AFCON 2021: Group A review

Group A of the Africa Cup of Nations has been concluded, here is a round-up of all the action from the three games.

Group A round-up

After the last round of games, Group A has finally taken shape with Cameroon on top with seven points, Burkina Faso in second with four points, Cape Verde also have four points but behind on head-to-head while Ethiopia are bottom with a point and eliminated.

The group ended with Cameroon playing out a 1-1 draw against Cape Verde and Burkina Faso playing out the same scoreline against Ethiopia.

This means Cape Verde will have to wait and hope they rank among the top four third-placed teams before they can join Cameroon and Burkina Faso in the next round.

Cameroon beat Burkina Faso on the opening night of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, 2-1 was the final score in what was an enjoyable game to watch.

Gustavo Sangare volleyed Burkina Faso into the lead in enemy territory but the passionate home crowd remained undeterred and continued to will on their team.

The Indomitable Lions responded on the pitch to the intensity of their fans in the stands and would equalise and then claim the lead with two penalties by Vincent Aboubakar.

Cameroon got even better in the second half with some superb counter-attacking football but their profligacy in front of goal meant they failed to extend the scoreline.

It ended 2-1 under the floodlights at the Olembe stadium in Yaounde, a match that witnessed Cameroonian celebration before and after and set the tone for the Indomitable Lions to go on and finish top of the group.

As far as individual performances go, there was none better in the three Group A matches (and I daresay in all the other five groups) than Vincent Aboubakar.

The Cameroon striker finished the group stages with five goals and scored in all three games, proving to be a menacing opponent for opposition defenders.

For context, no player has scored more than five goals in any of the previous 11 AFCON tournaments, a record which Aboubakar equalled in just three group stage games.

The 29-year old is comfortably the top scorer at this edition of AFCON and is on course to be the highest scorer at an AFCON tournament since 1998.

Group A was relatively devoid of controversy compared to the other groups but there were still some notable moments here and there.

The first game between Cameroon and Burkina Faso was the first introduction to what would turn out to be one of the themes of the tournament: unnecessarily lengthy VAR checks.

The use of the Video Assistant Referee in that game was a major talking point as checks went on for as long as three minutes without replays or efforts to carry the viewing public along.

The single moment that could pass as controversial in this group was Vincent Aboubakar's goal against Burkina Faso being ruled out for a narrow offside with the use of VAR.

The goal would have completed Aboubakar's hattrick in the first game and taken his group stage goalscoring tally to six goals rather than the five goals he amassed.

Ethiopia finished bottom with a point after three games and should easily be the pick for the most disappointing team in Group A. But when you consider Ethiopia's pre-tournament expectations, they finished exactly where they were projected to.

There were no real disappointments as all teams finished were they were projected to but Burkina Faso were not as convincing as expected.

This was exemplified in the last game of the group stage where Burkina Faso drew 1-1 against a poor Ethiopia team in a game they should have won.

The result didn’t end up having dire consequences but it could have if Cape Verde had somehow managed to beat Cameroon. The Burkinabes would have to improve their performance in the next round or risk a round of 16 exit.

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