Given that all 24 nations have played at least one match at this year’s African Cup of Nations, we will look back with the African football journalist Usher Komugish at the best and who had a week to forget …
Aboubakar glowing light
Cameroon captain Vincent Aboubakar is to be the player of the tournament. He scored four goals in two games and can be seen on his way to an incredible performance throughout the tournament.
If you look at the top scorers in the previous five tournaments, you’ll see that Odion Ighalo scored five in Egypt in 2019 and the rest have only four and three goals per tournament, so a tribute to Aboubakar, who leads from the front. and demonstrates a lot of character and precision with its completion.
We’ll see how far Cameroon goes, but it gave the impression that it became the first team to qualify for the round of 16. It is important to note that Cameroon is so far the only team in the tournament to have scored more than a goal in a single match, which they won 2: 1 in their opening match against Burkina Faso and now 4: 1 in their second match against Ethiopia.
When we look at the team that Cameroon now leads Aboubakar and play at home, and the fact that they have not been defeated in Yaound since October 1988, it is a very strong record that they have, so they use domestic support and this knowledge to find their way. to the business end of the tournament.
Bad start for Salah and Egypt
The situation with Mohamed Salah is such that Egypt’s head coach Carlos Queiroz admitted after defeating Nigeria that he wanted to play him out of position to surprise the opposition.
But he seemed to be surprising himself and his teammates. The more you think about it, the more he seems to be tactically wrong. Salah looked like a complete shadow as he watched the match.
It is not easy for North African parties to play in sub-Saharan Africa, and most Egyptian players who play in their national leagues are used to playing matches at night whenever it is summer and when it is hot.
Playing the game in a hot environment during the day is something that could affect Egyptian players, but if they want to win, they will have to increase performance and show convincing performance. They looked lost against Nigeria, but you must also acknowledge Nigeria, which is a very solid and well-trained team.
Round teams: Sierra Leone and Gambia
So far, I would have to choose two countries that really lit up the tournament – the first was Sierra Leone, which has been playing in its first African Cup of Nations since 1996.
It was unbelievable how they defended the Algeria defending champion in their opening match. Algeria is now undefeated in 35 competitive matches, so seeing the draw was a beautiful match led by their captain Kei Kamara.
When you look back at where Sierra Leone has gone as a country in terms of their civil war at home and the way it was heavily affected by the Ebola virus a few years ago, it is inspiring to see the country struggle to recover.
The performance was much more than gaining a point from the opening match. So many people gathered at home, and when you see the celebrations of people sitting on the streets, thousands of them watching their team’s game in Freetown, you understand the impact of such a performance.
It showed you how much AFCON means to fans across the continent.
The Gambia would be my next team as they play in their very first AFCON. Until this issue, they were the only West African country that never qualified for the tournament, so seeing how they fought the way they defeated Mauritania was very impressive.
They have many young and talented players who do business in Europe, and you can see the quality of their endings and the way they play together. They look like a team that could cause confusion in this tournament.
Why are there so few goals so far?
Nine of the 12 games in the first round in six groups at AFCON ended in a 1-0 win! I would like to attribute this to the fact that there were so many canceled friendly matches in preparation for the tournament.
The teams had less than a week to prepare for the competition, as the CAF did not enter into a player release agreement with the European Club Association until January 3.
This has hampered the preparation of so many teams that have players in Europe. A team like Senegal has all players based in Europe.
So that everyone in the camp and with all those travel and Covid protocols … all these things affected the way the teams started, but most of the players who had a positive test a few days after the tournament have already recovered.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed Gabon’s opening match, but coached as usual today and will be available for the next round of matches, so it will improve as players grow into the competition.
What were the consequences of the chaotic end between Tunisia and Mali?
It is a consequence of what turned out to be a disastrous day for Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe, who led the match between Tunisia and Mali on Wednesday.
It was disappointing and shocking to know that he had ended the match a few minutes earlier than he should have. He interrupted the game in the 85th minute and later continued the game to end the match in the 89th minute.
Since then, there has been information that he has suffered a sunburn, and we also have news that he was quickly taken to the hospital from the stadium before the CAF decided to continue the game and that Mali would agree and come to the field.
Tunisia had already reached the ice bath, so it refused to return and finish the match with the fourth referee, who was in command at the time. It didn’t make sense, so they accepted the result at the time, but Tunisia stepped out and said it would appeal against the result.
The CAF has convened an emergency committee meeting and we will wait for a decision on this. It is quite clear that Sikazwe was not alone, because if you look at the replay of the game, there is a part where he went to the VAR monitor before the controversial end, but passed it.
So it shows you that during the game there were signs that he wasn’t okay. You have to feel Tunisia, because yes, they lost by one goal, but we have already seen that Senegal won the match against Zimbabwe in the 96th minute, so they will feel that they still had a chance.
What was Tunisia’s response to the incident?
Tunisian journalist Tarek Ghdri told Sky Sports:
“This is my tenth AFCON tournament and I have never seen such a catastrophe in my career. The referee was completely out mentally and physically.
“Tunisia is crying now because it is an injustice. We have never seen anything like it before. The Tunisian FA is waiting for the CAF to decide whether the match will be repeated, but I seriously doubt it will happen. It is very difficult to achieve this result.
“Tunisia remains one of the biggest teams in Africa, so I feel that losing one match is not a big deal. They should win against Mauritania and the Gambia and move on in that competition.”
Sky Sports will show AFCON live
The African Cup of Nations tournament will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in January and February.
The tournament, originally scheduled for June and July 2021, will take place in Cameroon between January 9 and February 6, 2022, with Sky Sports showing all 52 matches live.
The 24 teams will take part, starting on January 9, when Cameroon hosts Burkina Faso in Yaounde, and then culminates in the final on February 6 in the capital.