AFCON 2023 Matchday 2 roundup: Nigeria, Egypt & Ghana struggle to impress

With the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2023) kicking off in style, Ivory Coast started with a statement win over Guinea-Bissau on Saturday, 13 January.

The following day, there were more action-packed matches, starting with Nigeria’s surprise draw against Equatorial Guinea.

The Super Eagles went into the game as favourites but were pleasantly surprised by National Thunder after proving wasteful in front of goal.

Victor Osimhen may have gotten on the score sheet, but the Napoli star failed to convert two other clear-cut chances, which ultimately proved costly to Jose Peseiro’s side.

AFCON 2023
Photo by Icon Sport

Sunday's AFCON 2023 talking points

Nigeria made to pay for their wastefulness

The Super Eagles are among the favourites for the AFCON 2023 title and by extension are expected to compete for the top spot of Group A. However, they failed to live up to the billing when it mattered against Equatorial Guinea.

Having made a dominant start to the game, Jose Peseiro’s side created a flurry of chances and were unlucky not to have taken the lead in the opening half-hour. The Super Eagles, however, reacted well to falling behind and restored parity just two minutes after Iban Salvador had put the National Thunder ahead.

Nigeria, though, had enough chances to bury their opponents but were culpable for missing the opportunities that came their way. To end a game with seven shots on target and score only scoring once depicts how wasteful the Super Eagles were and they were punished for it.

Ghana’s woeful AFCON record continues

Ghana went into AFCON 2023 on the back of failing to win a single game at the last edition of the tournament in Cameroon. The Black Stars finished bottom of their group in 2021, with the nadir being a humiliating loss to Comoros.

While two years have passed, not much has changed about Ghana, who were beaten by lowly-ranked Cape Verde in their opening game on Sunday.

Chris Hughton’s young team failed to show enough character and were largely second-best, as the Island nation claimed an upset with a 2-1 victory. Goals from Jamiro Monteiro and Garry Rodrigues ensured Alexander Djiku’s effort was only good for a consolation.

Salah and Egypt get reality check

Egypt went into AFCON on the back of an impressive record that had seen them lose only once in their last 14 matches. That did not matter much, though, when they faced Mozambique in their AFCON 2023 opener.

The Pharaohs scored early in the game through Mohammed Mostafa but capitulated in the second half, allowing Mozambique to rally their way to turn the game on its head.

That Egypt needed a last-minute penalty, which was converted by Mohamed Salah, to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat typifies the unpredictability of AFCON 2023 and serves as a reality check to the Pharaohs.

Play of the day

Our play of the day centres on Jesus Owono's incredible save to deny Victor Osimhen during Equatorial Guinea’s 1-1 draw with Nigeria.

What’s next?

Group C and D will kick off on Monday, 15 January, with Senegal taking on Gambia, while Cameroon face Guinea.

Algeria and Angola will also be involved in a mouthwatering encounter later in the day.  

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Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is an African sports writer, with bylines on DW, Al Jazeera, World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.