By Anashe Murombedzi
AFRICAN football stars are yet to set the AFCON tournament alight after most of them had a quiet outing in the group matches played so far which were also characterised by limited goals.
The most decorated African footballers at the AFCON tournament; Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Ryad Mahrez were expected to carry their club football form to the continental football showpiece but this has not been the case.
UEFA Champions League winner, Sadio Mane of Liverpool had a quiet outing when his Senegal side played Zimbabwe on day two of the tournament.
Tight man-marking limited Mane’s movement and ability to create chances although he eventually sealed the win for the Lions of Teranga in the 94th minute by converting a last gasp penalty.
His Liverpool team-mate, Mohamed Salah would also want to quickly forget his performance in Egypt’s one–nil defeat by Nigeria on Tuesday.
Nigeria were tactically superior and midfield enforcers, Welfried Ndidi bossed the midfield limiting the supply line to Salah.
A first-half strike by Kelechi Iheanacho then sealed victory for the Super Eagles against the record AFCON holders.
Earlier on the day, Algeria captain and Manchester City forward Ryad Mahrez could not help his team collect maximum points as he helplessly watched the defending champions settling for a nil-all stalemate against a stubborn Sierra Leone side.
However, goals and goal scoring opportunities have been limited at the tournament with only one match having produced two goals in the opening round of matches while the other games ended either one-nil or in a nil-all draw.
Only Cameroon have scored two goals in the first round of group matches but they all came from the penalty spot against Burkina Faso.
As a result, the first round of group matches saw a paltry 12 goals being scored in 12 matches, which could point to the improved tactical ability by most teams and also the closing of the gap between traditional football powerhouses and teams once regarded as minnows.