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Africa Cup of Nations

Senegal kick-start title defence in style

AFCON Diaries: Senegal kick-start title defence in style, Cameroon & Algeria held

We’re only three days into the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), but the drama meter is already gaining pace after coverage from the Senegal vs Gambia fixture was disrupted.

Spectators from around the world voiced difficulties watching the match on different platforms. The commentary was silent for almost 15 minutes at the beginning, and only crowd noise could be heard on the broadcast.

Although it came back, various streams, including those from Sky Sports and Super Sport, went down shortly afterwards. Images returned at the start of the second half, but there was just crowd noise with no commentary.

It wasn’t until about an hour into the game that normality was restored, with several supporters taking to social media to criticise the disappointing coverage. 

Away from the tomfoolery, it’s been an intriguing AFCON competition to date. We’re only seven games into the tournament, but a notable trend has already emerged.

Four of the seven games have ended in stalemate, but the eye-catching element is how teams tagged as favourites have struggled against the underdogs who appeared to have entered the tournament prepared to upset the apple cart.

Could the 2023 edition of the AFCON witness an unlikely champion? It’s too early to make such an audacious prediction, so let’s walk you through all the happenings from the latest round of fixtures.

Group C: Senegal 3-0 The Gambia

Reigning champions Senegal began their AFCON defence with a routine 3-0 victory over the ten men of The Gambia. 

Looking to become just the fourth nation in AFCON history to successfully defend their title, Senegal made a dream start in Yamoussoukro, taking the lead four minutes into the contest.

A loose ball found its way to Sadio Mane in the box, and the talismanic forward showed impressive vision to lay it off to Pape Gueye, who swept a clinical first-time finish into the bottom corner.

The Gambia looked determined to gain a foothold in the contest, but their task was made more difficult when Ebou Adams was dismissed for a reckless tackle on Lamine Camara on the stroke of half time.

Armed with the numerical advantage, Senegal doubled their lead seven minutes after the restart, as Camara latched on to Ismaila Sarr’s through-ball before slotting a drilled finish into the far corner.

That goal all but sealed the three points for the Lions of Teranga, but Camara ensured the win with a potential goal-of-the-tournament contender, curling a spectacular strike into the top corner.

Aliou Cisse’s men have started their title defence as they mean to go on and will be looking to build on their emphatic start against Cameroon on Friday.

Group C: Cameroon 1-1 Guinea

Cameroon kicked off their AFCON campaign with a 1-1 draw against 10-man Guinea, who have now avoided defeat in each of their last four opening games at the tournament. 

Despite the absence of their talismanic striker Serhou Guirassy, Guinea got off to a flying start with Mohamed Bayo breaking the deadlock in the 10th minute after a defensive mishap from Cameroon.

Cameroon controlled proceedings in the opening period, but they struggled to create any worthwhile chances against a well-organised Guinea backline.

However, the complexion of the contest changed significantly with half-time approaching as Francois Kamano was handed his marching orders following a reckless challenge.

With the numerical advantage, it took the Indomitable Lions just six minutes into the second half to level matters as Frank Magri headed home an inch-perfect cross from Georges-Kevin Nkoudou.

Despite boasting the wind in their sails, a lacklustre Cameroonian attack found it difficult to break through Guinea’s resistance and Kaba Diawara’s side ultimately stood firm to claim a hard-earned point. 

The draw extends Cameroon’s unbeaten run in the AFCON group stage to ten games, but they’ll be disappointed not to kick-start their campaign with maximum points.

Group D: Algeria 1-1 Angola

The final action of Matchday Three saw two-time AFCON champions Algeria held to a 1-1 draw by Angola, extending their winless run in the tournament since their 2019 triumph.

The Dessert Warriors fielded a starting line-up that featured a host of stars from across Europe’s top five leagues and Saudi Arabia, so it wasn’t surprising when they took the lead in the opening 20 minutes.

Baghdad Bounedjah broke the deadlock, expertly volleying Youcef Belaili’s long ball past Neblu with the outside of his boot.

Bounedjah was then denied a potential goal of the tournament as his sensational overhead kick was ruled out for offside seven minutes after his opener.

Algeria monopolised possession, and Angola’s failure to register a shot on target emphasised the dominance of one of the tournament’s favourites.

However, the second half saw Angola begin to tip the scales in their favour.

Despite struggling for possession, the Sable Antelopes were rewarded for their endeavour with a penalty when Mabululu was fouled in the box by Nabil Bentaleb. 

Mabululu smashed the penalty in off the underside of the crossbar, sending the away crowd into raptures as they could sense a possible first AFCON win since 2012.

Algeria rallied for the win, but Angola ultimately became the latest side to walk away from a matchup against one of the tournament favourites with points on the board. 

There’s still time for Algeria to avoid a repeat of their catastrophic title defence in 2021, but they’ll need to up the ante against Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

Today’s fixtures

Burkina Faso vs Mauritania – 2:00 pm (GMT)

Group D action continues today, with Burkina Faso looking to go top of the pile when they square off with Mauritania at Stade Bouake.

Given the recent good fortunes of the underdogs, Mauritania will fancy their chances of landing their first-ever AFCON win at the expense of the 2013 finalists.

Tunisia vs Namibia – 5:00 pm (GMT)

Tunisia and Namibia raise the curtains on Group E when they trade tackles, with the Eagles of Carthage expected to emerge victorious.

Having reached at least the quarter-finals of each of the last four AFCON editions, Tunisia will be looking to enjoy another deep run into the latter stages of the competition.

Mali vs South Africa – 9:00 pm (GMT)

Tuesday’s fixture line-up rounds off with Mali looking to extend their two-match winning streak over South Africa in the AFCON.

Mali have never lost an opening game in the competition (W7, D5) since their debut in 1972. They head into the group opener unbeaten in their last seven matches across all competitions (W6, D1).

How to watch?

All AFCON games are broadcast live on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom. Numerous other live football streaming websites will allow you to watch the tournament in real time regardless of your location.

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