Advertisement

Red Cards Mar 2021 AFCON Round Of 16 Games

Emmanuel Egobiambu  
Updated January 27, 2022
The AFCON was tagged by many as a “tournament of red cards” following the number of players that were sent off in the competition.

 

The Round of 16 games at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) ended on Wednesday but the first phase of the knockout fixtures was marred by red cards.

Sixteen teams played eight matches, beginning from Sunday, as they sought a place in the quarter-final of Africa’s premier football competition in Cameroon. Seven red cards were issued in eight games in the Round of 16 encounters, raising questions about the quality of officiating at the AFCON.

They were five red cards in the first four games of the round. In fact, there were two in the game between Guinea and Gambia – one for each side –and the same number in the clash between Senegal and Cape Verde which saw Ibrahima Conte and Yusupha Njie given the marching orders. It was only during the last batch of matches on Wednesday that no player was sent off.

In the first knockout game between Burkina Faso and Gabon, Sydney Obiza was sent off for a second bookable offence after pushing down Issa Kabore in the box. Burkina Faso went on to win the game 7-6 on penalties after it ended 1-1.

Nigeria’s Alex Iwobi was later sent off in the second match of the night when the Super Eagles lost 0-1 to Tunisia. The former Arsenal player, who came on as a second-half substitute, was initially booked for a challenge on Youssef Msakni. But a VAR review changed the decision and Iwobi was handed a red card, minutes after he entered the pitch.

The following day, things took another turn when three red cards were dished out in two matches. Both Guinea and Gambia had one player sent off as the Scorpions battled to reach the last eight.

On Wednesday, the situation reached another level when Cape Verde ended with nine men in the defeat to tournament-favourite, Senegal. Two goals were enough to send the 2002 finalists to the quarter-final in the Central African nation. The Teranga Lions may have won the match but the highlights of the tie were two red cards given to the Blue Sharks. Captain Patrick Andrade was the first to be sent off in the 20th minute when he challenged Paris Saint Germain (PSG)’s Idrissa Gueye. After consulting VAR, the referee sent him off.

They got a second one when goalkeeper, Vozinha, was red-carded. The Cape Verde man had a head collision with Liverpool’s Sadio Mane nine minutes into the second half after an attempt to stop the striker. A VAR check was needed before the goalkeeper was sent off!

The development triggered conservations among football fans with many questioning the quality of officiating in the AFCON. One of the most vocal was former Ghanaian international, Mikel Essien, who described the situation as “shocking”.

‘Officiating Wasn’t Fair’

“Some of these red card decisions in #AFCON are shocking,” the former Chelsea star, tweeted days after his country crashed out of the competition.  “Is football getting soft???”

In the wake of Nigeria’s ouster from the biennial event, the Super Eagles coach, Austine Eguavoen, faulted the centre referee for the red card on Iwobi.

“It was clear that the officiating wasn’t fair,” Eguavoen said about Maguette Ndiaye’s outing in Garoua. “I won’t criticise the referee because they are masters of the game, but Alex Iwobi’s red card wasn’t fair. The foul wasn’t an intentional one.”

Although the Confederations of Africa Football (CAF) has not commented on the matter, fans are worried that since most of the red cards were issued after VAR reviews, match officials might be struggling with the new technology which was introduced for the first time in all AFCON games.

CAF had in the past used VAR from the quarter-finals – starting from Egypt 2019. But in an early January statement, the football body said for “the first time in the history of the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations, all 52 matches of the competition will use Video Assistant Referee (VAR)”.