Things are heating up in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) as the battle for reaching in the knockout stages reaches a crescendo.
The group stages in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is now two-thirds of the way through. Yet the participants for the knockout stages are yet to be confirmed in all groups.
This is especially true in Group E and F, both of which are tightly contested at this point. The latest results in the group means that qualification out of the group will be decided only after the final round of games.
In the twp Group E encounters, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone played out a 2-2 draw while Equatorial Guinea beat Algeria 1-0. This means that, in theory, all four teams can make it to the next round.
Ivory Coast were en route to winning their second group game and putting one foot in the knockouts. Sebastian Haller gave them the lead in the 25th minute and evem though Sierra Leone equalised in the second half, Nicholas Pepe restored their lead shortly thereafter.
But there was late drama as Alhaji Kamara scored an equaliser for Sierra Leone in injury time, thanks partly to a goalkeeping howler. As a result, the two teams shared the points.
That being said, the shock of the day was Equitorial Guinea’s 1-0 win. Sebastian Obiang scored the winner in the 70th minute as the minnows upset the reigning champions.
As mentioned earlier, all teams can currently qualify for the knockouts. But it is the defending champions who are arguably most in danger of elimination.
They need not only a win, but also for other results to go their way in the final group games.
In Group F, three of the four teams still stand a chance of making the second round. This is largely due to the fact that Tunisia registered a thumping 4-0 win over Mauritiana in their second group game.
Mauritiana are thus the only team with no chance of making it out of the knockouts; they have lost both their games thus far. As things stand, the top two spots belong to Gambia and Mali; they played out a 1-1 draw in their match.
Both Gambia and Mali have 4 points, whereas Tunisia have 3. Draws for both Gambia and Mali will do the trick; however, Tunisia will need a win and they take on Gambia in their final match.
Mali will take on Mauritiana and will fancy their chances of getting a result. The AFCON knockout stages begins from January 23 onwards, with the final on February 7.