Picture : Mohamed Dellahi and Mauritania entered in History !

8th finalists emerge after arguably the most sensasional day-3 in AFCON history.

It is difficult to say which of the games produced the most dramatic finish. But for one thing the upset of the day came from the Equatorial Guinea vs Ivory Coast game which left fans applauding the new message African football is sending to the world. However, the foursome, Cape Verde vs Egypt, Moçambique vs Ghana, Cameroon vs Gambia and Algeria vs Mauritania all taught one lesson: Africa football has come of age and there are no more pushovers. At least four coaches were shown the door for inadequate performances of their respective teams.

Equatorial Guinea 4  0 Ivory Coast.

In what was an earthquake in the history of the AFCON when Equatorial Guinea devastated the Ivory Coast 4-0 to top group and leave the host country casting lots over possible qualification following their heaviest AFCON defeat yet. Emilio Nsue got an assist from Carlos Akapo to put his side up 1-0 in the 42nd minute.  A VAR annulment of an Ivorian goal on grounds of offside invigorated the latter who multiplied offensives but failed severally to score.  And after another VAR check still disallowed an offside goal for the victims, Equatorial Guinea got the second goal from an exquisitely taken free kick by Pablo Ganet in the 73rd minute. Aided by a particularly performing keeper Jesus Owono Equatorial Guinea got the third goal through Emiliano Nsue from a Saul Bassey assist. Jannick Buyla found the net in the 88th minute for the 4th goal after the keeper had parried away. Emilio Nsue was the MVP winner at sunset at the Alassane Dramane Ouattara stadium Epimbé.

Nigeria 1 0 Guinea Bissau.

At the Félix Houphouet Boigny stadium Nigeria did well to cage Guinea Bissau in their woes. That went through incessant pressure brought to bear on the Guineans. No doubt Opa Sanganté scored an own goal in the 36th minute to hand Nigeria the much needed goal. Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen with his four shots at goal got the MVP award.

Cape Verde 2 2 Egypt.

An injured Mosalah watched from the terraces of the Félix Houphouet Boigny stadium as his team mates battled Cape Verde hoping their last hope would be salvaged. But the first blow to a dream came in the 44th minute and it was Dylan Tavares who received an assist from Ryan Mendes to find the net. However the brilliant Egyptian substitute Mohamed Trézeguet equalized in the 50th minute from Ahmed Hegazy assist. The real drama would unfold after the 90th minute as three minutes into injury time  and from a Trézeguet assist Mostafa Mohamed surged on to lob the keeper for Egyptian 2-1 lead as confirmed by the VAR. But then, Cape Verde refused to lose with a dramatic last minute equalizer through Bryan Teixeira Jr. Mohamed Trézeguet of Egypt took the MVP award.

Moçambique 2 2 Ghana.

Between Ghana and Moçambique it took an outfield  goal and three penalty kicks to share  the spoils at 50/50. Jordan Ayew gave Ghana the lead from the spot in the 15th minute.  He would make it 2-0 from the spot in the 70th minute. But then it would take up to the first minute of stoppage time for Geny Catamo to pull back one goal from the penalty spot. Ghanaian celebration was firmly and rudely interrupted three minutes later when Reinildo Mandava converted from an Shaquille Nangy assist. Ghanaian player Mohamed Kudus prevailed as MVP.

Cameroon 3 2 Gambia.

Some 24,172 people, including CAF boss Patrice Motsepe watched Cameroon and Gambia fight themselves to a 0-0 first half at Bouake’s Stade de la Paix. Into the second half, the same man who had scored a brace when both sides met in Cameroon during 2021 AFCON, Toko Ekambi headed home a George Kevin Nkoudou long range assist on 56 minutes. VAR validated the regularity of the goal in spite of Gambian protests. The Gambia did rally to get the equalizer in the 72nd minute courtesy of Jallow Ablie and a Fadera Alieu assist. As an overwhelming percentage of the crowd, chiefly Ivorians cheered the Gambia, Ebrima Colley got the second goal for them courtesy of an Assan Ceesay assist. But then Cameroon bounced back with the equalizer in the 87th minute from a James Gomez own goal. And the match winner was obtained by the eventual MVP defender Christopher Wooh one minute into the stoppage time of the game. A few seconds to the end however VAR checking had confirmed handball in Gambian claim to a third goal.

Guinea 0 2 Senegal.

The other group C game pitting Senegal against Guinea held at the Charles Konan Banny stadium Yamoussoukro where both sides played to a 0-0 first half. After Sadio Mané had outran his markers including the keeper but ending up shooting wide, Senegal got the opener from a pinpoint header by Abdoulaye Seck  in the 61st minute following an indirect free kick. The second and last goal was courtesy of Iliman Ndiaye in the 90th minute following a Sadio Mané assist. The MVP award went to Abdoulaye Seck of Senegal.

Algeria 0 1 Mauritania.

Coming on the heels of the Cameroon vs Gambia game at Stade de la Paix, Algeria vs Mauritania was clearly lopsided on paper. The former had left the 2021 AFCON in the group stage and Mauritania had never scored an outfield goal in the AFCON finals. But during the day-3 matches of huge surprises anything could happen and so something did happen. Captain Mohamed Dellahi found the net in the 37th minute following poor clearance by Mohamed Tougai. Thereafter and in spite of a 74.6% ball possession for Algeria against 25.4%, the latter held their own and maintained that lead to full time. 11 minutes of stoppage time brought in no change and the MVP award to Niasse Babakar of Mauritania was the ultimate shot of the game.

Angola 2 0 Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso took the initiative early into the game but failed scoring the goals that would have made the difference. Rather productive pressure came from Angola  as they opened scores in the 36th minute with a header by Agostinho Mabululu following an indirect free kick by Alfredo Kulembe. And in the second minute of stoppage time of the game played in Yamoussoukro, Ambrosini Zini  finished a rebound from the hands of the keeper to put fulltime scores at 2-0 for Angola. Kialonda Gaspar made away with the MVP award.

South Africa 0 0 Tunisia.

The game had to celebrate a possible qualifier or two but Tunisia lost both luck and a place in the next round. In fact the game was lacking in flair and laudable play although Tunisia put in much more effort to stay afloat. They had 55.1% percentage ball possession as against 44.9. But at the end of the day South Africa consolidated their chances with Thembe Zwane emerging MVP.

Mali 0 0 Namibia.

This was the game in which Namibia embraced a life-long dream : qualifying from the group phase of the AFCON for the first time ever. They battled Mali to a standstill holding on to the golden fleece. That earned them the qualification as  Deon Hotto took the MVP award for the second time in the tournament.

Tanzania 0 0 DR Congo.

Yet another draw was registered at the Ahmadou Gon Coulibaly stadium between the DR Congo and Tanzania. Although expected, Tanzania had their last game in what was described as a clean encounter for no cards were issued. DR Congo’s Dael Kakuta took the MVP award.

Morocco 1 0 Zambia.

Projections for the Chipolopolo of Zambia to continue their strong showing in the next round crashed when a 0-1 defeat at the hands of Morocco in San pedro showed them the way out of the tournament. It was captain Ziyech deputizing for substitute Riyad Mahrez who scored the lone goal in the 38th minute after the goalkeeper had parried away the ball. At sunset of a match during which Ivorian fans had stood behind Morocco for an eventual qualification for the home country Sofiane Amrabat of Morocco got the MVP award.

8th finals fixtures :                                                                                                                                   

Saturday 27 January:  6pm - Angola vs Namibia ;  9pm - Cameroon vs Nigeria.

Sunday 28 January: 6pm – Equatorial Guinea vs Guinea; 9pm – Egypt vs DR Congo.

Monday 29 January:  6pm - Cape Verde vs Mauritania ; 9pm – Senegal vs Ivory Coast.

Tuesday 30 January: 6pm – Mali vs Burkina Faso; 9pm - Morocco vs South Africa.