The Round of 16 of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations edges closer with four teams having already qualified from the Group stage. Groups A and B rounded off their matches from the stage on Matchday 3 which saw Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria qualify with seven points each, while Cape Verde and Egypt qualified from group B with seven and three points respectively.
At this point, matches tend to be more intensive and difficult as national teams all fight to make it to the next stage of the competition by trying to gain all maximum points.
In Group A, Nigeria held off Guinea-Bissau to a 1-nil win at the Stade Felix Houphouët-Boigny after a rather unfortunate own goal by Opa Sangaté in the 37th minute proved to be the only goal of the match.
Although the Djurtus had outplayed Nigeria in ball possession, shots and passes, they were unable to find that crucial goal to level things up again as the Super Eagles were indeed up to the task of preventing such. Jose Peseiro’s men had also managed to score two other goals in the match, with both being ruled out for a handball in the build-up by Victor Osimhen, who had constantly been a threat to the defence line.
Despite knowing that neither a win or a draw would’ve secured a qualification slot, Baciro Candé’s men had remained resilient and gave Nigeria a tough time while having a goal of theirs by Franculino Dju chalked off for a tight offside call. The result means that the Super Eagles finish as runner-ups behind Equatorial Guinea on goal difference.
Elsewhere, the host nation Ivory Coast had to deal with a rather embarrassing 4-0 defeat at the Olympic Stadium of Ebimpè. Los Elefantes striker, Emilio Nsue, who has been in fine form found the back of the net twice (making it five goals in three games), Pablo Gannet and Jannick Buyla were also on target in the match.
Despite their total dominance in the game, Les Éléphants of Cote D’Ivoire had two goals of their own ruled out for offside in the game and couldn’t find a way to make a goal count. Now, they have to wait for all groups to conclude their matches and hope to be among the four best third-placed teams as they’ve missed out on automatic qualification from the group.
Classic AFCON drama in Group B
Meanwhile in Group B, Mozambique and Ghana played out a 2-2 draw at the Olympic Stadium of Ebimpè. Jordan Ayew had managed to put the Black Stars ahead after converting two penalties in the 15th and 70th minute.
However, two stoppage-time goals by Geny Catamo and Reinildo Mandava were enough to steal a point for Chiquinho Conde’s men. This result means that Chris Hughton’s side have missed out on qualification to the next round after having managed a total of two points throughout the group stage, alongside Mozambique.
Cape Verde and Egypt have otherwise qualified from the group after both sides played a 2-2 draw at Stade Felix Houphouët-Boigny. Gilson Tavares fired Blue Sharks into the lead in first-half added time but Trabzonspor forward, Trézéguet, restored parity five minutes after the game restarted.
Even though Mostafa Mohammed put the Pharaohs ahead in stoppage time after a VAR review, Cape Verde weren’t ready to back down and soon scored the equalizer through substitute Bryan Teixeira Jr. As it stands, four national teams have already qualified for the next stage and are soon expected to be joined by many more as games have been staged for Groups C and D.
Gambia and Cameroon will face off for the third spot while Guinea play Senegal to determine the winners of Group C.
In Group D, Mauritania and Algeria will try to get all maximum points in order to gain qualification with the former having no points at all. Angola and Burkina Faso will play in what promises to be a very exciting match as both teams who are first and second respectively will also try to get a win.
Indeed, the Africa Cup Of Nations 2023 has been Intriguing as all teams have brought their A game in a quest to take home the greatest prize in African football.