Afcon 2021 is getting close to the finals, with all eight games of the round of 16 already played. Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Senegal, Gambia, Cameroon, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, and Morocco are in the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals are slated to be played on 29th and 30th January, respectively. However, the tournament has been marred with many red cards, more than the past four tournaments combined.
Officials of the tournament have received a lot of criticisms from fans because of their unwarranted red cards-issuance. Fans noted that officials’ drastic decisions make the African Cup of Nations an “absolute joke .” Different pundits and football expressed their frustrations to Twitter and other social media platforms.
A former Ghanaian player, Michael Essien, tweeted, “Football is becoming soft,” to challenge the red card issued against Alex Iwobi. The red card came after the referee reviewed the tackle with the help of the VAR, warranting him to draw out the red card.
13 Red Cards!
Since the start of the AFCON 2021, 13 red cards have been issued. Red cards often dictate the outcome of the game. For example, Nigeria’s game when playing against Tunisia. Alex Iwobi received a red card after a VAR review by the referee. Tunisia was excellent, and they played well, but we cannot dispute the detrimental effect Iwobi’s red card had on Nigeria’s game.
Senegal’s game against Cape Verde ended with two red cards. Cape Verde was reduced to nine players. Competing against a strong team like Senegal, with decorated players and two red cards, proved an uphill task. Cape Verde lost the game with the final score of 2:1. Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Gambia attracted red cards as well.
Other games affected by red cards in the round of 16 included; the game between Burkina Faso against Gabon. In addition, Comoros, Gambia, and Guinea were also some of the red-carded teams.
VAR; Blessing or Curse to the AFCON 2021
Going into the quarterfinals, it is necessary to ask; is VAR a curse or a blessing to the tournament?. Consequently, the use of VAR assistant referees has led to most of the red cards witnessed during the round of 16. For instance, in the game between Nigeria and Tunisia, Alex Iwobi received a yellow card. However, upon reviewing the VAR, the game’s referee revised the card and gave Alex Iwobi a straight red card.
Stakes are high as the tournament progresses and players are more compelled to give everything on the pitch. Yes, some tackles might warrant a red card, but most of the tackles we witnessed at the round of 16 were red card offenses. Going into the quarterfinals, there is a need to review the quality of officiating. Certainly, VAR can be detrimental and valuable simultaneously, depending on how officials use it.
It is getting more intense and intriguing to watch the AFCON 2021 at this stage. Quarterfinals’ games are set to be played on Saturday and Sunday, and we are all in for quality games. Time to get your predictions rolling; who do you think will advance to the semi-finals and subsequently win the tournament?
Here are the semi-finals fixtures:
Gambia vs Cameroon- 29th Jan 2022
Burkina Faso vs Tunisia- 29th Jan 2022
Egypt vs Morocco- 30th Jan 2022
Senegal vs Equatorial Guinea- 30th Jan 2022
Don’t miss out on the tournament, follow all the fixtures above; At Afro Gist Media, we bet on Cameroon, Tunisia, Egypt, and Senegal to progress to the semi-finals, let us know your predictions below.