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By The Numbers: Bafana’s AFCON Odyssey

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations ended Sunday night with Ivory Coast crowned African champions.

Bafana Bafana

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations ended Sunday night with Ivory Coast crowned African champions. The Elephants came from a goal down to beat Nigeria 2-1, with a spirited performance that belied their earlier tournament woes. The AFCON2023 podium sees the hosts get a gold medal, a silver for Nigeria, while Bafana comes home with the bronze, following their penalty shootout win over DR Congo. The final By The Numbers piece looks at some of the numbers from Bafana’s adventures.

A Tournament To Remember

Shock exits of the “big” teams, inspired performances from “small” teams, late goals, and unbelievable comebacks. Add VAR-denied goals, red cards, hat-tricks, own-goals, and dramatic penalty shootouts – AFCON 2023 promised and delivered it all. Ivory Coast’s resurrection from the dead to Cup glory probably sums up how eventful this tournament has been, but the record goals total will be remembered fondly. The increased number of games played is a factor to be considered, but even on a goals-per-game basis, this has been a good tournament.

119 – goals were scored at AFCON 2023, a new record for the tournament.
2.48 – goals per game at AFCON2023, higher than any of the last seven editions
2008 – the last time AFCON had a higher goals-per-game ratio (3.1 gpg then)

Bafana’s Impressive Showing

Bafana Bafana entered this tournament ranked 66th in the world, and 12th in Africa. When the tournament began, they were given a lowly 13% chance of reaching the semi-finals and a 6% chance of reaching the final. The fact that they only missed out on the final after losing a penalty shootout highlights how impressive their run has been. Ending the 24-team event as the third-best team is a bit of an overachievement; more so when you consider we failed to qualify in the last edition.

24 – years since Bafana last finished AFCON with a medal
4 – medals for Bafana at AFCON (1 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronzes)
7 – African cations with more medals at AFCON

Leading From The Back

Ronwen Williams was crowned Goalkeeper of the tournament at the very end, the perfect reward for an outstanding individual tournament. The Sundowns goalkeeper was instrumental once again in the third-place playoff, saving two penalties to help Bafana to victory. But as we’ve highlighted before, judging Williams’ performance by penalty shootout saves does him a disservice. He has been the best goalkeeper in the tournament with or without the shootout heroics, thanks in part to a leaky Bafana defence. Looking at the quality of chances Bafana gave up shows how teams have found ways to break through the defensive lines.

10.3 – xG conceded by Bafana at the tournament, the worst of all teams. (NB: playing more games has elevated this total)

4.4 – goals prevented by Williams at AFCON (based on the quality of on-target shots he faced)

He returns home a conquering hero, with a few records as well to keep in addition to the personal and team accolades.

5 – clean sheets for Williams, a new record for a South African goalkeeper
1 – goalkeepers in AFCON history that have ever kept more than five clean sheets (Alioum Boukar – six clean sheets for Cameroon in 2002)

    Other Key Players

    While Williams will get the plaudits, he will be the first to admit that this was a collective effort. Bafana received the Fair Play Award at the end of the tournament, a symbol of the team effort. Five different players scored for Bafana in Ivory Coast, equalling Bafana’s record from 1996 (also 5). A few players also stood out among the numbers:

    33 – shots on target by Bafana at AFCON, more than all teams

    12 – chances created by Teboho Mokoena (3rd highest of all players at the tournament)
    9 – shots on target by Teboho Mokoena, more than any other player at the tournament

    0.4 – goals conceded per game for Bafana, the best in the tournament
    10 – interceptions by Mothobi Mvala at AFCON (joint-first at the tournament)

    690 – minutes played by Aubrey Modiba (no outfielder played 690 minutes, Ivory Coast’s Obite N’dicka also 690)
    50 – ball recoveries for Modiba at the tournament, more than any other player

    Tims is a CSA accreditated freelance cricket writer who also does cricket commentary for Guerilla Cricket SA and founder of the Full Quota Podcast.

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