International tournaments are often seen as easy to predict, after all, there is usually a gulf in talent and class between the top few teams and the others. Of course, it is never that easy to predict tournaments, and after the first round of games, AFCON 2017 is proving to be no exception to the rule.
Group A has two clear favorites in Gabon and Cameroon, but both teams were unable to see off challenges from less glamorous opponents, and all four teams are on one point after one match played. Cameroon scored first, but Burkina Faso tied the match up in the 75’ minute after a goal by Issoufou Dayo. The goalie for Burkina Faso, Kouakou Herve Koffi, had earlier in the match denied a goalscoring opportunity from Cameroon’s Christian Bassogog by coming approximately six miles off his line and producing a sliding tackle that sent Bassogog into orbit. Gabon was denied a victory in the dying moments of the match by Guinea-Bissau’s Jury Soares, who plays in the Portuguese third division for CD Mafra.
Riyad Mahrez's second goal for Algeria pic.twitter.com/juHcLGSHFa— Dean Ammi (@whufcammi) January 15, 2017
Group B featured Senegal being captained by West Ham’s own Cheikhou Kouyate who drew the penalty that Liverpool’s Sadio Mane covered in the 10th minute. Senegal went on to score another goal in the 30th minute and held on to beat Tunisia. Algeria, one of the other favorites in the tournament (and BTH pick) was lucky to come back from 2-1 down to tournament minnows Zimbabwe to draw 2-2. Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez scored both goals for the Desert Foxes. The results mean that Senegal are in the lead in the group with three points, Zimbabwe and Algeria both have a point and Tunisia is alone at the foot of the group with one point.
Group C also had a surprise result, with Togo netting a draw with Cote d’Ivoire. The defending champions of AFCON were boosted by the competitive debut of Crystal Palace’s ex-England winger Wilfried Zaha, but were unable to get past a Togo team that featured ex-Arsenal player Emmanuel Adebayor. DR Congo scored a win over Morocco to take the lead in the group. After a pay dispute lead the team to boycott training before the tournament started, DR Congo put the drama behind them to beat Morocco with a goal from Junor Kabananga and held on after going down to 10 men. Northampton Town’s Gabriel Zakuani played injured at the end of the match to keep the team from going down to nine men after all the substitutes had already been used.
GOAL! West Ham's record signing Andre Ayew scores from the penalty spot. 1-0 pic.twitter.com/BdUXiixHAW— Dean Ammi (@whufcammi) January 17, 2017
Group D featured West Ham’s Andre Ayew. Ayew scored the only goal in Ghana’s win over Uganda from the penalty spot after a number of good chances from Ghana were turned away by Uganda, who seemed to have parked the team buses in the penalty area in the first half. Mali and Egypt played to a nil-nil draw in the final game of the first round, with neither side able to break through. Egypt’s 44 year old goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary is now the oldest player to have featured at AFCON after he came on as a sub in the 25th minute, replacing Razek El-Shenawy because of an injury.