June 29 makes it the eighth day at the ongoing 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt and already, the number one football competition on the continent has featured a lot of mouthwatering clashes between top countries.
The 32nd edition of AFCON took on a new look this time around, with 24 teams participating for the first time in the competition’s history compared to a number of previous editions which only paraded 16 teams.
With 18 games played and 39 goals scored at the time of this article, DailyAdvent x-ray’s the five best matches witnessed at AFCON 2019 so far in ascending order.
5. Nigeria 1-0 Guinea
The Super Eagles of Nigeria became the first team to qualify for the last 16 at AFCON as Gernot Rohr’s men beat Guinea 1-0. Three-time winners of the competition, Nigeria scored the only goal in the 73rd minute when Moses Simon’s right-wing corner kick was headed in at the near post by defender, Kenneth Omeruo.
It was a keenly contested encounter between both West African nations which saw the Super Eagles drop captain John Mikel Obi. The 32-year-old midfielder, who featured for Middlesbrough in the second half of the 2018-19 season, was replaced by Saudi Arabia-based Ahmed Musa.
Along with Musa, the Super Eagles team on the day also featured Brighton & Hove Albion defender Leon Balogun, Stoke City midfielder Peter Etebo, Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi.
The Gunners man had one of the best chances when it was goalless with a curled effort from just outside the penalty area, but Guinea goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone produced a spectacular one-handed save to push it over the bar.
Meanwhile, Guinea’s side included Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita, who was making his first start for club or country since May 1 2019, when he picked up a groin injury in the Reds’ 3-0 loss to Barcelona during a first leg match in the UEFA Champions League semi-final. However, Keita received some strong challenges and only lasted 71 minutes before he was substituted. He was replaced just before a Nigeria corner and Guinea, who now have one point from their two matches, went behind instantly thanks to Omeruo’s header.
4. Mali 4-1 Mauritania
The Eagles of Mali produced a dominant display to beat tournament debutants Mauritania at AFCON 2019. Among the first batch of group stage matches, this game was the one that produced the highest number of goals with the Malians helping themselves to four of the five scored.
Captain Abdoulaye Diaby drilled a powerful effort into the top corner from 25 yards to put the Eagles ahead. A Moussa Marega penalty and a strike from Monaco’s Adama Traore increased Mali’s advantage before Moctar Sidi El Hacen pulled a goal back from the spot for Mauritania.
But Metz’s Adama Traore, who came on for his namesake, completed the scoring, curling in from the edge of the box. All this after Mauritania, taking part in the tournament for the first time in their history, started brightly in Suez but the result was rarely in doubt after Diaby’s sublime opener.
3. Ghana 2-2 Benin Republic
Goals from the Ayew brothers, Andre and Jordan, helped a ten-man Ghana side cling on for an eventful 2-2 draw against Benin Republic in their Group F clash at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday, June 18.
Mickael Pote had given Benin the lead after just one minute and 44 seconds. He added his second goal of the match in the 63rd minute in what was a rather dramatic night of football.
Dramatic, as Ghana were reduced to 10 men in the 54th minute after defender John Boye was given his marching orders following a second yellow card for time wasting.
2. Kenya 3-2 Tanzania
Michael Olunga scored twice as Kenya came from behind to beat Tanzania 3-2 in another Africa Cup of Nations thriller. Kashiwa Reysol forward Olunga drilled in a late winner, having earlier made it 1-1 with a superb overhead kick and also heading against the crossbar. Tanzania had gone ahead twice through Simon Msuva’s tap-in and Mbwana Samatta’s effort for a half-time lead. Johanna Omolo flicked in a header at the near post for Kenya, before Olunga struck the winner with just 10 minutes remaining in the thrilling encounter.
In the post-match reaction, Super Eagles legend Emmanuel Amuneke who is the coach of the Taifa stars of Tanzania was left frustrated with how his team surrendered their lead twice in their 3-2 loss to the Harambee Stars.
He said in an interview with Goal that he was disappointed with the attitude of his players in the encounter. “The reality is in a game of football if you don’t know how to manage the game to your advantage, you pay for it,” Amuneke told Goal.
The Tanzania boss added: “We started on a very good note, scoring first then leading the game towards half time, but there were a lot of crazy things. we committed a lot of mistakes, the second goal, the Kenya equaliser, this is what we have practised over and over, knowing they have dropped the ball in the first place.
“As a coach you are helpless, you feel you want to help them, but you cannot turn it around. Most players play in the Tanzanian league, we lack experience, it’s a good thing we came to this Afcon, and it’s a good thing for Tanzanian football, to open their eyes. The truth is that at the moment we’re not in a position to compete.
“Our target, we are privileged to have qualified for the Afcon, after so many years we’ve missed out and now we’re here after all these years. Every team wants to do well, every team wants to go far, but you could see, we’re still lacking a lot of experience, character, maturity.”
1. Guinea 2-2 Madagascar
Madagascar marked their Africa Cup of Nations debut with a draw against Group B opponents Guinea in Alexandria. Sory Kaba had put Guinea ahead after 34 minutes, but Madagascar responded with two goals in six second-half minutes through Anicet Andrianantenaina and Charles Carolus Andriamahitsinoro.
However, Francois Kamano’s 66th-minute penalty earned a point for Guinea after Romain Metanire had fouled Ibrahima Traore. Madagascar more than held their own in their first Africa Cup of Nations appearance, despite falling behind as Dijon striker Kaba latched on to Amadou Diawara’s pass and calmly rounded goalkeeper Melvin Adrien to score.
The Malagasy players ran to celebrate with their coaching staff as Andrianantenaina headed in the nation’s first-ever goal in the competition four minutes after half-time. And Andriamahitsinoro completed the turnaround as he slotted in to the bottom left corner for Nicolas Dupuis’ side – ranked 108 in the world. Guinea coach Paul Put responded by bringing on Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita for his first appearance since the 24-year-old sustained a groin injury against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final.
Metanire’s poorly-timed tackle on Traore allowed Guinea – who failed to qualify in 2017 – a route back into the match, and the 2015 quarter-finalists went close through Traore and Fulham’s Ibrahima Cisse as they pressed for a late winner which never came.
How do you rate the quality of matches at AFCON 2019 so far? Let us know in the comment section. Thanks…