Goals galore at 2024 AFCON, but trend may not continue in final

The Africa Cup of Nations has produced a record 116 goals with two matches to go, but history suggests the final between hosts Ivory Coast and Nigeria on Sunday could be a low-scoring affair.

There have been only 10 goals in the past 10 finals of the African football showpiece, and six of those came in just two title deciders.

Hosts Tunisia defeated Morocco 2-1 in 2004 and Cameroon came from behind against Mohamed Salah-inspired Egypt 13 years later to succeed by the same score.

Of the other eight finals, four were won by a solitary goal and another four were decided by penalty shootouts after 120 goalless minutes in each.

Football is the dominant sport in Africa and, with so much pride and pressure on the line, it is not surprising that AFCON finals tend to be tense, defence-dominated struggles for supremacy.

This year, there is record prize money at stake with the winners receiving $7 million — $2 million more than Senegal pocketed for becoming champions two years ago.

Apart from the prize money, AFCON-winning squads can score from additional money offered by national governments and football federations, and stars may reap advertising rewards.

Ivory Coast and Nigeria have already met in 2024, in the second round of group matches, and the match delivered only one goal, a penalty converted by Super Eagles captain William Troost-Ekong.

The Ivorian Elephants have reached the final — expected to draw a capacity 60,000 crowd to the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium in Abidjan — by scoring just six goals in six matches.

– Challenging –

No Ivorian has managed to net more than once with the goals coming from Simon Adingra, Oumar Diakite, Seko Fofana, Sebastien Haller, Franck Kessie and Jean-Philippe Krasso.

Nigeria have also found scoring challenging. The statistics show they got seven in six outings, but one of them was a spectacular own goal from Opa Sangante of Guinea-Bissau.

Ademola Lookman has notched three, Troost-Ekong two from penalties, and Napoli star and reigning African Player of the Year Victor Osimhen one.

In the race for the Golden Boot, Lookman, with three goals, is best placed to overtake the long-time chart-topper, five-goal Emilio Nsue of Equatorial Guinea.

However, no player has scored more than once in a final since South African Mark Williams bagged a brace in 1996.

There has only ever been one hat-trick in 31 finals — Egyptian Mohamed Diab Al-Attar scored four times in 1957.

Deceased Ivory Coast football legend Laurent Pokou, who had one of the six 2024 AFCON stadiums named after him, holds the record for a match at the tournament with five goals.

They came in a 6-1 hammering of Ethiopia at the 1970 group stage, but Ivory Coast bowed out in the semi-finals. BSS

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