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WAFU Women’s Cup draw throws up interesting groups

Defending champions Ghana will face hosts Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Senegal in Group A.

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The draw for the second edition of the WAFU Women’s Cup have been held with reigning African champions, the Super Falcons of Nigeria facing Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger in Group B of the tournament.

The draws were held on Tuesday in Abidjan, capital of the host country Cote d’Ivoire. Defending champions Ghana will face hosts Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Senegal in Group A.

Cote d’Ivoire will take on Togo in the competition’s opening match on May 6.

The top two teams from Group A and B progress to the semi-finals with the losers and winners facing-off in the third-place and final matches. The eight-nation tournament will serve as preparations for a Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifier for Ghana and Mali, while Nigeria continue their build-up for the 2019 Women’s World Cup holding in France.

Ghana defeated hosts Cote d’Ivoire 1-0 in the final of the inaugural edition of the tournament in February 2018. The tournament will hold in the Ivorian capital  from 8-18 May.

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AFCON 2019: Teranga Lions dominate Tanzania in Group C opener

Senegal will next face Algeria on Thursday

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AFCON 2019: Teranga Lions dominate Tanzania in Group C opener

The Teranga Lions of Senegal started their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations campaign with a comfortable 2-0 win over the Taifa Stars of Tanzania in a Group C encounter. Playing without captain Sadio Mane who was serving a one match suspension, the West Africans were never troubled by their opponents.

Striker M’Baye Niang twice came close to opening the scoring in the first six minutes before the Lions inevitably took the lead after 28 minutes. Keita Balde Diao lashed home a left-footed strike that goalkeeper, Aishi Manula couldn’t hold.

Rennes forward, Ismaila Sarr had a goal disallowed midway through the first half after Cheikhou Kouyate was penalised for handball in the build-up.

Manula was called upon many times to prevent the scoreline from widening but Alio Cisse’s team eventually had their dominance rewarded in the 64th minute in truly spectacular fashion.

Tanzania failed to clear a corner properly and Krepin Diatta hammered home a thunderbolt from the edge of the box to seal the win. Senegal will next face Algeria on Thursday.

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Ivory Coast hope on Nicolas Pepe to banish memories of disastrous AFCON outing

The 2015 champions were held by Togo and the Democratic Republic of Congo and lost against Morocco to make an undignified exit from Gabon after the first round.

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Ivory Coast coach Ibrahim Kamara sees Nicolas Pepe as one of the young stars who can banish the memories of a disastrous Africa Cup of Nations title defence two years ago. The 2015 champions were held by Togo and the Democratic Republic of Congo and lost against Morocco to make an undignified exit from Gabon after the first round.

Kamara hopes Pepe, the 22-goal second highest French Ligue 1 scorer last season behind superstar Kylian Mbappe, can ensure there is no repeat of that debacle in Egypt. “We are building a team to match the great ones of the past and hope players like Nicolas can take us a long way in Egypt,” said Kamara.

Ivory Coast is in Group D with South Africa – who they face in Cairo on Monday – Morocco and Namibia, a section widely regarded as the toughest of the six to qualify from. Here is a preview of the three-match Monday schedule, which also includes a Group E double-header in Suez involving Angola, Mali, debutants Mauritania and Tunisia.

Ivory Coast v South Africa – these countries resume a rivalry 21 years after drawing 1-1 in Burkina Faso, and a similar outcome at the Al Salam Stadium would not be surprising as neither side dare lose. “As much as every team wants to win its first tournament match, it is crucial not to lose because it puts you on the back foot immediately,” says South Africa coach Stuart Baxter.

While Ivory Coast has a potential matchwinner in Pepe from Ligue 1 runners-up Lille, South Africa hope Percy Tau can rise to the occasion after a season in the Belgian second division. The slightly-built attacker was signed by Premier League outfit Brighton last season, lent to Royale Union Saint-Gilloise in Belgium, and his brace against Libya ensured qualification for Egypt.

South Africa had a puzzling build-up with Baxter rejecting a chance to play in a regional championship, then complaining that he had only one warm-up match, a draw against Ghana.

Angola v Tunisia – This is another match that brings together teams for only the second time in the Cup of Nations, with a goalless draw 11 years ago in Ghana ensuring both of quarter-finals places. It will be a record-extending 14th straight appearance at the tournament by the Tunisians, who failed to go beyond the group stage only four times.

“Our first target is the quarter-finals and after that, we shall see,” says cautious Tunisia coach and 19080s France star Alain Giresse. “Tunisia has been serious contenders in many Cup of Nations and my dream is to take them back to the top,” he said.

Angola is a workmanlike side whose star is a wide attacker from Egyptian giants Al Ahly nicknamed Geraldo – real name Hermenegildo da Costa Paulo Bartolomeu.

Mali v Mauritania – Mali created several negative pre-tournament headlines with FIFA threatening to ban the country from the Cup of Nations over squabbling among officials.

Mohamed Magassouba then took four days longer than any of the other 23 coaches to name his squad, without offering an explanation.

Such chaotic build-ups can build team unity or destroy it as Mali seek to regain a reputation for punching well above their weight in the African showpiece.  “We have to do better than in the last two tournaments,” stressed defender Hamari Traore, referring to first-round exits in 2015 and 2017 without winning even one match.

Long-time pushovers Mauritania has improved steadily under French coach Corentin Martins, whose aim in Egypt is simply to “be competitive and achieve some victories”.

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AFCON 2019 begins with narrow victory for Egypt

Egypt started their bid for a record-extending eighth Africa Cup of Nations trophy with a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe

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AFCON 2019 begins with narrow victory for Egypt
AFCON 2019 opening ceremony - Photo credit: CAF Online

The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations kicked off in grand style with a colourful opening ceremony followed by the opening match between the hosts, Egypt, and Zimbabwe.

In keeping with April’s spectacular tournament draw under the gaze of the Sphinx, the 30-minute opening ceremony featured a backdrop of pyramids and statues from Egyptian mythology mixed with elegant dancers that set the stage for a fireworks display to illuminate the ground.

AFCON 2019 begins with narrow victory for Egypt
Photo Credit: CAF

The arrival of the Egyptian players for the warm-up induced a deafening roar from the capacity 75,000-crowd, who predictably reserved the loudest reception for Salah as his name was read out among the starting line-ups. 

Egypt started their bid for a record-extending eighth Africa Cup of Nations trophy on Friday with a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe in Cairo in a tournament expanded to 24 teams and played in June and July for the first time.

With the temperature having dipped to a more palatable 27 Celsius (81 Fahrenheit) by the start, Egypt – the tournament favourites and 2017 runners-up – immediately looked threatening, with Salah orchestrating much of the attack as he swung in a pair of teasing crosses, the second forcing Edmore Sibanda to tip over a looping Marwan Mohsen header.  

Salah was again involved 10 minutes later, intricately exchanging passes on the edge of the Zimbabwe box to carve out a chance for Abdallah Elsaid, whose shot was palmed away by Sibanda before Trezeguet lashed over the rebound.

As Zimbabwe struggled to develop any sort of rhythm with outstanding midfielder Khama Billiat contained, Salah again had a boisterous, largely red-clad crowd on their feet when he wriggled past his marker only to shoot over from a difficult angle.

AFCON 2019 begins with narrow victory for Egypt
Zimbabwe’s defender Divine Lunga (R) is marked by Egypt’s forward Mohamed Salah during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Egypt and Zimbabwe at Cairo International Stadium on June 21, 2019. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

Liverpool star Salah, on a redemption mission with Egypt after injury derailed a miserable World Cup campaign last year, looked sharp although the hosts needed a 41st-minute goal by Mahmoud ‘Trezeguet’ Hassan to get off to a winning start in Group A.

Trezeguet rises to the occasion

A blocked attempt by Zimbabwe captain Knowledge Musona represented the southern Africans’ lone genuine attempt in the first half as a dominant Egypt eventually broke through just before the interval.

Zimbabwe’s efforts to play out from defence backfired and the talented Trezeguet, formerly of Anderlecht and now with Kasimpasa in Turkey, shifted the ball onto his right foot before sweeping clinically into the far corner.  

AFCON 2019 begins with narrow victory for Egypt
CAIRO, EGYPT – JUNE 21: Trezeguet (R) of Egypt in action during the opening football match of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Group A match between Egypt and Zimbabwe at the Cairo International Stadium in Cairo, Egypt on June 21, 2019. Fared Kotb / Anadolu Agency

Trezeguet, who scored three times in five qualifiers for the event, was quickly sensing another when his curling 20-yard strike was flicked behind by a sprawling Sibanda early into the second half. 

The Zimbabwe goalkeeper felt the brunt of a crunching collision with Mohsen on the hour, producing a courageous stop to deny the forward after a clever first touch created the opportunity. 

Sibanda was again tested low to his right by a Salah effort on his weaker foot, with Egypt ‘keeper Mohamed El Shenawy finally called into action to handle a speculative Billiat drive just before the second of two mandated heat breaks on 70 minutes.

It appeared Salah’s moment was going to arrive in the final minutes but Elvis Chipezeze, on for the injured Sibanda, plunged low to his right, when substitute Amr Warda perhaps offered the forward a better option across the face of goal. 

Egyptian hearts were momentarily in mouths when an unmarked Evans Rusike rose to meet a cross but he was unable to keep his header down, allowing Egypt to emerge with an opening victory in their quest to win the competition for the fourth time as hosts in five editions.  

Assistant coach Hany Ramzy said: “These are the first three points in a long competition. The match was difficult, and maybe at some stages we made it hard on ourselves.”

Man of the match Mahmoud Alaa said after the victory: “I congratulate all the Egyptian people on the first win.”

AFCON 2019 begins with narrow victory for Egypt
Egypt’s defender Mahmoud Alaa (R) fights for the ball with Zimbabwe’s midfielder Ovidy Karuru during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Egypt and Zimbabwe at Cairo International Stadium on June 21, 2019. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

The defender added: “We should be better in the upcoming matches. Our aim in this competition is to win the title.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda are the other teams in Group A and they meet Saturday at the same venue, while Nigeria begin their campaign against newcomers Burundi in Alexandria. 

Guinea meanwhile take on Madagascar, the second of three countries appearing in the event for the first time.

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