As it happened: Afcon 2023 first round review

As it happened: Afcon 2023 first round review post thumbnail image

The first round of group matches at the Africa Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast were completed on Wednesday when the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia were the last two teams to take to the field, when they in Group F at San Pedro.

It means all 24 participants have one game under the belt and already there are several who will be taking out their calculators to figure out their various permutations.

The top two finishers in each of the six groups advance along with the four best third placed teams, meaning that only eight teams go home when the first round ends next week.

This is the state of affairs after the opening five days of the tournament:


Hosts Ivory Coast got off to the start that the home fans were hoping for although played in a languid fashion as they battled with the heat and humidity in Saturday’s opening game against Guinea Bissau. It took only minutes for the tournament’s first goal, and it was a blinder from Seko Fofana, setting just the right tone.

But hopes that it might lead to a goal fest did not materialise until Jean-Philippe Krasso added a second with a spectacular individual effort. It was too hot to keep up any tempo. Nigeria were also expected to kick off with success against tiny Equatorial Guinea but in Sunday’s game at the Stade Olympique Alhassane Ouattara they found themselves behind when Iban Salvador scored. It left the Super Eagles scrambling for a point, which Victor Osimhen’s equaliser delivered but a lot of criticism afterwards for failing to secure the victor as they missed plenty of good opportunity.


The opening two games at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium on Sunday produced sensational results as Mozambique came within a minute of beating Egypt and then the Cape Verde Islands snatched a famous win over Ghana. Mozambique had never won a Cup of Nations finals match before and were not expected to do so against the record seven time winners Egypt. They were quickly behind to a Mostafa Mohamed goal but rallied to take a 2-1 lead through Witi and Clesio and were on the cusp of a famous victory before a clumsy challenge offered the Pharaohs a chance to score after a VAR review.

Mohmed Salah predictably tucked away the last gasp penalty. The drama then continued as the Cape Verdians went ahead early against Ghana, who fought back to equalise but then could not finish off the islanders. That proved costly as Garry Rodrigues needed a brilliant late winner past Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Richard Ofori for a famous victory.


The quality of holders Senegal very quickly rose to the fore, and they unveiled a new star in 20-year-old Lamine Camara, who netted two goals in a comfortable 3-0 victory over neighbours Gambia. Pape Gueye, who had come back from a one-year suspension after signing contracts with two different clubs, scored the first as he continued his career redemption.

Gambia’s cause was not helped by a red card on the stroke halftime for Ebou Adams for a clumsy challenge, awarded after a VAR check. The same happened in the second game in Yamousoukro when Guinea captain Francois Kamano was initially yellow carded but had it changed to red after the referee reviewed the incident. By then Guinea, without injured star striker Serhou Guirassy, had gone into the lead thorugh Mohamded Bayo but Cameroon equalised with a back post header from Franck Magri in the 51st minute


Algeria was coasting through their clash with Angola on Monday before Nabil Bentaleb gave away a needless penalty and allowed the Palancas Negras back into the game. In the end, it was a 1-1 tie which means the 2019 champions have now not won in their past four finals matches since lifting the trophy in Cairo two editions ago.

Riyad Mahrez was largely absent for Algeria but Baghdad Bounejah re-inforced his reputation upfront. He had a spectacular bicycle kick effort ruled out for offside, but it was close, Had it stood it would have been an early contender for goal of the tournament. The other two protagonists in Bouake met at the Stade de la Paix on Tuesday with a late penalty seeing Burkina Faso to victory over Mauritania. It was converted by Aston Villa’s Bertrand Traore in the sixth minute of stoppage time.


Namibia won a first ever Cup of Nations game, in their fourth tournament, with a stunning success over Tunisia, ensuring the spoils when Pirates’ winger Deon Hotto netted in the 88th minute. Peter Shalulile had squandered two early chances and Hotto was wasteful too. Namibia could have won by a comfortable margin.

Tunisia, who are the top seeds in the group, were markedly poor and lack lustre. South Africa began well against Mali and dominated the first half exchanges and should have been ahead when VAR awarded then an 18th minute penalty. But it was squandered by Percy Tau, who blasted well wide. In the second half Mali came alive and took charge with a robust approach, riding rough shod over Bafana with goals inevitably coming from Hamari Traore and Lassine Sinyako.


Morocco were always going to be too strong for Tanzania as they started their opening game in San Pedro with a side ladened with the stars from their World Cup heroics in Qatar some 14 months ago. Captain Romain Saiss scored before halftime and once Tanzania were down to 10 men, after the dismissal of of Novatus Miroshi , Morocco went onto score two more and win 3-0. Azzedine Ounahi and Youssef En-Nesyri added two more in the space of three second-half minutes. The Congolese dominated the encounter against neighbours Zambia and squandered a myriad of chances, particularly late in the game, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

Zambia’s goal came against the run of play but with smart thinking that caught the Congolese cold. Goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi came dashing off his line to try and intercept Zambia captain Patson Daka dashing down the left flank. The clash felled both players and ball went out of play but Daka reacted quickly to take the throw in, back to teammate Kangwa, who hit it goalward from well outside the Congolese penalty area and watched in delight as it bounced and into the empty net with Mpasi late in getting back to his goal. The response from the Congolese came within four minutes as Yoane Wissa equalised.

Source: Mzansi Football

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