AFCON: Progress, elimination and controversy so far Football news

Garoua, Cameroon – The rounds of eliminations of the African Cup of Nations in 2021 (AFCON) arrived with 16 advancing teams, and eight were eliminated.

While the first round brought only 12 goals in 12 games, the action intensified significantly after that.

It proved to be a good tournament for goalkeepers with a number of excellent performances.

Added to this are a number of heartwarming stories from some of the traditionally less complete countries that have gone too far to create pieces of history for their nations.

A comprehensive sense of host Cameroon is an excuse.

Despite doubts about his readiness and ability to host, the procedure continued with several difficulties, which led to a great atmosphere in the stadiums and a memorable tournament so far.

Who managed to overcome it?

Four of the top six teams finished at the top of their groups, with Nigeria being the only country with a 100% record.

Cameroon and Morocco finished with seven points, while Senegal – although they scored only once in three games – scored five points to lead their group.

There has been progress for the Dark Horses of Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, as well as Gabon, despite the difficult preparations and loss of Captain Pierre Emerick Obameyang.

The real story of the group stage, however, was the surprising progress of the debutants Comoros and Gambia, both of which progressed despite challenging draws.

The Scorpions were impressive with victory in two of their three matches, while the Comoros achieved an incredible result against Ghana in the last group match to consolidate progress.

Malawi also managed to break through for the first time in its history, keeping the highest ranked African team Senegal to a goalless draw on the road.

Qualified teams: Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Senegal, Guinea, Malawi, Morocco, Gabon, Comoros, Nigeria, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Gambia, Tunisia.

Who crashed?

The shocking elimination of the reigning champions Algeria has been the subject of heated debate and analysis.

The Fennec Foxes left the tournament after a 1-3 defeat to Côte d’Ivoire, ending a short-lived title defense that ended in a draw with Sierra Leone and a defeat in Equatorial Guinea that ended its 35 games without a run.

Ghana, which finished at the bottom of Group C, also had a broken heart, penalties for learning for Mauritania and Sudan, reasons for optimism for Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe and disappointment for Guinea-Bissau, whose goalless series at AFCON extends to seven games.

What’s next?

The exclusive draw of the 1/8 will take place in Douala with Côte d’Ivoire, winners of Group E, and will face the runners-up of Group D Egypt on January 26.

It would be a game suitable for the final, but it still promises to be a captivating match.

In Garoua, Nigeria faces Tunisia, a repeat of the playoffs for third place in the 2019 edition.

January 23
Burkina Faso
Nigeria v Tunisia

January 24
Guinea v. Gambia
Cameroon against the Comoros

January 25
Senegal in Cape Verde
Morocco v. Malawi

January 26
Mali v. Equatorial Guinea
Ivory Coast v. Egypt

Player of the circle

It is difficult to look beyond the tournament’s top scorer Vincent Abubakar as an outstanding AFCON player so far.

The al-Nasr striker was a man on a mission in his home country of Cameroon, leading with intention and scoring in all matches of the group (including holes against Burkina Faso and Ethiopia).

Although he won the final in 2017, Abubakar has never led an Indomitable Lions tournament. He will do it now.

Group play

Moses Simon got off the bench in Nigeria’s last group match against Guinea-Bissau and created a moment of hypnotic quality.

After making his way into the penalty area and passing three different challenges, the shot of Nantes’ winger receded from the crossbar and hit the path of team captain William Trost-Ekong, who calmly put the ball in the door for the second goal of the match.

Moses Simon is a Nigerian footballerNigeria striker Moses Simon celebrates after scoring his third goal for his team during the Group D football match for the African Cup of Nations against Sudan [Daniel Beloumou/AFP]

Probable finalists?

The final is still long, but the tournament group seems to suggest one of Africa’s classic matches – Cameroon against Nigeria – for the final.

These teams have met three times in the tournament, with Cameroon winning all three.

The last meetings took place in Lagos, when Nigeria co-hosted the tournament in 2000, and Nigeria’s thirst for revenge makes the prospect of a final rematch all the more exciting.

What was the interest?

Attendance during the first days of the matches was mostly weak due to the limitations of COVID-19, which require proof of vaccination and a negative PCR result for admission to stadiums.

However, these rules were somewhat relaxed and the final group matches were played in front of significant crowds at various centers in Cameroon.

There is also a thriving culture of fan zones, with spectators unable to access stadiums or unwilling to go through the COVID protocol, banding together to follow the action in ad hoc open observation centers.

Cameroon AFCON fan zoneCameroon AFCON fan zone in Yaounde [Daniel Ekonde/Al Jazeera]

Any contradictions to talk about?

Of course.

The decision of the African Football Confederation (CAF) to introduce a video assistant referee (VAR) from the group stage had to lead to a number of controversial points.

Malawi and Guinea-Bissau have been affected by the decision-making process. The former had a revoked penalty for the penalty in the match against Senegal, while the latter had one of the goals of the tournament, from striker Mama Balde, removed for an alleged violation, which was terrible for Jurtus.

However, the biggest dispute of the tournament came in the match between Tunisia and Mali. Referee Gianni Sikazwe, one of the continent’s most respected referees, made a series of strange decisions at the end of the second half of the match.

First, he gave a late water break, then signaled added time with 11 minutes left on the clock before giving the final signal in the 86th minute, received a red card and ran past the VAR screen when asked to review the incident. before giving the final judge’s signal again prematurely.

It was a strange episode that prompted Tunisia – 0-1 at the time – to petition the CAF for a repeat.

It was rejected in abbreviated form and the decision was upheld.

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