AFCON 2021: Defending champions Algeria suffer shock defeat to Equatorial Guinea

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Defending Africa Cup of Nations champions Algeria are on the verge of a surprise exit in the group stage after suffering a shock 1-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea late on Sunday.

Esteban Obiang netted the only goal of the game in the 70th minute as Equatorial Guinea, ranked 114th in the world, pulled off the biggest result of the tournament so far against the continent’s second-ranked team.

Algeria’s reserve bench during the Group E Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Algeria and Equatorial Guinea at Stade de Japoma in Douala. /Getty Images

Algeria did have the ball in the net twice but the respective efforts by Baghdad Bounedjah and Youcef Belaili were ruled out for offside. Equatorial Guinea also had goalkeeper Jesús Owono to thank for producing a string of saves to deny the pre-tournament favorites.

The defeat sent Algeria to the bottom of Group E on one point with just one game left as the Desert Foxes settled for a goalless draw against Sierra Leone in their first match.

Crucially, it also ended the North African side’s 35-match unbeaten streak which began in 2018. Algeria had been hoping to break Italy’s world record of 37 matches unbeaten.

Algeria now must defeat Côte d’Ivoire in their final group game to have any hope of advancing to the knockout phase.

Meanwhile, Côte d’Ivoire missed the chance to secure automatic qualification for the knockout phase after conceding a dramatic late equalizer in a 2-2 draw with Sierra Leone.

Côte d’Ivoire missed a chance to take an early lead after Sierra Leone goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara, hero of the previous match against Algeria, kept out Franck Kessié’s penalty in the 12th minute.

Côte d’Ivoire did take the lead, eventually, as Sébastien Haller netted the opener from close range after being set up by Wilfried Zaha.

However, Sierra Leone leveled the tie 10 minutes into the second half as Musa Kamara expertly controlled the ball and fired a left-footed shot high into the net.

Nicolas Pépé restored Côte d’Ivoire’s lead in the 65th minute with a low curling finish from just inside the penalty box.

With the game seemingly won, Côte d’Ivoire goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangaré had a moment of madness in which he spilled a headed-back pass back into play allowing Steven Caulker to pick out Alhadji Kamara who squeezed the ball into the net in the third minute of added time in the second half.

Côte d’Ivoire defender Serge Aurier was then forced to go in goal for the final minutes with Sangaré injured but no further goals were scored.

Côte d’Ivoire leads Group E with four points followed by Equatorial Guinea on three points while Sierra Leone is third with two points and Algeria has one point.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

Mixed results for African sides in U19 Cricket World Cup opening matches

By David Ochieng Mbewa

The 14th edition of the U19 ICC Cricket World Cup which kicked off on Friday in the West Indies saw Africa’s representatives register mixed results.

The only one of the three sides from the continent to pick up a victory was Zimbabwe who dismissed Papua New Guinea for 93 to claim a 228-run win at Queen’s Park Oval.

FILE PHOTO: A cricket ball is seen lying on a pitch. /CFP

The remaining two sides, South Africa and Uganda, suffered 45-run and 39-run defeats to India and Ireland, respectively.

Zimbabwe currently tops Group C with two points, ahead of Afghanistan and Pakistan, who are yet to play each other, and Papua New Guinea.

Zimbabwe is due to face Pakistan on Monday at the Diego Martin Sporting Complex in Diego Martin.

Meanwhile, Uganda and South Africa, who are in the same group, Group B, are third and fourth, respectively, behind India and Ireland.

Uganda will next play South Africa, winners of the competition in 2014, at Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain on Tuesday.

The top two teams from each of the four groups will advance to the Super League stage while the remaining teams will battle it out in the Plate tournament.

The Super League will take place from January 26 in Antigua and Barbuda while the Plate tournament will take place in Trinidad and Tobago from January 25-31.

The semifinals will be hosted by the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground and Coolidge Cricket Ground on February 1 and 2 while the final will be held at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground on February 5.

AFCON 2021: Nigeria qualifies for last 16, Salah earns Egypt first victory

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Nigeria sealed their place in the Round of 16 at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations after defeating Sudan 3-1 at the Stade Omnisport Roumdé Adjia in Garoua on Saturday.

The Super Eagles put in a dominant performance and cruised into a 2-0 lead at halftime courtesy of goals from Samuel Chukwueze and Taiwo Awoniyi.

FILE PHOTO: Nigeria celebrates a goal during a 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Afcon Finals match in Garoua, Cameroon. /CFP

Nigeria extended its lead shortly after the restart when Moses Simon combined with Awoniyi to slid the ball into the net.

Sudan grabbed a consolation after Walieldin Khidir converted a penalty which was awarded by referee Victor Gomes for a foul by Ola Aina.

This was the first time that Nigeria had won their opening Africa Cup of Nations games in consecutive tournaments, and it left them top of Group D with six points from two matches.

Meanwhile, seven-time champions Egypt bounced back from their loss in the opening game against Nigeria with a narrow 1-0 win against Guinea Bissau.

Captain Mohamed Salah scored the only goal of the game volleying in a cross from Amr El Solia in the 69th minute.

Victory saw Egypt leapfrog their opponents into second place with three points while Guinea Bissau is third with one point.

The final group matches will take place concurrently on January 19 with Egypt facing Sudan and Nigeria taking on Guinea Bissau.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

AFCON 2021: Senegal, Guinea play out goalless draw, Zimbabwe eliminated

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Senegal and Guinea kept alive their hopes of automatically qualifying for the Round of 16 of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations despite a goalless draw in their Group B match at the Kouekong Stadium in Bafoussam on Friday.

In a game in which possession was almost evenly shared and chances were far and few between, Senegal duo Bouna Sarr and Abdou Diallo were guilty of missing gilt-edged chances to score and give the 2019 runners-up a win that would more or less have secured passage to the knockout stages.

Diallo also had a strong header saved by Guinean stopper Aly Keita as Senegal applied pressure on Guinea with a series of set-pieces.

Guinea also had a glorious chance to break the deadlock before that when Ilaix Moriba set up Morgan Guilavogui at close range, but Senegalese goalkeeper Seny Dieng did well to keep out his effort.

The group’s other game saw Zimbabwe crash out of the tournament following a 2-1 loss to Malawi.

Gabadinho Mhango scored twice in the 43rd and 58th minutes as Malawi came from a goal down to stun The Warriors and snap a five-game losing streak.

Ishamel Wadi had opened the scoring for Zimbabwe who have now failed to win a competitive match in 13 attempts, losing nine of those fixtures.

Zimbabwe will hope to salvage some pride in their final group game against Guinea while Malawi will hope to secure passage into the knockout phase for the first time in three attempts albeit in a difficult encounter against Africa’s top-ranked side, Senegal.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

Mali welcomes China’s hosting of 2022 Olympic Winter Games

By XINHUA

Mali welcomed China to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, the transitional government spokesperson Abdoulaye Maiga said in a recent statement.

The National Speed Skating Oval, also known as the ‘Ice Ribbon’, the venue for speed skating events at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, is illuminated at night on January 4, 2021 in Beijing, China. /VCG via Getty Images

The 24th Olympic Winter Games are being held in a challenging health environment marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the situation, the Games retain their spirit of strengthening friendship and fraternity between nations in accordance with the Olympic spirit that should leave no room for political instrumentalization, said Maiga.

The Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games will be held from February 4 to 20.

AFCON 2021: Refereeing controversy mars Mali’s win against Tunisia

By David Ochieng Mbewa

10-man Mali defeated Tunisia 1-0 in a dramatic tie marred by a refereeing controversy in their Group F opener of the Africa Cup of Nations at the Limbe Stadium in Limbe on Wednesday.

Ibrahima Kone scored the only goal of the game converting a penalty three minutes into the second half after Ellyes Skhiri was controversially adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty box.

Tunisia pressed forward for an equalizer, had a chance to level the game when they were also awarded a contentious penalty for a handball by Mali’s Moussa Djenepo. Zambian referee had waved away Tunisia’s appeal but then went for a VAR check after Tunisian players clamored around him to plead their case.

However, captain Wahbi Khazri missed the resulting spot-kick in the 77th minute with Malian goalkeeper Ibrahim Mounkoro diving to his right to keep out Khazri’s effort.

A bizarre moment in the 85th minute saw Sikazwe blow the whistle to end the game only for the game to resume thereafter.

With three minutes of normal time left, Mali found themselves a man down after El Bilal Toure, who had come on as a substitute just six minutes earlier, was sent off for a dangerous tackle, with Sikazwe declining a VAR review of the incident.

The game came to an even more dramatic conclusion as Sikazwe blew the full-time whistle about 20 seconds before the end of the 90 minutes with no added time being played despite previous stoppages during the game for VAR checks.

Sikazwe’s move prompted an angry response from Tunisia’s players and coaching staff who stormed the pitch demanding to know why the game ended prematurely.

Match security officials had to come on to the pitch to escort Sikazwe and the other referees protecting them from the livid Tunisians.

Following the result, Mali sits top of the group with three points while Tunisia is bottom with no points. The other group game will be played between Mauritania and Gambia later on Wednesday.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

Sierra Leone holds Algeria to goalless draw in shock AFCON result

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Sierra Leone delivered the first shock result of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations after they held defending champions Algeria to a 0-0 draw in their Group E encounter at the Japoma Stadium in Douala on Tuesday.

It was just Sierra Leone’s third AFCON appearance, and their first match at the continental showpiece after a 26-year absence, compared to Algeria who were participating in the tournament for a 19th time.

FILE PHOTO: The Africa Cup of Nations trophy. /Getty Images

Algeria failed to seriously trouble Sierra Leone’s defence in the first half despite enjoying close to 70 percent possession.

A major upset looked to be on the cards shortly after the start of the second half when Mohamed Turay managed to put the ball past Algerian goalkeeper Raïs M’Bolhi. However, Sierra Leone’s joy was short-lived as the effort was ruled out because of an offside in the run-up to the goal.

Algeria upped the ante thereafter, even bringing on a trio of attacking players, but they were left frustrated as Leone Stars stopper Mohamed Kamara produced a host of excellent saves to keep the game scoreless.

The draw saw Algeria go joint top of the group on one point with Sierra Leone and extend their unbeaten run in the competition to nine matches.

Despite the result, Algeria will be aiming to bounce back and go all the way and win back-to-back AFCON tournaments for the first time since Egypt’s three in a row from 2006 and 2010.

The other group game will see two-time winners Côte d’Ivoire take on Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

Egypt’s Mohamed Salah nominated for FIFA’s The Best award

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah has been nominated for The Best FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award for 2021.

Salah, who plays his club football for Liverpool, will contest the award alongside last year’s winner Robert Lewandowski of Poland and Bayern Munich and 2021 Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi of Argentina and Paris Saint-Germain.

FILE PHOTO: Mohamed Salah during a past Premier League match. /Getty Images

Salah has had an excellent year with Liverpool and is currently the top scorer in the English Premier League with 16 goals. He also netted some spectacular goals, most notably against defending champions Manchester City and Watford with fans and pundits hailing his performances.

Lewandowski won the European Golden Shoe and broke a decades-long Bundesliga goalscoring record netting 41 goals.

Messi, on the other hand, helped Argentina win the Copa America, the nation’s first major trophy in nearly three decades.

Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo was the winner of the first FIFA’s The Best award in its current format in 2016 and he went on to retain it in 2017.

Meanwhile, the three players on the final shortlist for The Best FIFA Women’s Player of the Year are Alexia Putellas and Jennifer Hermoso, both of Spain and Barcelona, and Sam Kerr of Australia and Chelsea.

The awards are voted for by international managers, captains of international teams, journalists and fans.

The award winners will be announced in a virtual ceremony on January 17.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

Senegal, Morocco kick off AFCON 2021 campaigns with slim victories

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Day two of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations on Monday saw action in Groups B and C get underway with the four matches all yielding similar 1-0 results and the pre-match favorites all claiming victories.

In the day’s first match, Senegal defeated Zimbabwe 1-0 in their Group B game at the Kouekong Stadium in Baffoussam with Liverpool forward Sadio Mané converting a late penalty to snatch victory at the death.

FILE PHOTO: The Africa Cup Of Nations trophy during a past Africa Cup of Nations Final soccer match. /Getty Images

Despite missing nine players, including captain Kalidou Koulibaly and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, who were sidelined due to positive COVID-19 tests, the 2019 AFCON runners-up still came into the match as favourites.

The Lions of Teranga dominated possession and created good chances but failed to break the deadlock due to some poor finishing.

With the game seemingly headed for a draw, the referee awarded Senegal a spot-kick deep into added time in the second half after Pape Gueye’s shot hit Kelvin Madzongwe’s arm in the penalty box. A VAR check confirmed the decision and Mané stepped up to score his 27th international goal.

The other group game saw Guinea edge Malawi by a similar score at the same venue. The West Africans had the lion’s share of the ball but Malawi created more chances with Guinea goalkeeper Aly Keita pulling off multiple saves.

The game’s lone goal was scored 10 minutes before halftime when José Kanté wriggled free of Gomezgani Chirwa in the penalty box to set up Issiaga Sylla for a simple finish.

In Group C, Sofiane Boufal’s strike seven minutes from time earned Morocco a 1-0 win against four-time champions Ghana at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaoundé.

Morocco came into the game having only lost once in the whole of 2021 – a 5-3 defeat on penalties to eventual champions Algeria in the semifinals of the FIFA Arab Cup – and only conceding four times in 21 matches, tilting the odds slightly in favor of the Atlas Lions.

Boufal was in the right place at the right time to latch onto a loose ball in Ghana’s penalty box to fire a shot past past goalkeeper Joseph Luke Wollacot.

Morocco are joined at the top of the group on three points with Gabon who beat Comoros Islands with Aaron Boupendza’s strike after 16 minutes proving the difference.

Tuesday’s action will see defending champions Algeria play Sierra Leone in Group E while the pick of the games will see Nigeria take on seven-time champions Egypt. The action will be closed out by Sudan’s match against Guinea Bissau.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

Ebenyo, Jeruto lead Kenyan sweep of men and women’s 10 km races in Valencia

By David Ochieng Mbewa

There was double delight for Kenya as Daniel Ebenyo and Norah Jeruto both claimed the men’s and women’s titles in their respective 10 km races in windy conditions in the Spanish city of Valencia on Sunday.

Ebenyo, 26, ran a personal best of 26:58 finishing ahead of Ethiopia’s Chimdessa Gudeta and compatriot Jacob Krop who came in second and third respectively.

Those times recorded by Gudeta and Krop of 27:10 and 27:23, respectively, were career and personal bests.

As for Ebenyo, this was his latest victory in a road race in Spain after he also finished first in the San Silvestre Vallecana

Meanwhile, race favorite Jeruto won the women’s title in a time of 30:35 defeating Karolin Grovdal who came in second three seconds later in a time of 30:38. Another Kenyan, Gladys Chepkirui, finished third in 30:48 after her Grovdal overhauled her about some 1500m remaining.

It was the 26-year-old’s first title win in her last four attempts after the previous three ended up with her securing a podium finish but not the title.