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By The Numbers: The Best & Worst Teams From AFCON Round 1 Group Stages

Shocks and surprises were the order of the day during the first round of games at the Africa Cup of Nations 2023.

African Cup of Nations

Shocks and surprises were the order of the day during the first round of games at the Africa Cup of Nations 2023. Every match played saw at least one goal, the first time since 2019 that there is no goalless draw throughout the first round of games. While scorelines can communicate “What happened”, we need to look under the bonnet to see the “Why” of these results. With the help of data from Opta, we can look deeper into team performances (statistically), not just results.

Three Winners


While some big names underwhelmed on Matchday 1, the top three pre-tournament favorites managed to get maximum points. Morocco were the joint-biggest winners on Matchday 1, cruising to a 3-0 victory. It was their biggest margin of victory in an AFCON game since beating Namibia 5-1 in the 2008 Group stage. This, plus other results, have taken Morocco’s chances from 11% to 13% to win the tournament.

Most shots on target per game after MatchDay 1:

7 – Morocco

7 – Mali

7 – Nigeria


Like Morocco, Senegal had the benefit of playing part of the game against 10 men. And like Morocco, they made the most of the man advantage to score two goals after. Their chances of retaining the crown have gone up from 13% to 17%. The Lions of Teranga are the team with the most 10+ pass sequences in the first round of games, defined as the number of times they had 10 or more uninterrupted passes.

Most 10+ sequences on Matchday 1:

22 – Senegal

18 – Egypt, Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast remains the team with the highest probability of winning the tournament, up five percentage points from 12% to 17%. They are the team with the joint-most high turnovers won in the first round of games at AFCON2023. High turnovers are defined by Opta as the number of times a team won possession in open play within 40 metres of the opponent’s goal.

Most high turnovers:

11 – Ivory Coast, Mali

9 – Namibia, Ghana

Three Overperformers


A first-ever win at AFCON for Namibia coupled with their first-ever clean sheet has thrown a cat among the pigeons in Group E. The Brave Warriors’ win over Tunisia is probably the biggest shock of the tournament so far (87 world ranking places between the sides), and they turned a 20% chance of victory (was 61% for Tunisia) into three points.

Most shots by a player in a game

6 – Peter Shalulile (Namibia)

6 – Victor Osimhen (Nigeria)

6 – Yoanne Wissa (DR Congo)

6 – Aziz Ki (Tanzania)

    Cape Verde

    Cape Verde beat Ghana 2-1 with a dramatic injury-time winner in the first game. Given a 23% chance for victory before the game (58% for Ghana), they produced a fearless performance on the day, and the victory was more than deserved.

    Highest xG from MatchDay 1:

    3.5 – Nigeria

    3.0 – Cape Verde

    2.5 – Morocco

    DR Congo

    They may not have won their game, but DRC showed enough here that they may be a threat beyond the Group stages (if they continue on the same path). 25 shots in the game was impressive, but it still yielded only one goal – something to work on in training. They led the tournament for entries into the opposition box (48) and direct attacks (the number of open play sequences that start from just inside a team’s half and have at least 50% movement toward the opposition’s goal, ending in a shot or a touch in the opposition penalty box).

    Most direct attacks on MatchDay 1:

    6 – DR Congo

    3 – Ivory Coast, Senegal 

    Three Underperformers


    The Super Eagles will be disappointed not to have scored more than one goal against Equatorial Guinea. Seven big chances created (highest in a game at the tournament so far), seven shots on target (joint-highest), and an xG of 3,5 (highest) – these all point to a performance that deserved three points.

    Most big chances missed on MatchDay 1:

    6 – Nigeria

    4 – Senegal

    3 – Gambia

    Bafana Bafana

    Percy Tau’s missed penalty was a microcosm of South Africa’s first-half performance – not making the most of the opportunities presented. Bafana outshot and outthought Malin in the first half, before getting outfought after the break. In the second half of their game, Mali seemed to have figured out how to stop Bafana’s passes from progressing up the field:

    Times a team lost possession in their third on MatchDay 1:

    10 times – South Africa

    8 – Zambia

    7 – Guinea Bissau


    Ghana have won just one of their last 10 games at AFCON, so this may not be a big surprise after all. They were played off the park by Cape Verde on the day, with fewer shots (10 compared to 15), passes ((340-392), and touches in the opposition box (15 – 22). The defence was leaky too, with quality chances given to the opposition too often.

    Highest xG conceded on MatchDay 1:

    3.5 – Equatorial Guinea

    3.0 – Ghana

    2.5 – Tanzania, Zambia

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