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Africa Cup of Nations

Zambia strike late to deny Tanzania rare win, Morocco held by DR Congo & more

Day nine at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) marked the last time we had three consecutive fixtures in the tournament, and we were treated to some highly entertaining matches. 

Cape Verde and Senegal remain the only teams to have booked a place in the knockout stage, but yesterday’s results left us with plenty to discuss across the board.

Group F: Morocco 1-1 D.R. Congo

Odds-on tournament favourites Morocco missed out on a chance to seal a place in the knockout phase after labouring to a 1-1 draw against DR Congo.

The 2022 World Cup semi-finalists looked to impose themselves early on. 

They nearly took the lead inside two minutes when Youssef En-Nesyri connected with a cross from Achraf Hakimi, forcing Lionel Mpasi-Nzau into a dramatic save.

There was a four-minute delay as officials resolved a communications problem, but Morocco took the lead soon after as Hakimi steered home a volley from Hakim Ziyech’s corner.

Morocco were firing on all cylinders but failed to take their chances and were nearly made to pay for their profligacy when Selim Amallah conceded a penalty for handling the ball in the area.

It took approximately ten minutes before the spot-kick was taken as medical personnel treated DR Congo’s Henoc Inonga for a head injury, which perhaps took its toll on Cedric Bakambu as he struck the post from 12 yards.

Walid Regragui’s men looked off the pace after the restart, and their lacklustre display eventually cost them the lead as Meschack Elia’s low cross was turned home by Silas Katompa Mvumpa heading into the final quarter-hour.

That goal turned the tide in DR Congo’s favour, and they had Morocco on the ropes. They nearly took the lead through Fiston Mayele, but Yassine Bounou kept matters level with a fingertip save.

Morocco flew out of the blocks in the opening period, but they were lucky to emerge with a share of the spoils by the end.

Despite their lacklustre second-half showing, their qualification fate remains in their own hands ahead of their final group clash against Zambia.

DR Congo are still in with a shout having picked up a point in each of their two games, and they’ll back themselves to qualify after an impressive display against the best-ranked team on the continent.

Group F: Zambia 1-1 Tanzania

Leicester City striker Patson Daka bagged an 89th-minute equaliser to salvage a point for Zambia in their crucial group phase fixture against Tanzania.

Still searching for their first AFCON win across the last three finals, the Group F outsiders stunned Zambia only 11 minutes into the game, with Simon Msuva latching on to Mbwana Samatta’s defence-splitting pass to power an effort into the top corner.

Zambia offered precious little by way of attacking threat throughout a frustrating opening period. 

Things went from bad to worse as they ended the first half in a vulnerable position after Rodrick Kabwe was sent off, picking up two needless yellow cards in the space of 11 minutes.

Daka was Zambia’s hope of landing an equaliser, and he came close shortly after the hour mark after seeing a point-blank effort remarkably saved by Tanzania’s Aishi Manula.

At the other end, Zambia’s Tresford Lawrence Mulenga responded with a save of his own to deny Morice Abraham from doubling Tanzania’s advantage.

Despite their numerical inferiority, Zambia snatched a late equaliser as Daka powered home a header from Clatous Chama’s inswinging corner.

Late drama in San Pedro leaves Group F wide open, with all four nations still in with a chance of qualifying for the knockout stages.

Group E: South Africa 4-0 Namibia

South Africa breezed past neighbours Namibia to keep their chances of progression alive until the final round of the group stage, steamrolling to a 4-0 triumph at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium.

Victory was imperative for Bafana Bafana, particularly after their 2-0 opening game defeat to Group E favourites Mali.

Namibia made a strong start, but South Africa were soon ahead when they were awarded a penalty for a handball inside the box following a VAR check.

Bafana Bafana talisman Percy Tau confidently dispatched the spot-kick in the 14th minute.

In search of a vital response, Namibia poured forward in numbers, abandoning their defensive duties and leaving far too much space for South Africa to exploit.

Bafana Bafana obliged, doubling their advantage as Themba Zwane finished past Lloyd Junior Kazapua midway through the first half.

Zwane bagged his brace and South Africa’s third five minutes from half-time after embarking on a dribbling run into the box before firing an unstoppable shot past Kazapua.

Looking for a spark, Namibia manager Collin Benjamin rolled the dice with two substitutions. While they had the majority of the possession in the early stages of the second half, their lack of ideas in the final third was evident.

South Africa were looking to see out the game, limiting Namibia’s attacking opportunities and protecting their advantage with ease.

They then added a fourth in the 75th minute as Thapelo Maseko tapped in a pass from Teboho Mokoena to round off the scoring.

South Africa’s comprehensive victory has blown Group E wide open. They have moved up to second place, level on points with Namibia, meaning the final round of fixtures will decide the fate of each team in the group.

Algeria launch official complaint over VAR controversy

The Algerian Football Federation (FAF) have lodged an official complaint with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) regarding VAR’s performance in the 2-2 draw against Burkina Faso.

Match official Pierre Ghislain was the VAR on duty during Algeria’s opening-day 1-1 draw against Angola, and surprisingly, he was in the referee box for their subsequent fixture.

Ghislain was heavily criticised for his performance in Algeria’s opening game and once again stole the spotlight against Burkina Faso for all the wrong reasons.

“FAF do not understand why the CAF Refereeing Commission appointed the same VAR referee as in the first match, which raises legitimate questions about the inappropriateness of such an appointment,” Algeria said in a statement. 

“FAF’s complaint is based on verifiable facts to which the responsible referees must respond. Through this complaint, the Algerian Federation hope for intervention so that the arbitration is of a better level and up to [what is expected] from a prestigious continental competition.”

Today’s fixtures

Equatorial Guinea vs Ivory Coast – 5:00 pm (GMT)

AFCON hosts Ivory Coast take on Equatorial Guinea, knowing anything but a win would significantly hurt their chances of advancing to the knockouts.

While defeat would undeniably be a disaster for Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea would back themselves to extend their 13-game unbeaten run at the expense of the competition’s hosts.

Guinea-Bissau vs Nigeria – 5:00 pm (GMT)

With a place in the knockout stage firmly within reach, Nigeria only need to avoid defeat in their final group phase match against Guinea-Bissau to keep their AFCON dreams alive.

Guinea-Bissau cannot finish in the automatic qualification spots after losing to Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea but will be playing for pride as they take on an unbeaten Nigeria side.

Cape Verde vs Egypt – 8:00 pm (GMT)

High-flying Cape Verde will be hoping to maintain their winning streak when taking on a desperate Egypt side in their final Group F match.

Egypt have only ever failed to make it to the knockout stage once in their last 12 appearances in this competition, and their task will be much more difficult without the services of their captain Mohamed Salah.

Mozambique vs Ghana – 8:00 pm (GMT)

While Cape Verde and Egypt are battling it out, Mozambique and Ghana will trade tackles simultaneously, drawing Group B action to a close.

Ghana are staring down a second consecutive AFCON group-stage exit as they sit in third place, level on one point with final-day opponents, who are at the bottom of the group standings.

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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