AFCON Matchday 2 Recap: Two Nations punch ticket to knockouts, two knocked out, the rest still alive!

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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 AFCON is in full swing! The second matchday had a lot to live up to. The first set of matches in the group’s stage were wild; top teams faltered, underdogs picked up wins, and certain draws left the knockout rounds open for all the nations. Matchday two of the 2023 AFCON offered some clarity with some nations punching their tickets to the knockout rounds, others getting knocked out, and a majority of the field still having all to play for on matchday three.

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)

AFCON Matchday 2 Recap

Group A

Equatorial Guinea 4 – 2 Guinea-Bissau

Equatorial Guinea opened up their AFCON journey with a 1-1 draw against Nigeria. It wasn’t the start they would have wanted, but a point is crucial, especially in this crazy tournament. Guinea-Bissau began its tournament by playing hosts, Ivory Coast. They lost that match 2-0, and needed to show much better in this match two. The game opened up and it was clear that both nations were going to jump at the opportunity to rise in Group A.

The match was very even throughout with both nations looking to use the ball to create chances. The first half proved Equatorial Guinea was just a bit better. As the match went to halftime Equatorial Guinea led two goals to one. They picked up right where they left off in the second half. Emilio Nsue scored two goals in 16 minutes to complete his hat trick and put Equatorial Guinea up 4-1. Guinea Bissau would find a consolation goal in the third minute of stoppage time, but it was too little too late.

Equatorial Guinea took home all three points adding a win to the point they already had at this AFCON. Guinea Bissau fell for the second straight game meaning they are ineligible for the knockout rounds at this AFCON.

Ivory Coast 0 – 1 Nigeria

Host Nation Ivory Coast got a huge 2-0 win in the opening match of the 2023 AFCON over Guinea-Bissau. The three points were crucial as they came into their second match against Nigeria. Nigeria was only able to secure a point against Equatorial Guinea, making this second game one where three points would go a long way. The stage was set for either nation to get some much-needed points that could help them qualify for the knockout rounds.

The match itself was one where the underlying numbers said one thing and the game’s result said another. On paper, Ivory Coast looked like the better team. They had more of the ball but failed to create any real chances of having it. Nigeria didn’t have the ball for the majority of the time but was able to create just enough to win. After Victor Osimhen was taken down in the box Nigeria won a PK in the 55th minute. William Troost-Ekong stepped up and converted the pen, which would prove to be the deciding factor in this match.

Nigeria were the big winners as they jumped AFCON hosts Ivory Coast. Both nations headed into final matches where they knew a win would be enough to send them through to the knockout rounds, but a draw or a loss would dash those hopes!

Group A Standings

  • Equatorial Guinea – 4 pts
  • Nigeria – 4 pts
  • Ivory Coast – 3 pts
  • Guinea-Bissau – 0 pts

Group B

Egypt 2 – 2 Ghana

In what was one of the most anticipated matches of the AFCON group stage, Egypt and Ghana squared off in matchday two. Egypt had drawn their first match 2-2 against Mozambique, while Ghana lost their first game to Cape Verde. Both nations needed points to keep their knockout round hopes alive, and this match did not disappoint!

This game was very much even, both nations were trying to have a purpose while on the ball. The first half was coming to an end with zeros on the board when an unfortunate injury made one of the stars of Africa have to sub out. Egypt’s Mohamed Salah hurt his hamstring, which will keep him sidelined for possibly the rest of this AFCON. Ghana scored a minute after the substitution to take a lead into halftime. In the second half, Egypt would fire back in the 69th minute, only for Ghana to retake the lead two minutes later. They couldn’t hold the lead though as Egypt found an equalizer just before the last 15 minutes of the match.

The game thrillingly ended 2-2. Both nations would have to be fine with only one point from matchday two. Egypt knew that a win or a draw in their last group stage match would mean they’d make the knockouts, while Ghana would need a win or a draw coupled with an Egypt loss to finish top-two in Group B at this AFCON.

Cape Verde 3 – 0 Mozambique

Cape Verde is one of the nations looking to be giant killers. They took down Ghana in their first match 2-1 and now set their sights on getting a second win over Mozambique. Mozambique secured an impressive draw against Egypt on matchday one. They now try to get a first win at this AFCON against Cape Verde a feat that would prove to be difficult.

The match was even in terms of both teams looking to attack when they had the ball, but it was clear that Cape Verde had the better quality on the field. Just before halftime, Bebรฉ hit a wonderous long-range effort to stun Mozambique. Cape Verde picked up where they left off in the second half, adding a second goal six minutes into the half. They capped off the game with a third goal in the 69th minute, and the match would end 3-0.

Cape Verde’s two wins allowed them to punch their ticket to the knockout rounds with a game to play, their defensive effort and goal-scoring threat is evident. Mozambique will be hard-pressed to get a win on the last match day, which is their only avenue to advance to the knockouts of this AFCON.

Group B Standings

  • Cape Verde – 6 pts
  • Egypt – 2 pts
  • Ghana – 1 pt
  • Mozambique – 1 pt

Group C

Senegal 3 – 1 Cameroon

Defending champions Senegal opened the 2023 AFCON with ease after a 3-0 win over The Gambia. Cameroon drew Guinea 1-1 to open this tournament. Both nations needed three points but for different reasons coming into matchday two. A win for Senegal would punch their ticket to the last 16; a win for Cameroon would put them in a great position to make it to the knockout rounds.

The match started off with Cameroon trying to keep the ball away from Senegal. This led to them having the majority of possession, but they failed to create any real chances with the ball. Senegal was content to sit back and spring fast when they won the ball. One of those first attempts at doing this led to their first goal in the 16th minute. The majority of the rest of the game was set up the same way but without goals. That is, until late on when Cameroon threw caution to the wind and put too many players forward.

Senegal scored an important second goal in the 71st minute. Cameroon would score a consolation goal in the 83rd minute; it was too little too late, as Sadio Manรฉ added a third goal for Senegal in second-half stoppage time. Senegal punched their ticket to the knockouts of the 2023 AFCON with the win; while Cameroon knew they’d need a win on the final day and some help to get through.

Guinea 1 – 0 The Gambia

Guinea started off this AFCON in a fine spot with a draw to Cameroon; The Gambia did not start well falling to defending champs Senegal. Coming into their second match of the tournament both needed to secure points to solidify their spot in Group C. In a very one-sided match, there was only one goal in it.

While the result of this match seemed to paint the picture of a close game that was not the case. The Gambia had 45% of the possession of the ball and produced seven shots, but no shot was on target. Because of this, their expected goals in the match was 0.37. On the flip side, Guinea was able to create more shots, 16, with six of them being on target. This put their expected goals at 2.21, but Guinea was only able to score once. Aguibou Camara was able to finish off a chance in the 69th minute of the game; this proved to be the winning goal!

The match ended 1-0 in favor of Guinea, who now sit on four points. This is a very promising spot heading into the final round, they could very well make the knockouts no matter their final result! However, the Gambia now have two losses that disqualify them from making the AFCON knockout rounds.

Group C Standings

  • Senegal – 6 pts
  • Guinea – 4 pts
  • Cameroon – 1 pt
  • The Gambia – 0 pts
Guinea’s Facinet Conte, left, with teammate Ibrahima Diakite celebrate at the end of the African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match between Guinea and Gambia, at the Charles Konan Banny stadium in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Group D

Algeria 2 – 2 Burkina Faso

Algeria came into this AFCON as one of the favorites to win Group D. They did not start off so hot with that expectation, drawing Angola. Burkina Faso was also thought of as a nation that could get out of this group and their 1-0 win over Mauritania put them in a good spot to start! This was a match of contrasting styles Algeria tried to dominate the ball, while Burkina Faso focused on defense and counter-attacking.

It looked like the first half was going to produce a stalemate until Burkina Faso was able to score on the stroke of halftime. A header from Mohamed Konate opened the scoring despite a VAR check to make sure the goal should stand. Algeria took that shot to the chin and came out in the second half and tied the game in the first 10 minutes of the second half. 20 minutes later it looked like Burkina Faso might get the winning goal as they converted a penalty in the 71st minute to make the score 2-1. However, there was late drama as Algeria found a 90+5 minute equalizer thanks to a Baghdad Bounedjah header.

The match ended 2-2. It proved to be a crucial point for both nations who kept their knockout round hopes alive. The final matchday will prove to be the most decisive for the nations in Group D of this AFCON.

Mauritania 2 – 3 Angola

Mauritania opened their AFCON campaign with a hard-fought loss against Burkina Faso, they needed to get a win against Angola to get back in the swing of things in Group D. Angola showed very well in their first match drawing with group favorites Algeria. A win in match two would go a long way for their knockout round qualifying hopes. As many of these matches have been, this game was very even. Both teams looked to attack as soon as they were on the ball, and it created a very open and very fun match to watch.

It took a half hour but the first goal flew in courtesy of Angola’s Dala Gelson. Mauritania would answer back just before halftime to make it 1-1. Inside the first 10 minutes of the second half Angola fired two goals in to make it 3-1. The game was turned on its head, but Mauritania didn’t back down! They scored a second goal to cut the deficit to one goal in the 58th minute. With 32 minutes still to play it was a one-goal game with a whole lot on the line. However, Angola was able to hold on and secure a huge victory.

Angola’s win meant that they would top Group D heading into the final matchday at the 2023 AFCON. Mauritania’s loss meant they would need a win and a lot of help to qualify for the knockout rounds, but there is still a slim chance for them!

Group D Standings

  • Angola – 4 pts
  • Burkina Faso – 4 pts
  • Algeria – 2 pts
  • Mauritania – 0 pts

Group E

Tunisia 1 – 1 Mali

In Group E play at the 2023 AFCON, Tunisia suffered a shock loss in matchday 1 to Namibia. Their opponent on matchday two, Mali, had secured an impressive win over South Africa. This match was a tale of two teams in different positions, but both strived to get as many points as possible.

This fact was evident as both teams would score before the half-hour mark! Mali opened the scoring in the 10th minute thanks to a Lassine Sinayoko strike. Just 10 minutes later Tunisia struck back after a Hamaza Rafia shot hit the back of the net. It was 1-1 with 70 minutes of the match still to be played! Mali looked more likely to score a second as they produced 12 shots in the game; however, they only had one effort on target, which was their 10th-minute goal. Tunisia took just five shots all game, their one shot on target was also their goal. A split of the points was justified!

The match ended in a draw, and it favored Mali, who now sit on four points. Tunisia gets a crucial point from the draw, but they will need to do a lot of work in their final match to get a win over South Africa to make it to the knockout rounds of this AFCON.

South Africa 4 – 0 Namibia

South Africa came into this AFCON and had a poor showing in their first match, losing 2-0 to Mali. On the flip side, Namibia shocked the world with a win over Tunisia. Both nations were heading in different directions and were on a collision course in Group E on matchday two. The outcome of this match was a complete 180 from the nation’s results from the first matchday.

South Africa came out on the front foot from the get-go. They won a penalty kick in the 14th minute which Percy Tau converted. Namibia was shocked and did not recover well. South Africa would score two more times before halftime, both goals coming from the right foot of Themba Zwane. It was 3-0 at halftime, and Namibia couldn’t recover. South Africa added a fourth goal in the 75th minute to really kill off the match.

A 4-0 win for South Africa helped them to rise from the basement of the standings in Group E to second place. Namibia’s opening game win has them in a good spot to qualify for the knockout rounds, but there have been crazy occurrences in this AFCON which may not bode well for them.

Group E Standings

  • Mali – 4 pts
  • South Africa – 3 pts
  • Namibia – 3 pts
  • Tunisia – 1 pt

Group F

Morocco 1 – 1 DR Congo

Morocco is the strongest team in this AFCON’s Group F on paper. Their win over Tanzania has them in great shape heading into their second match against DR Congo. DR Congo opened their tournament drawing with Zambia. The draw is a fine result, but a win would help them so much more in their pursuit of AFCON glory. They would not find that in this match, unfortunately.

Morocco opened the match on the front foot. They were following up after their 3-0 from match day one. This time, scoring in the 6th minute of the match. Achraf Hakimi put home a nice pass from Hakim Ziyech to give Morocco the lead. Just before halftime, DR Congo had a golden opportunity to equalize from a PK, but Cรฉdric Bakambu missed the chance. It took a while, but DR Congo was able to equalize in the second half. They looked the stronger side down the stretch, but neither they nor Morocco could find the winning goal.

Morocco took a point which saw them sit atop Group F with four points. This was DR Congo’s second draw. Both were in a good position heading into the final matchday of Group F at the 2023 AFCON, but neither had finished the job yet!

Zambia 1 – 1 Tanzania

Zambia opened their AFCON with a decent point against DR Congo. Their Group E hopes lied in getting more points on matchday two against Tanzania. Tanzania fell to Morocco in their opening game. They are now hard-pressed to need a crucial win on matchday two should they want to make any serious headway in the group. This game was one with a whole lot of fireworks but little goals.

Zambia and Tanzania met each other in a critical spot at this AFCON. If either nation could get a win, they would be in a prime position heading into the final matchday. The math itself showed how important this was! Tanzania opened the scoring in the 11th minute, it proved to rattle Zambia. Ashley the Zambians tried to get back into the match Rodrick Kabwe picked up two yellow cards in 11 minutes to be sent off. Zambia was down a man for 46 minutes but still had the resolve to come back. An 88th-minute equalizer from Patson Daka clawed Zambia back from the midst of a devastating loss!ย 

The match ended 1-1. A split of the spoils meant that both nations were still alive at this AFCON! However, both nations would need wins in their final games to be able to make it to the last 16!

Group F Standings

  • Morocco – 4 pts
  • DR Congo – 2 pts
  • Zambia – 2 pts
  • Tanzania – 1 pt
DR Congo’s Chancel Mbemba, left, and Morocco’s Youssef En-Nesyri challenge for the ball during the African Cup of Nations Group F soccer match between Morocco and DR Congo, at the Laurent Pokou stadium in San Pedro, Ivory Coast, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Who will make it to the knockout rounds after the final matchday?

The final matches of final matchday have already been played! We now know who has made it out of the groups, and who is heading home for good. The knockout round matches begin this weekend, so there is little time for rest and recovery! It’s an all-out sprint as we head to the AFCON knockout rounds, but who will make out the last 16? Come back to Philly Sports Network tomorrow to see which teams made it out of their groups and had a successful matchday three!

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Mandatory Credit: AP Photo/Sunday Alamba & AP Photo/Themba Hadebe