Thursday, April 18, 2024

AFCON Q/Final Day 1&2 Review: Egypt Fall, Nsue’s Missed Penalty Proves Costly

There were no real surprises in the first four quarterfinal matches, though Egypt could have done better against DR Congo.

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) now has four quarterfinalists. On Saturday, Nigeria’s Super Eagles emerged victorious against five-time champions Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions, while Angola’s Palancas Negras overcame the loss of their goalkeeper to secure a 3-0 victory against Namibia, setting the stage for a clash on Friday.

Sunday witnessed a 1-1 draw between seven-time champions Egypt and DR Congo. Both teams advanced from their groups with three draws, and their encounter went into extra time. The 1-1 result after 90 minutes and extra time was not a surprise.

Nigeria 2-0 Cameroon

History repeated itself at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan as the Super Eagles defeated the Indomitable Lions 2-0, both goals scored by Ademola Lookman. In six previous meetings in AFCON tournaments, the Lions have beaten the Eagles three times—all in finals. In their other three contests, Nigeria had triumphed twice and eked a draw.

On Saturday, the Lions were toothless as the Eagles soared out of their reach. Victor Osimhen ran as if he were chasing cars in Lagos traffic to transact business while the key to the Eagles’ defence was unavailable. The Lions had no shot on target and were physically worn down by Jose Peseiro’s 3-4-3 formation.

Angola 3-0 Namibia

Namibia had an advantage from the 17th minute when Angola’s goalkeeper was sent off for a deliberate handball outside his box. But this Angolan team, coached by Soares Goncalves, is anything but a resilient bunch. They defended stoutly and then took the lead on a breakaway in the 38th minute.

Namibia then shot themselves in the foot as they chased the equaliser as Lubeni Haukongo was sent off for two yellow cards, just two minutes after Angola scored.

Cue, a second Angola goal, two minutes later. Their third goal in the second half was a perfectly executed shot by Cristovao Mabululu. In four matches, the Palancas Negras have scored nine goals and conceded three. Super Eagles, beware!

Sunday’s matches were very tetchy affairs.

Equatorial Guinea 0-1 Guinea

The surprise of the tournament, Equatorial Guinea, went through a mill of emotions on Sunday in their round of 16 clash against Guinea at the Stade Alassane Ouattara. The first half was a largely forgettable affair as both teams cancelled themselves out.

The second half had all the drama. First, Federico Bikoro was sent off in the 55th minute. Thirteen minutes later, AFCON’s top goal scorer, Emiliano Nsue, had the opportunity to score his sixth from the penalty spot. His nerves did not hold as his kick went off the foot of the post. And then, with everybody preparing for the first extra time at this 2023 AFCON, Mohamed Bayo stooped at the near post to head in the winner.

The Syli National are into their sixth AFCON quarterfinal, where they will meet DR Congo.

DR Congo 1-1 [8–7 pens] Egypt

This was the dullest encounter of the first four quarterfinals. The Leopards were content to sit and wait to catch the Pharaohs on the counter through Mechak Elia, on the right flank.

Quick thinking brought the first goal as a quick throw caught out the Egyptians, and Yoane Wissa’s cross was diverted towards Elia, who headed in at close range.

Egypt were level before halftime. VAR caught a fortuitous foul, and Egypt were awarded a penalty. Mostafa Mohamed sent the goalkeeper the wrong way. Although substitute Mohamed Hamdi was sent off in the first half of the extra time, Egypt held on for penalties.

And here the drama is exacerbated. The second penalty kick saw Mostafa Mohamed send his kick wide off the right post, and then Arthur Masuaku ballooned his kick over the bar. Everybody scored their kick until Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed Gabaski whacked his kick against the crossbar and out. DR Congo goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi then stepped up to send his country into their 10th quarterfinal.

The drama continues to unfold on Monday when Cape Verde tackles Mauritania and the hosts face defending champions Senegal.

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