Contrasting Tales of African Champions

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Contrasting Tales of African Champions

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (January 19th 2024)

Cape Verde Advance to Last 16

The traditional powers of Group B, Egypt and Ghana shared the points. That meant that if Cape Verde built upon their victory over Chris Hughton’s Ghana and defeated Mozambique, they would not only qualify for the last 16, but would do so topping their group with a match to spare.

They did so, beating Mozambique 3-0 at Abidjan’s Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny after an emphatic performance. Former Manchester United misfit Bebé (Tiago Manuel Dias Correia) opened the scoring after 32 minutes. Six minutes after the break Ryan Mendes doubled their lead. Kevin Pina added the third after 69 minutes. Cape Verde became the first team to qualify for the knockout stage. It would not take long for the defending champions to join them.

Champions Impress

Aliou Cissé’s defending champions, Sénégal, signalled their intent with another impressive win. Cameroon’s André Onana had an eventful introduction to this Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). He missed the start of the tournament by agreement, but his private plane detoured to Abidjan rather than Yamoussoukro. Undeterred he travelled by car. He was angry to find that not only was he not starting, but that he had been omitted from the bench too. He questioned why he had come at all, but was reassured by Sénégalese legend El Hadji Diouf. Onana’s coach, Cameroonian and AFCON legend Rigobert Song, made it clear that he had no intention of playing Onana in the match against the Gambia as the Manchester United goalkeeper had had no opportunity to prepare and integrate himself into the team.

Onana started against Sénégal, but it would be a performance to forget. The Teranga Lions opened the scoring through Ismaila Sarr after 16 minutes. Mouhamadou Diallo doubled their lead after 71 minutes. Thinking the job done both Sarr and Diallo were withdrawn, but that proved to be the spark the Indomitable Lions needed. Jean-Charles Castelletto halved the deficit after 83 minutes, sparking a nervy conclusion. Sénégal made it safe after 5 minutes of added time through their talisman Sadio Mané.

Meanwhile, Tom Saintfiet’s Gambia side went down 0-1 to Guinea, courtesy of Aguibou Camara’s 70th minute winner. That result sent the defending champions through to the last 16.

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