GOAL analyses major happenings in the concluded campaign held in Cameroon
In the Group F match featuring Mali and Tunisia staged in Limbe on January 12, both teams were desperate for victory. Mali went on to score their goal through Ibrahima Kone – from the penalty spot – while the Carthage Eagles wasted their chance courtesy of Wahbi Khazri.
However, the spotlight was on Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe; he reportedly failed to stop his watch and went on to blow the final whistle in the 85th minute. He was corrected but again ended the game with a few seconds remaining in regulation time. Tunisia, later on, refused to return to the pitch to play the final few minutes. It was later revealed Sikazwe had health issues that affected him.
Coming into the competition, favourites Algeria had gone 34 matches without tasting defeat. However, things did not go for them as planned.
Sierra Leone held them to a goalless draw before Equatorial Guinea claimed a shocking 1-0 win. They fell 3-1 to Ivory Coast and were eliminated from the competition. It was unexpected but it happened, giving them a chance to go back to the drawing board.
Ghana’s humiliating exit
Just like the former champions, Ghana were considered among the favourites and nobody would have predicted they would fall in the first hurdle. Things did not work out for the West African nation from the first game where they lost to Morocco by a solitary goal.
There were ugly scenes in the 1-1 draw with Gabon that saw Benjamin Tetteh get suspended for three games, before a 3-2 loss to debutants Comoros sent them packing. Questions will be asked about the impact of Andre and Jordan Ayew. Will they redeem their reputation in the World Cup qualifiers?
Mukansanga makes history
Rwanda referee Salima Rhadia Mukansanga made history as the first-ever woman referee to officiate in the Africa Cup of Nations when she blew the whistle for Zimbabwe’s surprise 2-1 victory over Guinea on January 18.
The 35-year-old, who had already served as the fourth official during the Malawi versus Guinea fixture, took charge of the Group B clash at Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium.
Cameroon recover to finish third
The host’s journey to the final was cut short by Egypt in the semis and they had to play Burkina Faso in the third-place playoff. It was the only chance for the hosts to finish in the podium places.
However, they looked lost when the Stallions scored three goals within the first half through Steeve Yago, Andre Onana (own goal), and Djibril Ouattara. With 20 minutes to go, Vincent Aboubakar struck a brace after Stephane Bahoken initially scored, to send the game to penalties where Cameroon earned bronze.
Senegal finally crowned
Senegal graced the final in 2002 but fell to Cameroon 3-2 in the shootout after a goalless draw in regulation time. In 2019, they again played well and qualified for the last hurdle. However, they were downed by Algeria by a solitary goal scored early in the game by Baghdad Bounedjah.
In 2022 they made it to the final again, better and well prepared and they played Egypt. The Pharaohs managed to survive the first 120 minutes after many opportunities for the Teranga Lions. This time around, they were not going to let it go, Sadio Mane fired the winning penalty to hand Aliou Cisse the trophy.