Mohamed Salah saved Egypt from an embarrassing defeat in their opening game at the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday, while Nigeria were held by Equatorial Guinea despite Victor Osimhen getting on the scoresheet. Ghana were also in action in Abidjan and suffered a shock 2-1 loss to Cape Verde as three nations with 14 Afcon titles between them all failed to get off to winning starts at this year’s tournament.
There was drama at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Ivory Coast’s economic capital as Egypt needed a Salah penalty seven minutes into injury time to snatch a 2-2 draw with Mozambique in Group B. The penalty was awarded following a VAR check for a foul on Mostafa Mohamed, and Salah’s strike denied Mozambique a historic first ever Afcon win.
“I was sad seeing my players devastated at the end because we deserved the win,” said Mozambique coach Chiquinho Conde. His nation had not won a game in four past appearances at the Afcon, and their winless record now spans 13 matches in total.
Mohamed had given record seven-time African champions Egypt the ideal start when he scored inside two minutes, but the sapping heat and humidity seemed to get the better of the Pharaohs.
Mozambique equalised through a Witiness Quembo header on 55 minutes and completed the turnaround when substitute Clesio Bauque burst through to make it 2-1 three minutes later.
Salah saved Egypt, but it was not a convincing start to their campaign in Ivory Coast where they are attempting to win a record-extending eighth Afcon crown and a first since 2010, before the Liverpool superstar had made his international debut.
“I want to win every match I play and when we don’t I am sad, but there are no easy games,” said Egypt coach Rui Vitoria. We were not the best team before the draw was made and we are not the worst now.
Suddenly Egypt’s next game on Thursday against Ghana could be make or break for both, with the Black Stars reeling after conceding in injury time to lose 2-1 to Cape Verde.
The Black Stars looked set to come away with a draw after Alexander Djiku headed home on 56 minutes to cancel out Jamiro Monteiro’s first-half opener.
But Cape Verde pounced on poor defending to grab all three points in the 92nd minute, with substitute Garry Rodrigues tucking the ball into a gaping goal to the shock of Ghana fans in the crowd of just under 12 000.
“We want to show the world what we can do, that we are small but we can compete on footballing terms with all teams in Africa,” said Cape Verde coach Pedro ‘Bubista’ Brito.
The evening was also notable for the appearance as a substitute of Andre Ayew, with the 34-year-old becoming only the third player to feature in eight editions of the competition.
Yet of far greater concern to Ghanaians is the result for a country whose tally of four Afcon victories is bettered only by Egypt and Cameroon. They went out of the last edition in 2022 in the group stage and Chris Hughton’s team also came here off the back of a 1-0 defeat to the Comoros in World Cup qualifying in November.
“We conceded a very poor goal, and hence it is a very disappointing night for us,” Hughton said of Cape Verde’s winner. We have no choice but to make sure it is a favourable result in our next game against Egypt.”
Three-time champions Nigeria are hoping the presence of African Player of the Year Osimhen can spark a successful campaign but they were held to a 1-1 draw by Equatorial Guinea in Group A.
Osimhen nodded in to level in the first half almost immediately after Iban Edu had opened the scoring in match that ended with both teams on one point, two fewer than Ivory Coast.
The tournament hosts beat Guinea-Bissau 2-0 in the same Ebimpe Olympic Stadium on Saturday. I am not happy. This draw does not suit us. Our team created a lot of chances but we did not score,” said Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro.
Of concern to organisers will be the sight of a practically empty stadium, with very few fans attending the game in the 60 000-capacity ground. Holders Senegal kick off their campaign on Monday against Gambia in Group C in Yamoussoukro, with Cameroon and Algeria also in action.
In other news – Zahara’s reality show to continue after her passing
Despite her untimely passing in December 2023, the second season of platinum-selling musician Zahara’s reality TV series, titled Zahara – As I Rise, will still air. This is according to a source who told Zimoja that the family is still in talks with the SABC about the show.
“She wanted to shoot the new season and show the lobola celebration and everything. But she became ill. Read more