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Africa Cup of Nations

AFCON hosts Ivory Coast humiliated by Equatorial Guinea, drama in Group B & more

AFCON hosts Ivory Coast humiliated by Equatorial Guinea, drama in Group B & more

The group stage of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) perhaps did not get off to the most exciting start, but things have certainly ramped up in the last few days.

Group A and B effectively gave us a taste of the knockout football that is on the horizon, rounding off with a bang as four more teams booked their place in the last 16.

Group A: Equatorial Guinea 4-0 Ivory Coast

The matchday kicked off with a hugely entertaining contest as Group A winners Equatorial Guinea stunned Ivory Coast, steamrolling to an emphatic 4-0 triumph.

Equatorial Guinea were in a jubilant mood ahead of the crucial clash, and they produced a performance to match, sealing their last-16 place in style.

The host nation needed a response after the previous defeat to Nigeria, but they toiled without posing any significant threat for much of the opening half an hour,

The first real chance came in the 30th minute when Nicolas Pepe evaded a challenge in the opposition area but failed in his attempt to go around the goalkeeper Jesus Owono.

Spurred by Ivory Coast’s toothless attacking endeavours, Equatorial Guinea broke the deadlock three minutes from half-time when Carlos Akapo drove into the box to find Emilio Nsue, who bagged his fourth goal of the tournament.

Ivory Coast mustered a swift response when Ibrahim Sangare tucked home a knockdown from Kouame, but celebrations were cut short when the Nottingham Forest man was flagged offside.

The Elephants returned from the half-time interval buzzing to find a response, and they came agonisingly close as Sangare somehow blasted a three-yard effort over the crossbar.

Heading into its final quarter of the match, the Ivorians were again denied an equaliser by VAR after Jean-Philippe Krasso turned and finished neatly inside the box, only for replays to show he was offside.

To compound their misery, Equatorial Guinea bagged two goals in three minutes to kill the game as Pablo Ganet curled a beautiful free kick into the top corner before Nsue bagged his brace from a devastating counter-attack.

Juan Micha’s side added insult to injury when they bagged a fourth through Jannick Buyla’s rebound as the Ivorians failed to muster a consolation.

The damning defeat leaves Ivory Coast’s AFCON dreams in tatters. With three points and a negative goal difference (-3), Jean-Louis Gasset’s side may require a few miracles to progress. 

Having lost a second successive group fixture, the presence of the host nation is hanging by a thread. They could still go through as one of the best-ranked third-place teams, but they face a nervous wait to learn their fate.

Group A: Guinea-Bissau 0-1 Nigeria

A first-half own-goal by Opa Sangante helped a wasteful Nigeria advance to the knockout stage, marking their 100th AFCON appearance with a dramatic 1-0 win over an already eliminated yet spirited Guinea-Bissau side.

The Djurtus looked menacing in the early stages and were solid enough to thwart Nigeria’s faltering forward line.

However, they proved to be the architects of their own downfall when Sangante blasted an attempted clearance into his own net, handing Nigeria a fortuitous lead. 

Victor Osimhen, who has endured an underwhelming debut AFCON campaign, spurned a guilt-edged chance to double Nigeria’s lead on the stroke of half-time, failing to hit the target with a header.

The game sparked into life in the second period, with both sides going for the jugular at every opportunity.

A dramatic end-to-end second half saw Nigeria double their lead, only for referee Bouchra Karboubi to signal handball in the build-up, denying Osimhen his second goal at the tournament.

The Napoli marksman was again under the spotlight as he spurned another big chance, missing the target with a header from point-blank range.

Nigeria were nearly punished for their wastefulness in the final third, but Franculino Dju’s goal was chalked off for offside. A similar tale occurred at the other end of the pitch, with Zaidu Sanusi’s goal disallowed for a marginal offside in the build-up.

The tense drama continued until the end, with the Super Eagles ultimately claiming a victory to confirm a second-placed finish behind Group A high-flyers Equatorial Guinea. 

Group B: Cape Verde 2-2 Egypt

Egypt secured a place in the knockouts for a fourth consecutive time despite conceding a stoppage-time equaliser against Cape Verde in a dramatic 2-2 draw.

Having failed to win any of their opening two AFCON group games for the first time since 1992, Egypt needed a win to guarantee their place in the last-16, so coming up against a confident Cape Verde side was always going to be tricky.

Egypt were on top in the opening stages, with Mostafa Mohamed powering a header over the bar from close range. Veteran Cape Verde keeper Vozinha also denied Omar Marmoush from long-range before thwarting Mohamed on the rebound.

Vozinha’s heroics reaped dividends as Cape Verde snatched a lead against the run of play, with Benchimol burying a smart turn and finish into the bottom corner.

An inspired Rui Vitoria half-time substitution got Egypt back on level terms five minutes into the second half as Mahmoud Trezeguet combined with Ahmed Hegazi before restoring parity.

Egypt piled the pressure on Cape Verde, but their telling moment didn’t come until the 93rd minute as Mohamed produced a moment of brilliance to lob an onrushing Vozinha.

A nervy VAR check threatened to ruin the Egyptian party, but the goal was given – a decision received by a thunderous roar from the fans, who seemed to have given up hope.

But there was more drama to come after Bryan Teixeira pounced on a Mohamed El Shenawy mistake to draw the game level in the ninth minute of stoppage time. 

To Egypt’s relief, the late equaliser didn’t halt their AFCON progress after Ghana played out a 2-2 draw against Mozambique in the other Group B finale.

Group B: Ghana 2-2 Mozambique

Ghana astonishingly threw away a two-goal lead in stoppage time as Mozambique came from behind to secure a dramatic 2-2 draw, eliminating the four-time AFCON champions in the process.

Having picked up just one point from their opening two games, Ghana were staring down the barrel of consecutive AFCON group stage exits and needed maximum points to salvage their underwhelming campaign.

Chris Hughton’s side understood the task at hand, so they kicked off on the front foot and set the tone with Bournemouth’s Antoine Semenyo drawing a save from Ivane Urrubal from distance.

It didn’t take long for Ghana’s attacking intent to bear fruit, with Joseph Paintsil drawing a controversial penalty that skipper Jordan Ayew comfortably dispatched.

Ghana went into the break with their lead intact, but it came under threat when Mozambique’s marauding left-back Bruno Langa went close with a driven effort from Lau King’s cutback. 

Just when the Mambas looked like they were building momentum, their slim hopes were dashed when Ghana were awarded a second spot-kick for a handball, and Ayew was on hand to slot home from 12 yards again.

It seemed harsh that two penalty kicks would define Mozambique’s tournament after a 12-year hiatus from the competition. 

However, they were offered a lifeline when Andre Ayew handled the ball in the box, allowing Geny Catamo to convert the resulting penalty.

Ghana were then stunned in the dying embers when a moment of madness from Richard Ofori handed Mozambique a last-gasp corner, resulting in the equaliser as Reinildo Mandava powered home a header.

Congo captain Chancel Mbemba racially abused after Morocco draw

DR Congo captain Chancel Mbemba was subjected to a torrent of racist abuse on social media after his side’s 1-1 draw against Morocco on Sunday.

The 29-year-old was involved in a heated post-match exchange with Morocco manager Walid Regragui, leading to a melee between players and officials from both teams that continued in the tunnel.

Mbemba claimed that Regragui had insulted him after the game in San Pedro. But that didn’t stop a host of unsavoury and disgraceful racial comments under the player’s recent Instagram post.

“I’m keeping my silence – it’s better,” Mbemba said. “Everybody knows me, I respect everyone. But I never thought I’d hear that word from the coach, that it would come from his mouth.”

Today’s fixtures

Gambia vs Cameroon – 5:00 pm (GMT)

The matchday starts with Group C as Gambia and Cameroon square off at Stade Bouake. The equation is simple – nothing but victory will do for the five-time AFCON champions in this high-stakes fixture.

Guinea vs Senegal – 5:00 pm (GMT)

The other Group C match kicks off at the same time, with Senegal taking on Guinea. The defending champions have already sealed a spot in the knockout stage, but Guinea will need at least a draw to advance.

Angola vs Burkina Faso – 8:00 pm (GMT)

Angola and Burkina Faso round off their group phase action in a battle to qualify as group winners. Defeat for either side could put them in a tricky position depending on the outcome of the other Group D match.

Mauritania vs Algeria – 8:00 pm (GMT)

Group D rounds off with massive underachievers Algeria taking on bottom feeders Mauritania in a must-win contest.

Not only are the 2019 winners obligated to win, but they must do so by two or more goals to bolster their chances of automatic qualification, depending on the outcome of the other Group D fixture.

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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