The African Cup of Nations is in full swing! 24 teams are battling it out in the group stage to see who can make it to the knockout rounds! Every nation has played at least one match so it’s time to look back at all the action AFCON Matchday one.
AFCON Matchday 1 Recap
The first matchday went from Jan. 8 to Jan. 12 it was five days full of chaos! Here’s a look back at all of those matches, and a look at what’s to come/playing out already in Matchday two!
Hosts Cameroon took on Burkina Faso to open the tournament. Early on it looked like the hosts would have a hard time. Burkina Faso took an early lead in the 24th minute stunning the hosts. However, Cameroon’s captain would be there to save the day.
Vincent Aboubaker converted two penalties in the 40th minute, and 40+3 minute to give Cameroon the lead. They were able to put the clamps down in the second half, thanks in part to Seattle Sounders Nouhou Tolo who had a very strong game. Cameroon won the three points from their first match, while Burkina Faso fell to the bottom of Group A.
Ethiopia and Cape Verde met in the other match of Group A, and this one wasn’t the best display of soccer. Ethiopia received a red card inside of the first 15 minutes which shifted the game to be all Cape Verde. Even though the match was one-sided it looked like it would end in a draw.
However, a nice bit of build-up play from Cape Verde allowed for a lethal chance just before halftime. Philadelphia Union player Jamiro Monteiro started a build-up then Gary Rodrigues assisted the game’s only goal netted by Julio Tavares. Cape Verde took the three points and joined Cameroon at the top of Group A after matchday one while Ethiopia joined Burkina Faso with no points.
Group B kicked off with Guinea taking on Malawi. Guinea came out fast in this one. They dominated the match with their ability to string passes together. They looked to control possession whether it was in their half of the opponents. Malawi had a hard time getting the ball from them and was downed by one goal.
In the 35th minute Guinea found the breakthrough through their left-back Sylla. He was able to net the game’s only goal, and Guinea’s style of play made it hard for Malawi to get many chances after that. Guinea rose to the top of Group B, while Malawi fell to the bottom after matchday one.
Group B favorites and tournament favorites Senegal opened their AFCON 2021 paly up against Zimbabwe. A match that many thought would be an easy win for Senegal, proved to be anything but that. Zimbabwe came to play and defended their life against Senegal.
The game was 0-0 heading into second-half stoppage time. That’s when the drama ensued. Senegal won a penalty in the 90+7 minute of the match. Their attacking leader, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane stepped up and slotted home a goal that would help his nation avoid an upset. Senegal joined Guinea at the top of Group B, while Zimbabwe fell with Malawi to the bottom of the group.
Group C action kicked off with two of Africa’s best going head-to-head. Morocco and Ghana squared off in a meeting of the two giants. It was a match that was like a game of chess. Each side trying to outplay the other by thinking a few moves ahead. It looked like this match might end in a stalemate until late on.
Morocco controlled the flow of the match for the entire 90 minutes while Ghana looked to sit back and hit on the counter. Luckily for Morocco, they were able to find a way through Ghana’s tough defense. Sofiane Boufal scored in the 83rd minute to give Morocco the win. They moved to the top of Group C while Ghana had to settle for an opening game loss.
Comoros and Gabon played in the other match in Group C. This one was similar to the first match in the group, as it showcased two teams with two different styles of play. Comoros wanted to be in control of the ball Gabon did not. This game plan worked better for the team that wanted to counter rather than the one that wanted to possess.
Gabon found the early lead thanks to a goal from Aaron Salem Boupendza. Gabon had the lead after 16 minutes and let Comoros have the majority of possession after that. Comoros couldn’t break down their opponent and the match finished 1-0. Gabon joined Morocco at the top of Group C, while Comoros fell with Ghana after one match.
Group D showcased more giant nations in Africa going up against each other to kick things off. Nigeria and Egypt are the two most winningest nations at AFCON. They kicked things off in Group D. It was clear Eygpt wanted to keep the ball and let their talented attacker, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah attack the Nigerian backline. That would prove unfruitful, as Nigeria locked him up, and looked to attack themselves.
In the 30th minute, Nigeria found what would be the game’s only goal as Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho scored. Nigeria was then able to Eygpt’s onslaught. The battle of the two giants went to Nigeria this time. They went to the top of Group D while Egypt went to the bottom.
Sudan and Guinea-Bissau met in the other match of Group D. This match was one that was evenly matched and would end that way after 90 minutes. Each nation had four shots all of them on target. Sudan did a better job getting in the way of those limited chances as they blocked two of the four, while Guinea-Bissau had to rely on their goalkeeper.
Maurice Gomis saved all four of Sudan’s shots. His efforts helped his nation score a point. Sudan and Guinea-Bissau both took one point from their opening match in Group D. It’s enough to see them right in the middle of the pack between group leaders Nigeria and Eygpt at the bottom.
Group E opened play with group favorites Algeria going up against the small nation of Sierra Leone. While many thought it would be an easy win for Algeria it was anything but that. Algeria did dominate the ball and was able to create 15 chances to score. Unforatly for them, they couldn’t get anything past the inspired goalkeeping display from Sierra Leone.
Mohamed N. Kamara made seven saves against Algeria in this opening match! His heroics helped him earn man-of-the-match honors; as well as, a split of the points from their first game. Algeria and Sierra Leone split the points and are level after matchday one of play in Group E.
Equatorial Guinea took on Ivory Coast to complete the first matchday in Group E. Ivory Coast was well-favored for this one and it didn’t take long for them to assert their dominance on the match. A Max-Alain Gradel goal gave Ivory Coast the lead in the fifth minute. Equatorial Guinea had trouble getting into the match after that.
Equatorial Guinea couldn’t possess the ball as much as they wanted to, even though they had more shots than Ivory Coast. The shots were not lethal ones and Ivory Coast was able to hold on and take all three points. Ivory Coast jumped to the top spot of the group, while Equatorial Guinea fell to last place after the first match.
Group F kicked off with a fiery match between Tunisia and Mali. After a first half of even play, Mali was able to open the scoring early in the second half. As the match progressed things got crazier and crazier, and it didn’t even have to do with the play on the pitch.
In the 85th minute, the referee blew for full time. The Tunisian players and bench went ballistic as they still had five minutes plus stoppage time to try to equalize. After some deliberation, the referee restarted play to play out the final minutes. In the remaining time, Mali received a red card, which added to the drama. Would this help Tunisia get a point? It would not as the referee would blow the final-final whistle again, this time with 19 seconds left in the 90. Something wasn’t right with all that, but Mali is top of the Group, and Tunisia is at the bottom after one game.
The final match of matchday one was an entertaining one between Mauritania and Gambia. Mauritania came out and wanted to dominate the game to take all three points. Unfortunately for them, that approach backfired inside of the first 10 minutes of play.
Gambia was able to create and convert a chance in the 10th minute to give them a 1-0 lead. The rest of the match was Mauritania attacking and Gambia defending. In the end, Gambia’s lone goal was the difference maker. They joined Mali at the top of the group, while Mauritania fell with Tunisia after matchday one.
Matchday two is underway!
There’s no rest after all the action of matchday one. Matchday two kicked off Thursday, and we are already halfway through those matches. Here’s a list to see who has played already, and who is yet to play.
- Cameroon vs Ethiopia – played 1/13
- Cape Verde vs Burkina Faso – played 1/13
- Senegal vs Guinea – played 1/14
- Malawi vs Zimbabwe – played 1/14
- Morocco vs Comoros – played 1/14
- Gabon vs Ghana – played 1/14
- Nigeria vs Sudan – to be played 1/15
- Guinea-Bissau vs Egypt – to be played 1/15
- Gambia vs Mali – to be played 1/16
- Ivory Coast vs Sierra Leone – to be played 1/16
- Tunisia vs Mauritania – to be played 1/16
- Algeria vs Equatorial Guinea – to be played 1/16
Nations could be punching their tickets to the knockout rounds, getting back to winning ways, or continuing to slump as we turn our attention to the second matchday. Don’t miss out on this fun tournament that is producing some of the most drama-filled moments in world soccer early in 2022!
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Mandatory Credit: CAF via Twitter