The group matches at the Africa Cup of Nations came to an end on Wednesday with the line-up for the knockout rounds now finalised. There will be two days off on Thursday and Friday before the action resumes on Saturday.
As was expected, the third and final round of group matches at the tournament in the Ivory Coast produced some thrilling football and dramatic results, not least a humiliating loss for the hosts and the elimination of heavyweights Algeria, Ghana and Tunisia. Here is SuperSport.com’s summary of the last round of group matches:
GROUP A: It was a Blue Monday in every perceivable way for the Ivory Coast as they were handed a shock 4-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea. It was a game where everything went wrong for the host nation and everything that could go right fell Equatorial Guinea’s way.
Two more goals from Emilio Nsue pushed him up to five and top scorer at the tournament. He got things going with a breakaway goal in the first half at the Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium but it was Pablo Ganet’s freekick in the 73rd minute that set up the heaviest defeat ever suffered by a home nation.
Equatorial Guinea finished top with Nigeria second after an own goal handed them a narrow victory over Guinea Bissau. In third place, the Ivorians had to wait two days to see whether they would qualify for the next phase as one of the four best third-placed finishers.
GROUP B: Cape Verde Islands had already won the group and emphasised what tough customers they had become by leading against Egypt and then scoring a dramatic last-gasp equaliser to draw 2-2 at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium.
It was enough for the Pharaohs, who had to do without injured Mohamed Salah, to go through in second place despite not winning a game. But their three points was one more than Ghana, who were on course to finish second in the group as they went into stoppage time against Mozambique with a 2-0 lead.
But then Dede Ayew have away a penalty and goalkeeper Richard Ofori conceded an unnecessary corner, allowing Mozambique to score twice in the space of as many minutes to draw 2-2. Both countries were eliminated as a result, but Mozambique left the tournament with their heads held highest.
GROUP C: Senegal were the only side to compete the first round with a 100 per cent record, beating Guinea 2-0 in Yamoussoukro after Abdoulaye Seck broke the deadlock past the hour mark and Iliman Ndiaye got the second. But the match had nothing on the clash between Cameroon and Gambia in Bouake where both sides needed to win to advance, and pendulum swung wildly in a thrill-a-minute affair.
Cameroon took the lead through Karl Toko-Ekambi but Gambia fought back to go 2-1 up with five minutes left after an excellent volley from Abdoulie Jallow and then a strike from Ebrima Colley. As the match headed to a finish, Cameroon pressure saw James Gomez turn the ball into his own net. But a 2-2 stalemate would have meant elimination for both teams, and it was defender Christopher Wooh who won for Indomitable Lions from a corner.
GROUP D: Angola emerged as surprise group winners as Mabululu’s first half header and a stoppage time second goal from substitute Zini ensured a 2-0 win over Burkina Faso, who finished second. Top seeds Algeria however created the headlines in the group as they suffered a shock loss to Mauritania and went home in last place.
Mauritania had never led in any of their previous eight matches at the continental finals, let alone won a game, but a first half goal from captain Yali Dellahi was enough to send Algeria packing. The 2019 winners parted with coach Djamel Belmadi after a limp performance, out of the finals early for a second successive edition, despite having one of the strongest squads at the tournament.
GROUP E: The first two goalless draws of the tournament saw Mali top, South Africa second and Namibia go into the knockout phase for the first time in their history. Namibia had beaten Tunisia in their opening group game to register their first win at the tournament in their fourth appearance and took the achievement a step further with their qualification after holding Mali to a stalemate at the Laurent Pokou Stadium in San Pedro.
Tunisia were the top seeds in the group but scored a single goal in the tournament and went home with coach Jalel Kadri announcing his immediate resignation after their 0-0 draw with Bafana Bafana. Both matches proved languid affairs as the teams struggled physically with a third game, having endured the heat of Korhogo in the opening two rounds.
GROUP F: Morocco won the group by beating Zambia with a first half goal from Hakim Ziyech while the Democratic Republic of Congo finished second after a 0-0 draw with Tanzania.
But the big news for the hosts nation was the miraculous qualification for the Ivorians, just hours after firing coach Jean-Louis Gasset, who now get a second chance as one of the lucky losers. They needed Zambia to lose and the locals came out in their numbers in San Pedro to support Morocco and they were not disappointed by the outcome. Zambia had few chances and Morocco dominated to deserve their win. They now get to stay in San Pedro and will host Bafana Bafana in Tuesday’s last-16