AFCON Matchday 1 Recap: Shocking first games will lead to a wide-open tournament!

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Artists performing during the opening ceremony ahead of the African Cup of Nations Group A soccer match between Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

The 2023 African Cup of Nations is off to a flying start! Now that all 24 nations have played at least their matchday 1 matches, it is plain to see that this AFCON is wide open. Favorites are falling, underdogs are punching above their weight, and unexpected draws are leaving space for anyone to make it to the knockout rounds! Let’s look back on all the action from matchday 1 in our first AFCON recap.

AFCON Matchday 1 Recap

Artists performing during the opening ceremony ahead of the African Cup of Nations Group A soccer match between Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Group A

Ivory Coast 2 – 0 Guinea-Bissau

The 2023 AFCON opened with a bang as hosts Ivory Coast took on Guinea-Bissau. The opening ceremonies set the scene for an Ivory Coast nation wanting to be counted among the giants of African soccer! In just the 4th minute they scored the first goal of the tournament as Franck Kessiรฉ found the foot of Seko Fofana who riffled the shot home!

The early goal concealed rattled Guinea-Bissau. They found trouble getting into the game after that. They hardly kept the ball and got it into dangerous areas; Guinea-Bissau’s expected goals were 0.34 throughout the match. Ivory Coast put the game away early in the second half with a solo goal from Jean-Philippe Krasso in the 58th minute.

The hosts were thrilled to get three points, while underdogs Guinea-Bissau would have to look to their second match in the group for the opportunity to get points.

Nigeria 1 – 1 Equatorial Guinea

The other two nations in Group A, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea opened play on the second day of the tournament. It was another classic AFCON David vs Goliath meeting. The match was very even in terms of both teams looking to possess the ball and hit the other in transition moments. With the match wandering close to halftime, goals came.

In the 36th minute, Equatorial Guinea found a shocking lead. Jose Machin found Iban Salvador in the middle of the box, and he was able to smash the chance home. The lead could have been a major turning point in the match if it wasn’t for Nigeria’s quick resolve. They went right back at Equatorial Guinea and found the equalizer just two minutes later thanks to a Victor Osimhen header. The second half was dominated by Nigeria, but no other goals came.

The spoils were split as each nation took a point. They end matchday 1 trailing hosts Ivory Coast but are ahead of Guinea-Bissau.

Group A Standings

  • Ivory Coast – 3 pts
  • Nigeria – 1 pt
  • Equatorial Guinea – 1 pt
  • Guinea-Bissau – 0 pts

Group B

Egypt 2 – 2 Mozambique

Egypt and Mozambique opened up group B play at this AFCON, and in the blink of an eye, the favored Egyptians struck first! Mostafa Mohamed finished off a beauty of a pass from Mohamed Salah to give Egypt the lead just two minutes into the game. Mozambique was behind the eightball early but was not down and out. They struggled to get into the game but held the deficit at one going into halftime.

In the second half, Mozambique put their foot on the gas. They scored two goals in three minutes to take a shocking lead. Witi scored in the 55th minute and Clesio Bauque put his side ahead in the 58th minute! Egypt was stunned but fought back. In the sixth minute of added time at the end of the 90 minutes, Egypt won a PK and Mohamed Salah slotted it home to secure a draw.

Mozambique will feel hard done for not securing three points, while Egpyt will be glad to not go into the second match at this AFCON with no points.

Ghana 1 – 2 Cape Verde

Ghana is an African giant on the decline, while Cape Verde is a nation on the rise. The two met in their opening match in Group B play at this AFCON. Early on in the match, it was Cape Verde that opened up the scoring inside the first 20 minutes thanks to former Philadelphia Union player, Jamiro Monteiro’s strike. As the match went into halftime both teams were playing an even match.

Ghana came out in the second half a bit stronger, finding an equalizing goal just 11 minutes in. Alexander Djiku headed home a great ball from Jordan Ayew. After the match drew level the teams went back and forth at one another. The underlying numbers favored Cape Verde and in added time after the 90 minutes, they found the winning goal! Gary Rodrigues slotted home the shot that secured all three points!

Cape Verde ends matchday 1 of this AFCON on top of group B; Egypt and Mozambique have a point a piece, and Ghana will need to do a lot to get out of last place!

Group B Standings

  • Cape Verde – 3 pts
  • Egypt – 1 pt
  • Mozambique – 1 pt
  • Ghana – 0 pts

Group C

Senegal 3 – 0 The Gambia

Reigning champions Senegal enter this AFCON taking on The Gambia. The match opened, and Senegal picked up where they left off in the last tournament. Sadio Manรฉ found the left foot of Pape Gueye who put Senegal up just four minutes in. Over the first few matches of this AFCON, when a team went down they roared back to get into the game, this was not the case for The Gambia. Ebou Adams was sent off just before halftime, and The Gambia was down a goal and a man heading into the break.

Senegal opened the second half the same way they did the first. Ismaila Sarr fed Lamine Camara to make it 2-0 just seven minutes into the half. The Gambia failed to come back from two goals down, and Senegal added a third goal, and a second from Camara with just minutes left in the game. This was the first blowout of this AFCON.

Senegal looked to be on their way to leading Group C after the first match, while the Gambia will have a hard time getting back into the group after a bad loss with a red card.

Cameroon 1 – 1 Guinea

Group C saw its other two nations square off in Cameroon and Guinea. Cameroon, a giant in AFCON lore got punched in the mouth early. Guinea scored just 10 minutes in thanks to a Mohamed Bayo strike. It looked like another shocking result was about to be on the cards. Guinea was derailed just before halftime because of a red card for Francois Kamano. This allowed Cameroon to claw back into the match.

Just six minutes into the second half Cameroon found its equalizer. Frank Magri headed home a ball from Georges-Kevin N’Koudou. It was 1-1 and things seemed to swing Cameroon’s way. They had 39 minutes to find a winning goal, but failed to do so; Cameroon created 13 shots, but only two were on target all match. The game ended frustration for both nations.

The 1-1 draw secured a point for both Cameroon and Guinea, meaning both are still in the mix heading into matchday two of this AFCON.

Group C Standings

  • Senegal – 3 pts
  • Cameroon – 1 pt
  • Guinea – 1 pt
  • The Gambia – 0 pts
Ivory Coast’s fans celebrate a goal scored by Seko Fofana during the African Cup of Nations Group A soccer match between Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Group D

Algeria 1 – 1 Angola

Algeria and Angola opened group D play at this AFCON. It was yet another matchup of a favorite vs an underdog. This tournament has shown that these types of games produce some great matchups, and this was the case yet again. Algeria opened the match on the front foot and found the opening goal before the 20-minute mark. Baghdad Bounedjah fired home the first goal on a day that was dominated by Algeria, but Angola was never out of the game.

While Angola concealed in the first half, and was far behind Algeria in the underlying numbers, they won the expected goals battle 1.65-0.86. Algeria kept much of the ball but did little with it; when Angola did have the ball they had a purpose. That purpose paid off in the 68th minute. Angola won a penalty kick, and Mabululu slotted home the chance. The match was tied, and neither nation could break the deadlock.

Algeria and Angola shared the points in the first match of Group D. It’s a shocking result for both, showing that yet another underdog means business at this AFCON.

Burkina Faso 1 – 0 Mauritania

Burkina Faso entered this AFCON ready to make another deep run, while Mauritania wanted to be like many of the other underdogs and punch above their weight. This match looked to follow suit for many of the other matches at this AFCON so far. Burkina Faso dominated all facets of the game but failed to break down Mauritania in the first half.

As the game went on, it was clear Mauritania was playing for a 0-0 draw. They bent but didn’t break. Burkina Faso had the majority of the ball, shots, and shots on target, and won the expected goals battle 1.13-0.55. All of this and it was still 0-0 as the match went into added time after the 90 minutes. In the sixth minute of stoppage time, Burkina Faso won a PK; Bertrand Traorรฉ slotted it home.

Burkina Faso came out on top after a valiant effort from Mauritania in their first match of Group D play at this AFCON!

Group D Standings

  • Burkina Faso – 3 pts
  • Algeria – 1 pt
  • Angola – 1 pt
  • Mauritania – 0 pts

Group E

Tunisia 0 – 1 Namibia

Group E of this AFCON opened with 25th-ranked Tunisia taking on 115th-ranked Namibia. Yet another great game was in the making! Tunisia came into the game knowing they were “better” than their opponent; they possessed the ball for the majority of the match but failed to create anything from that possession. They created 10 shots, but only four were on target. Namibia on the other hand was fine without having the ball all of the time and was much more purposeful when they had the ball.

The match was scoreless heading into the second half, but Namibia was looking like the better team. They had more shots, and shots on goal, and won the expected goals fight 1.76-0.69. As the game wandered to its final minutes, it looked like the match was destined to end 0-0. That’s when Namibia struck a devastating blow. Deon Hotto headed home an 88th-minute winner put there for him by Bethuel Muzeu!

Namibia takes all three points, while Tunisia failed historically to kick off Group E play at this AFCON!

Mali 2 – 0 South Africa

Both Mali and South Africa have always been strong nations in Africa, but have never been counted among the giant teams. These teams were looking for an opportunity to be counted among the big boys at this AFCON, which provided for a very open and fun matchup! The first half was back and forth, with both teams going for it to find a win. South Africa had a golden opportunity in the 18th minute with a PK. Unfortunately, Percy Tau missed the chance to keep the game scoreless. No goals would come in the first half, but with the chances created, they were not far off.

In the second half, Mali was on the front foot, and in the 60th minute, they found the opening goal thanks to a Hamari Traorรฉ left-footed strike. Just six minutes later Mali doubled their lead. Kamiry Doubia found Lassine Sinayoko in the 66th minute. A two-goal deficit proved too much to overcome for South Africa as they fell in their opening AFCON match.

Mali joined Namibia as winners in Group E after one match played, while South Africa and Tunisia will have to battle in their next matches to get back into the swing of things at the 2023 AFCON.

Group E Standings

  • Mali – 3 pts
  • Namibia – 3 pts
  • Tunisia – 0 pts
  • South Africa – 0 pts

Group F

Morocco 3 – 0 Tanzania

Morocco comes into the 2023 AFCON as one of the major favorites to win it all. They made the semifinals of the 2022 World Cup and are battle-tested. Their opponents in matchday 1, Tanzania, looked to weather the oncoming storm from their opponents. They did so for the first half-hour, then the floodgates opened. Romain Saiss scored for Morocco at the 30-minute mark, giving his team the lead going into halftime.

While the lead was just one goal, the main turning point of this match came in the 70th minute when Tanzania’s Novatus Miroshi received a second yellow card and was sent off. Morocco smelled blood in the water and pounced. They scored in the 77th and 80th minute thanks to Azzedine Ounahi and Youssef En-Nesyri, respectively. With 10 minutes to go, down three goals, and down to 10 men Tanzania was done for.

Morocco started their 2023 AFCON strong, while Tanzania will need to get to work to make up ground in their remaining matches in Group F.

DR Congo 1 – 1 Zambia

The final game of matchday 1 saw DR Congo and Zambia square off! Group F’s clear favorite Morocco got off to a good start, but both DR Congo and Zambia had an opportunity to get off on the right foot as well. This was an even match with much of its fireworks coming inside the first half-hour of the game. Zambia opened the scoring in the 23rd minute as Kings Kangwa fired home; just four minutes later, DR Congo was level thanks to a Yoane Wissa right-footed strike!

The match went into the second half tied at one. It was anyone’s game, and it looked like DR Congo was going to be the one to score if they could get the ball in the back of the net. They won all of the underlying numbers, and the expected goals duel 2.54-0.20. A second goal would not come for DR Congo as Zambia put on a showcase defensively. A split of the points was the end result for both nations,

Group F sees the favorites on top, and DR Congo and Zambia right behind them to kick off Group F action at this AFCON.

Group F Standings

  • Morocco – 3 pts
  • DR Congo – 1 pt
  • Zambia – 1 pt
  • Tanzania – 0 pts

Matchday 2 has already kicked off!

With all of these crazy matches from Matchday 1, comes even more storylines to the spectacle of Matchday 2! Those games have already kicked off for Groups A and B, The last four groups will be playing their matches over this coming weekend! Be sure to catch the action here in the United States on Bein Sports, should you have access to that channel!

The final matchday, matchday 3 will occur this coming Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. That will show us who will make the knockout rounds and who will be headed home! As always be sure to come back to PSN for recaps of all of the action!

Ivory Coast’s Evan Ndicka, left, slides as he defends against Guinea-Bissau’s Mauro Rodrigues Teixira during the African Cup of Nations Group A soccer match between Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

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Mandatory Credit: AP Photo/Sunday Alamba