THE 32nd edition of the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) Cup of Nations is underway in Egypt with the first round of group stages concluded after the game between Ghana and Benin which ended in a draw.
The 12set of matches began with the host nation, Egypt squeezing past Zimbabwe in Group ‘A’ by a lone goal through Trezeguet Mahmoud Ahmed Ibrahim Hassan. The concluding match in Group ‘F’ between the Black Stars of Ghana and the Squirrelsof Benin ended 2-2.
The Ayew brothers – Andre and Jordan, were on the score-sheet for Ghana in the first department of the game. Mickael Pote scored to give the Squirrels the lead just two minutes into the first half; adding a second in the 63rd minute to cancel Ghana’s lead.
The 24-nation tournament has produced very exciting moments for some parts of the continent, while others would have to fight back harder to keep themselves in the tourney. Twenty-seven goals have been scored across the 12 matches, an average of 2.25 goals per game.
Interestingly, four goals have been scored through the spot-kick and 23 during open play. More so, 26 different players would go on to open their account in the tourney. Benin forward, Mickael Pote was the lead scorer on the chart with two goals. Ghanaian defender John Boye has been the biggest victim of a referee’s decision as he saw his matching orders after receiving two yellow cards, and will miss Ghana’s next game.
In a very competitive set of matches, three games ended in a draw (Guinea 2-2 Madagascar; Tunisia 1-1 Angola; Ghana 2-2 Benin). Mali has been the highest scoring team with four goals. The encounter between Mali and Mauritania produced five goals (Mali 4-1 Mauritania); the highest of the 12 set of games.
However, notable countries including defending champions Cameroon, Cote d’ Ivoire, Nigeria, Algeria, Morocco, Senegal got off with a win. Uganda as well stunned DR. Congo to join seven-time champions Egypt, and Mali to complete the list of teams that won their first matches.
Second round of group Stage matches
The second set of matches got off with the Super Eagles of Nigeria sealing their qualification in the last-16 stage with a 1-0 victory over Naby Keita’s Guinea through Kenneth Omeruo’s header. Mohamed Salah-led Egypt also compounded the woes of DR. Congo with two goals in the first half by Ahmed Elmohamady and Mo Salah to make it to the last 16.
Zimbabwe and Uganda could only settle for 1-1 draw, leaving Uganda with four points and Zimbabwe with 1. The last match of the group stage between Zimbabwe and DR Congo should be keenly contested as both sides would pray a victory may secure a good point for their qualification into the next round – as one of the third best placed team.
Madagascar secured their first ever win in the history of the AFCON against Burundi. Marco Ilaimaharitra’s sublime free-kick from the edge of the penalty box in the 76th minute was enough to hand them the three maximum points.
Group C produced a dynamic outcome; the Teranga Lions of Senegal were gunned down by a lone goal from Youcef Belaili in the second department of the game to progress to the next phase of the tournament. The result pushed the Senegalese to a further third position; with Kenya beating a rusty Tanzanian side 3-2. Two goals from Kenyan forward Michael Olunga sets him as a joint top scorer with Benin’s Mickael Pote.
Having mentioned the qualified countries [Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria] into the last-16 round from the two games, some countries as well are in good standing to qualify from their respective group as second or one of the third best placed teams.
BY PACOME EMMANUEL DAMALIE