Africa Cup of Nations Group Stage Roundup: Benin Seal First Ever Knockout Spot as Ghana Top Group F

The Africa Cup of Nations group stage came to a close with a bang, as Benin sealed their first ever progression to the knockout stages with a hard-fought point against holders Cameroon, ensuring Ghana of top spot in Group F following a 2-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau.  Meanwhile, in Group E, Mali’s 1-0 win against Angola – thanks to a scorcher from RB Leipzig’s Amadou Haidara – meant they topped Group E, simultaneously securing South Africa’s place in the last 16 ahead of the Angolans.  Check out our full group-by-group breakdown of the tournament so far below. Egypt completed their sweep of Group A with a 2-0 win against Uganda on Sunday night, with surprise goalscorer Mohamed Salah netting his second of the tournament. The Pharaohs’ nine points place them alongside Morocco and Algeria as the only teams with perfect records going into the last 16, with a tie against one of the best third-placers their reward. With Uganda already nailing themselves to second spot before that loss, the only question was whether DR Congo or Zimbabwe could land themselves one of the four spots available to third-placed sides, and it was Congo that did it, and in style too, with a 4-0 victory setting up a last 16 clash with the tournament darlings of Group B. Speak of the devil, here they are! Yes, unbelievably, the rank outsiders from Madagascar upset the books to beat three-time winners Nigeria 2-0 on Sunday, displacing them from atop Group B in the process. That incredible shock means the Barea will, yes, face DR Congo next, with Nigeria forced into an encounter with the defending champions. Guinea’s 2-0 triumph over Burundi was also enough for them to nab a third-place spot, taking them to four points and setting up a tie with the winners of Group C. It was a tale of two 3-0s in Group C, as both Algeria and Senegal romped home to impressive victories against Tanzania and Kenya respectively in their final group stage outings.  This ensured Riyad Mahrez and co. kept up their 100% record, with that tie to Guinea to look forward to, after ex-Leicester and Newcastle forward Islam Slimani notched his first score of the tournament.  As for Senegal, it was main man Sadio Mane at the double, and up next is a clash with Group A runners-up Uganda. Remember, for a number of reasons, #ItMeansMore for Mane at this AFCON. A 90th-minute free kick from Mbark Boussoufa against South Africa was enough for Morocco to maintain that perfect start, though the South Africans weren’t smarting for long, after Angola’s loss propelled them to progression. A group of knockout novices await the Atlas Lions, with the Bafana Bafana set for a clash with hosts Egypt. That left Ivory Coast needing a victory against Namibia to secure second-place, which they managed in emphatic fashion, with Wilfried Zaha grabbing his first goal of the tournament in a 4-1 win. It’s the Group E winners for them, then, in the last 16. As mentioned, Amadou Haidara struck a goal-of-the-tournament-contender aplomb to down Angola, handing Mali top spot in Group E, and a clash with Les Elephants. And Angola’s loss was Tunisia’s gain, with a 0-0 stalemate with Mauritania sufficient for second-place, despite remaining winless throughout the group. In order for the Eagles of Carthage to reach their third successive AFCON quarter-finals, that first victory will have to come against the winners of Group F.  And, as mentioned in the intro, goals from Jordan Ayew and Thomas Partey helped Ghana to the 2-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau that earned them top spot and a clash with the Tunisians, thanks to a superior goalscoring record. That superior record, combined with an ignominious stalemate with Benin, confined holders Cameroon to second place, confirming a mouthwatering game with Nigeria in the next round. As for Benin, who are captained by Stephane Sessegnon of West Brom and Sunderland fame, it’s the unbeaten Morocco. Here’s the full list of Last 16 fixtures: Uganda vs. Senegal 5 July, Cairo Morocco vs. Benin 5 July, Cairo Nigeria vs. Cameroon 6 July, Alexandria Egypt vs. South Africa 6 July, Cairo Madagascar vs. DR Congo 7 July, Alexandria Algeria vs. Guinea 7 July, Cairo Ghana vs. Tunisia 8 July, Ismailia Mali vs. Ivory Coast 8 July, Suez

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