By Taiwo Adeyinka
The 34th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON 2023, hosted by Cote d’Ivoire, came with shocks, upsets and last minute celebrations for the 24 participating teams. Taiwo Adeyinka reviews the games on platinummnewsng.com.
12 of the top two teams and the top four from best third placed teams in the the six group stages made it to the Round of 16 which is scheduled to begin on Saturday, January 27.
Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameron, Angola, Mauritania, Egypt, Guinea, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Mali, South Africa, Namibia, Morocco, Zambia, and Congo DR have made it to the first knock-out stage where only the best over 90 minutes or extra time and possibly penalty shootouts will make it out alive.
Equatorial Guinea ended at the top of Group A with two wins and a draw, progressing into the round of sixteen with 7 points and 9 goals. That is surely a great feat. With this standing, there seems to be hope in the next match against Guinea which survived the group stage as third place in Group C with 4 points. Emilio Nsue, who plays forward for the team and having scored 5 goals has emerged the highest goal scorer so far in the competition, placing Equatorial Guinea in spotlight.
Nigeria which is second in line in Group A, after two wins and one draw as well, with 7 points and 3 goals, proceeds to the round of sixteen. That seems to be a long bridge to the top of the table. The buckle needs to be tighter for the race ahead against Cameron on 27th of January. Hopefully, Victor Osimeh who is that talk of the team might have some sparks in stock for the game ahead.
Cape Verde (CPI) and Egypt emerged the first and second of Group B with 7 points and 3 points respectively. CPI qualified to the round of sixteen with two wins and one draw and with 7 goals while Egypt qualified with three draws and 5 goals.
Senegal which seems to be one of the best teams so far in the competition as it won all its three games and ended at the top of Group C with 9 points and 8 goals is up against Zambia which emerged third place in Group F with 2points. The next match for Senegal seem to be a piece of cake. However, football is a game of chance some days. Aliou Cissé is the reigning coach currently as his players have proved him so to have done exceedingly well during the AFCON qualifiers and not letting their guards down during the AFCON group stage by winning all three matches. Aliou, who is one of the longest serving manager would be proud of his team and hoping to have the AFCON cup remain with him. The defending lion might as well continue to hold fast even as Kalidou Koulibaly who plays centre-back carries on efficiently what he knows how to do best.
Cameron qualified as the second in line in Group C with 4 points after on draw, one loss and one win.
Guinea which is up against Equatorial Guinea survived the group stage with 4 points. Kaba Diawara might want to put on his whole armour for this match.
Angola is the light bearer of Group D after one draw and two wins with 7 points and 5 goals. Burkina Faso walks right behind in the light as the second in the group after one win, one draw, and one loss with 4 points and 3 goals. Hopefully , this remain would change: “We are not going to find any excuses. We are going to win this match.” As mentioned by Hubert Velud, Burkina Faso’s head coach in a post published on 23rd of January, 2024 on cafonine.com; yet they lost to Angola. As they go against Mali in round sixteen knockout stage, hopefully the statement made by Hubert will be manifested.
Mauritania joined the race of round sixteen with 3 points after one draw, one win and one loss.
Mali leads the group with 5 points. South Africa and Namibia survived the group stage as the second and third of Group E with points 4 points each.
Morocco, Zambia and Congo DR emerged as the survival of Group F. It was a slim chance for Zambia which scaled through with a goal ahead of Tanzania.
Conclusively in the group stage of AFCON’23, Senegal having 9 points emerged as the team with the highest points and Equatorial Guinea with 9 goals emerged the teams with the highest goal scored so far in the competition.
Nevertheless, the round of 16 is a tough stage as the teams which barely survived and those which hope was on their sides need to girdle their loins, for the knock-out stage is much more than luck. By thee night of January 30th, the survivors will be known.