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AFCON: Host send defending champion packing, ‘Underdog’ Cape Verde through to next round

Source: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

In a nail-biting showdown at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), Cote d’Ivoire emerged victorious over Senegal after a tense penalty shootout. The match, which ended 1-1 in regular time, saw Cote d’Ivoire secure a 5-4 win on penalties, sealing their spot in the quarter-finals.

Senegal, the defending champions, entered the tournament with high hopes after winning all three of their group-stage matches. However, they fell short against a resilient Ivorian side, unable to break the curse that has plagued defending champions in recent editions of the tournament.

The history of defending champions struggling in subsequent AFCON tournaments continued as Senegal joined the ranks of teams unable to advance past the round of 16. Previous victims of this include Algeria in 2021 (group stage), Cameroon in 2019 (round of 16), and Côte d’Ivoire in 2017 (group stage), among others.

Despite Senegal’s strong showing in the group stage, their journey came to an abrupt end against Cote d’Ivoire. The Ivorian team, although facing struggles of their own, managed to overcome the odds and secure a crucial victory when it mattered most.

Earlier, seven-time champions Egypt suffered a stunning exit from the tournament after a nail-biting penalty shootout against DR Congo. Despite the absence of their star player Mohamed Salah due to injury, Egypt had hoped to continue their quest for glory. However, their journey came to an abrupt end in San-Pedro on Sunday, as they succumbed to a heartbreaking 8-7 defeat in the shootout.

DR Congo beat Egypt on penalties in Cup of Nations last-16 | Reuters DR Congo

The tension-filled last-16 clash saw both teams battle fiercely, with neither able to secure victory in regular time or during the added extra time. DR Congo’s Meschack Elia drew first blood with a goal in the 37th minute, putting Egypt on the back foot. However, Egypt’s Mostafa Mohamed stepped up when it mattered most, equalizing with a penalty just before halftime.

As the match extended into penalties, the pressure mounted on both sides. Goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi emerged as the unlikely hero for DR Congo, converting the winning spot-kick after Egypt’s Mohamed Abou Gabal’s miss. 

Meanwhile, in another quarter-final qualifier match, Cape Verde secured a memorable victory over Mauritania. The Blue Sharks continued their fairy-tale run in the tournament, with Ryan Mendes’ 88th-minute penalty proving to be the decisive moment.

Cape Verde’s unexpected success has added a new dimension to the Africa Cup of Nations, proving that underdogs can rise to the occasion on the grandest stage of African football.

Ryan Mendes 

Cape Verde players celebrating.

 

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