finalists from the previous tournament (AFCON2021) reached the quarter-finals of the next tournament (AFCON2023).



The best team from the group stages was eliminated by the worst. Senegal had a 100% record in the groups, winning all three games, while Ivory Coast were the 16th ranked team out of 16. As the adage goes, it is not about how you start, but more about how you finish. This is true for Senegal’s tournament, but also true for this particular game.

16% – Only four (out of 19) teams that won 3/3 games in the Group stages have gone on to win that AFCON tournament.

Emilio Nsue

He may still end up as the tournament’s top-scorer, but Emilio Nsue may lose sleep over his missed penalty. Not only could it have (potentially) changed the result, but it would have given him a two-goal cushion in the race for the Golden Boot.


Of the last eight AFCON knockout matches involving Egypt, five of them have gone to penalties. Three have been won, and two lost – the 2021 final and Sunday night. Ouch.

Red Cards/Bafana/Morocco

Five players were sent off in the eight games played in the Last 16, more than were sent off in the first 36 games of the tournament (4). Moreover, four of the five teams with dismissed players were eliminated.

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