2021 AFCON: Biggest disappointments named & shamed

Published on: 10 February 2022

Ed Dove reveals his biggest disappointments from the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.


Nothing really went right for Ghana during the Nations Cup, did it?

The Black Stars were defeated by Morocco in their opener, stunned at the death by Gabon amidst controversial circumstances, and were then dispatched by tiny Comoros in their final group game.

They struggled to impress with their playing style—apart from that late rally against the minnows—and Andre Ayew’s reaction after the Panthers draw left a sour taste in the mouth.

Dede was at the heart of Ghana’s best moment—his fine opener against Gabon—and their worst, with the experienced forward sent off against Comoros when they needed him most.


It wasn’t the worst defence of an African Cup of Nations title, but considering Algeria came into the tournament on the back of an African record undefeated streak, it was arguably the most shocking.

The Fennecs were held by Sierra Leone in their opener—despite dominating the contest—and were then stunned by Equatorial Guinea in their second match as their undefeated streak came to an end.

They could have still turned things around against Ivory Coast in their final group game, but after falling three goals down, and then missing a penalty through Riyad Mahrez, their miserable title defence came to a disastrous end.

Sierra Leone hooligans

The Leone Stars were one of the darlings of the group stage, going unbeaten in their first two matches despite being pitted against Algeria and the Cote d’Ivoire.

They were still in the running heading into the final moments of their showdown with Equatorial Guinea, only for Kei Kamara to miss a penalty—and the chance to equalise—which ultimately sent the Leone Stars home.

Despite their heroics, and the performances of their legendary captain, some local hooligans saw fit to target the striker’s home in Freetown after the performance.

Local police subsequently offered protection to both the player and his property, but it was an ugly end to a fine campaign for Kamara and the Leone Stars.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

To what extent Aubameyang’s dreadful Nations Cup was his own fault remains to be seen, but there’s no question that the major tournament passed the striker by emphatically.

Despite travelling to Gabon primed to make an impact after a torrid time at Arsenal, Auba didn’t get on the pitch after testing positive for coronavirus on the eve of the tournament.

He was set to return against Ghana on matchday two, only for him and Mario Lemina to be banned from making a comeback after they failed Caf’s post-Covid health tests.

The striker was promptly sent home amidst a social media storm questioning the true nature of his exclusion.

At least he got a move to Barcelona out of it...

Nigeria vs Tunisia

The Super Eagles’ group stage campaign was so impressive, that we can hardly consider them among the tournament disappointments.

Indeed, Nigeria were the only team to enjoy a 100-percent record during the opening three matchdays, and this made it all the more underwhelming when their campaign unravelled against Tunisia in the Round of 16.

It was a contest full of disappointments, from Ola Aina’s misjudgement, Maduka Okoye’s error, and Alex Iwobi’s red card, but perhaps most disappointing of all was Nigeria’s limp attacking display, where the verve and vitality of the group stage utterly deserted them.

Refereeing distractions

It’s hard to know exactly who to blame here, with referees themselves, Var, and the international media all surely deserving of some scrutiny after decisions by the officials overshadowed too many fixtures during the competition.

There was the Janny Sikazwe episode, the Moroccan referee who appeared determined to make his mark on the Burkina Faso-Gabon clash, and the Var-influenced red card for Comoros early in their tie against Cameroon to name just some divisive episodes.

In the Cape Verde-Senegal game, where there were two dismissals for the islanders and Sadio Mane was allowed to play on despite suffering a head injury, the officiating was again called into question.

The 2021 edition topped the 2019 edition for red cards, and while this is a consequence—surely—of the Var intervention, it doesn’t necessarily make for a better spectacle.

Source: goal.com