Africa Cup of Nations Roundup: Senegal at Risk of Early Exit as Algeria Secure Knockout Place

​With just three games left to play on matchday two, the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations is starting to take shape and fans have been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride already this summer. It’s been an exciting couple of days in Egypt, with household names making the headlines both on the pitch and off it, while four teams have already secured their place in the knockout stages of the competition. So without bogging you down in all the boring details, here’s a quick rundown of the biggest and best talking points from Thursday and Friday’s action. Madagascar taking on Saido Berahino’s Burundi was hardly set to be an AFCON classic – and it certainly wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination. But a stunning second-half free-kick from Marco Ilaimaharitra, who plays his club football with Sporting Charleroi in Belgium, proved to be the difference between the two sides, prompting some outstanding and emotional scenes at the final whistle. It was a clash between two AFCON giants on Thursday in a match that will likely decide who will go through as Group C winners, and who will be left as the runners-up ahead of the knockout stages. Despite world-class talent like Sadio Mané and Riyad Mahrez being out on show in Egypt, the highly-anticipated match was seriously lacking in quality in the final third from both teams. But Algeria’s Mohamed Youcef Belaïli popped up with the all-important winning goal midway through the match, leaving goalkeeper Edouard Mendy helpless to stop a powerful right-footed effort from the edge of the penalty area. Raïs M’Bolhi was left largely untroubled in between the sticks for Algeria throughout the majority of the second half, with Les Fennecs holding out to secure a three-point lead at the top of Group C. Kenya’s win over Tanzania later in the day means that they will have a straight shootout with Senegal for second place in the group, while the losers will be forced to hope they can progress as one of the four best-placed teams in third place. Wahbi Khazri came close to breaking the deadlock for Tunisia in their clash against Mali with a stunning free-kick that ended up rebounding off the crossbar, and that was the closest they came before going one-goal behind on matchday two. RB Salzburg’s Diadie Samassekou saw a deep corner fumbled into his own net by former Southampton loanee Mouez Hassen, with Mali looking set to maintain their perfect start to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. But Khazri ensured that the points would be shared when he stepped up with another free-kick soon after, with goalkeeper Djigui Diarra completely stranded following a wicked deflection off the wall. All eyes will not turn to Angola’s match against Mauritania on Saturday, with everything still up for grabs in Group E. It wasn’t the 1-0 scoreline between Morocco and the Ivory Coast that left fans scratching their heads at full time – it appeared to be pretty much a coin toss before kick-off anyway – but rather the decision from manager Ibrahim Kamara to leave Wilfried Zaha as an unused substitute. He stressed after the game that it was simply a tactical decision after Serge Aurier’s injury, but it has left Les Éléphants in a tough position heading into the final matchday as they’re now level on points with South Africa.

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