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By The Numbers: Bafana Bafana Eliminated From AFCON

Bafana Bafana were eliminated from the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday night, following a painful penalty shootout defeat in the semi-final to Nigeria.


Bafana Bafana were eliminated from the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday night, following a painful penalty shootout defeat in the semi-final to Nigeria. The Super Eagles opened the scoring from the spot just after the hour mark and thought they had doubled their lead with a few minutes to play. However, VAR intervened by investigating the build-up to Victor Osimhen’s “goal”, and awarded Bafana a penalty instead. Teboho Mokoena converted the spot-kick, sending the game into extra time and later a fatal penalty shootout. By The Numbers looks at how all the drama unfolded through a statistical lens.

A Tough Opponent

Coming into this game, a lot of the numbers favored Nigeria. The historical head-to-head saw Nigeria with a 100% record in three games against Bafana, while the pre-match probabilities also gave Nigeria an overwhelming 52% chance of victory. Bafana also does not have a good record against West African nations in the tournament, which is a bit ironic given that they won their first-ever game v West African opposition back in 1996.

20 – games for Bafana v West African teams at AFCON
3 – wins for Bafana v West African teams (15% win rate)

2004 – the last time Bafana beat West African opposition at AFCON (2-0 v Benin)
12 – games since Bafana beat West African opposition (W0 D6 L6 in seven tournaments)

4 – games for Bafana against Nigeria at AFCON
0 – wins for Bafana v Nigeria at AFCON (D1 L3)

This is the longest winless run for Bafana against any nation in the tournament.

Bafana Unfazed

Watching how the game started, one may have been mistaken for thinking Nigeria were the underdogs. Bafana played with both control and aggression in the first half, rattling Nigeria’s superstars in a manner they were unfamiliar with. While the shot count was even (4-4), Bafana had more possession and a higher xG tally at the break. We also led for passes, accurate passes, tackles and duels won in the opening half. Osimhen and company found the going tough.

9 – the average number of touches in the opposition box for Nigeria in the 1st half of games at AFCON

4 – number of touches allowed to Nigeria in Bafana’s box in the first half here
2 – number of touches allowed to Nigeria in Bafana’s box between minute 2 and minute 44

0.14 – xG for Nigeria in the first half, their lowest first-half total in the tournament

The chart below shows how Nigera’s threat grew only around 45 minutes.

A Bridge Too Far

With 24 hours less rest and coming off a game that had gone to penalties in the previous round, Bafana needed to take advantage of their early pressure. The Nigerians seemed to grow in confidence as the game wore on, and teams had to execute Plan B. You are spoiled for choice when your team can call upon English Premier League winner Kelechi Iheanacho and AC Milan’s Samuel Chukwueze off the bench. The fact that Bafana made the fewest changes to their Starting XI at AFCON may have been an indicator that Broos knew there was a significant drop in quality with his reserves. The combination of a lack of bench experience and tired legs started to show, evidenced by late fluffed chances and some weak penalties.

1 – this was the first time Nigeria had a lower xG total than their opponents at AFCON
0.65 – non-penalty xG for Nigeria in this game, their lowest at the tournament (despite playing 120 mins)

Asking Ronwen Williams to be a hero again was always going to be a tough ask. He is, human after all, and the Super Eagles have a decent record in penalty shootouts.

8 – penalty shootouts for Nigeria have in AFCON history
6 – shootout wins for Nigeria in AFCON history (no team has more, Egypt also six)

    They now head to Abidjan looking for their fourth title on Sunday night, while Bafana will be out for the bronze medal 24 hours earlier. They are eliminated from competing in the final, but there is still much to play for.

    Sean Parker is a motorsport journalist and sports content creator at The South African. He has worked for the country's premier motoring publications, and is a Formula 1 contributor to, the Bet Central podcast, and Vision View Sports radio.

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