from ALEXIS DOUMBIA in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
Côte d’Ivoire Bureau
ABIDJAN, (CAJ News) – IF the results of the opening matches of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Ivory Coast are anything to go by, this tournament will be laden with surprises.
The so-called lightweights are proving difficult to beat at the tourney that started in 1957.
Cape Verde’s 2-1 victory over four-time champions, Ghana, on Sunday is the biggest shock thus far. By dimming the Black Stars, the Blue Sharks enhanced a reputation as a banana skin in Africa’s prime football tournament.
Record seven-time AFCON holders, Egypt, have also suffered a rude awakening that is pointing to the closure of the gap between the traditional heavyweights and minnows.
Egypt were on the brink against lowly-rated Mozambique until they were saved by Mohamed Salah’s injury-time penalty to force a 2-2 draw.
Lightweights Guinea, despite being a man short, held five-time winners Cameroon to a 1-1 draw. Another giant, Nigeria, were also restrained one-all by Equatorial Guinea.
Late on Monday, Angola limited Algeria to a similar result.
Only the hosts and Senegal have maintained the status quo.
Ivory Coast whacked Guinea-Bissau 2-0 in the opening encounter. Defending champions Senegal massacred Gambia 3-0, the latter finishing with ten men. Geographically, Senegal almost completely surrounds The Gambia.
On Tuesday (today), the continent of 1,3 billion people will focus on Burkina Faso against Mauritania, Tunisia will battle with Namibia while the main match of the night will be between Mali and South Africa.
How the Eagles of Mali have never won the competition remains a mystery despite the strong sides it has sent to previous AFCON editions. Bafana Bafana of South Africa, besides winning it on home soil in 1996, have been a consistent disappointment.
On Wednesday, favourites Morocco will lock horns with Tanzania.
The pick of the crop however will be a Southern African Development Community (SADC) derby between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia, rounding off Wednesday’s matches. DRC, then known as Zaire, have won the prestigious tournament twice. Zambia have won it once.
On Thursday, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau will battle in a rare clash of namesakes.
They are two of the four “Guinea” nations in the world, the other being the above-mentioned Republic of Guinea and Papua New Guinea.
So, it is by no means merely a clash of a pair of lightweights.
A blockbuster West African derby between Ivory Coast and Nigeria, as well as the megahit fixture between top dogs Egypt and Ghana rounds up Thursday’s matches.
On Friday, giant killers Cape Verde will battle out with Mozambique as the dominant West meets the usually punching-bag South.
Senegal and Cameroon will contest a tournament smasher while Guinea and The Gambia square up in an all-West African collision.
Monday, 15 January 2024
– Algeria 1-1 Angola
– Cameroon 1-1 Guinea
– Senegal 3-0 Gambia
Sunday, 14 January 2024
– Ghana 1-2 Cape Verde
– Egypt 2-2 Mozambique
– Nigeria 1-1 Equatorial Guinea
Saturday, 13 January 2024
– Cote d’Ivoire 2-0 Guinea-Bissau
– CAJ News