Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr hailed his side’s friendly victory over Africa Cup of Nations hosts and favourites Egypt, but admitted they still need to improve before the tournament starts in June.
A stunning goal by Paul Onuachu inside a minute proved to be the winner for Nigeria inside a packed Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba.
“This was not a good match, it was a great match for us against one of the top favourites for the Africa Cup of Nations,” Rohr told reporters after Tuesday’s game.
“We still have to improve, but we’re about 69-percent ready for the Africa Cup.”
Three-time African champions Nigeria will play two more friendlies to prepare for the event, which they last qualified for in 2013, when they lifted the title.
“We’re ready for the Africa Cup of Nations,” said goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa.
“The win against Egypt has given us a lot of confidence leading up to the tournament.”
The Cup of Nations starts on June 21, with the draw yet to be held and the venues still to be announced after Cameroon was stripped of the hosting rights and replaced with Egypt.
Benin stun Morocco in AFCON round of 16
The squirrels of Benin have reached an AFCON quarter final for the first time
Benin stunned Africa Cup of Nations title contenders Morocco on penalties to reach the quarter-finals for the first time after a 1-1 draw in Cairo on Friday.
Moise Adilehou put Benin ahead early in the second half before Youssef En-Nesyri equalised, but Hakim Ziyech blew the chance to seal victory for Morocco by striking the post with a 96th-minute penalty.
Sofiane Boufal and En-Nesyri both missed in the shootout as Benin, who reached the last 16 on the back of three draws, triumphed 4-1 on spot-kicks.
Mahrez and Algeria top Mane’s Senegal in the heavyweight clash
Mane struggled to impress on his return from suspension as Youcef Belaili crashed home the winner on 49 minutes
Riyad Mahrez and Algeria fired a warning to the rest of their Africa Cup of Nations title rivals with a deserved 1-0 win over Sadio Mane’s heavily-fancied Senegal in Cairo on Thursday.
Mane struggled to impress on his return from suspension as Youcef Belaili crashed home the winner on 49 minutes to guarantee Algeria a berth in the last 16.
It is almost a decade since Algeria last made an impact at the competition by reaching the 2010 semi-finals, and this was a performance of great promise from the north African side in front of a large crowd at a blustery 30 June Stadium.
“We can’t say we look like a title-winning side. Beating Senegal is not an easy thing to do and there won’t be many teams capable of doing it, but that doesn’t mean things are settled,” said Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi.
“It’s just the second group game. Sure it’s against a very strong side but it’s just a group match.”
Senegal, on the hunt for a first continental title, will still be expected to join Algeria in the knockout rounds as they wrap up the group phase against Kenya on July 1.
“Of course Sadio Mane can do better,” said Senegal boss Aliou Cisse. “There was a lot of technical errors in our game. He was less prominent but I’m not concerned. It’s the whole team that needs to raise its level of play.”
Mane was one of three changes to the Senegal team that brushed Tanzania aside 2-0 in their opening game, with Cheikhou Kouyate filling in for the injured Salif Sane in central defence. Belmadi stuck with the Algeria team that rolled Kenya over by the same scoreline.
Resuming a Premier League rivalry that saw City pip Liverpool in a thrilling title race last season, Mane’s Senegal controlled possession initially albeit without testing Algeria goalkeeper Rais M’Bohli. Mane ballooned one free-kick well over while Keita Balde completely miscued another.
Having absorbed Senegal’s advances with relative comfort, Algeria grew more assertive and Baghdad Bounedjah had Edouard Mendy scrambling across his goal when his a deflected effort that bounced narrowly wide.
- Sustained Algeria pressure tells –
Bounedjah, who hit 39 goals in just 21 starts for Qatar’s Al Sadd last season, looked odds on to score for the second game running in Egypt when he lifted the ball over Mendy only for a retreating Kalidou Koulibaly to clear.
The Algeria forward then nodded wide from a Mahrez free-kick and forced Mendy to force behind a scuffed attempt across goal.
The half-time interval failed to arrest Algeria’s momentum as a sweeping attack saw Bounedjah lay off for Sofiane Feghouli to curl wide, but the breakthrough soon came for the Desert Foxes.
After Senegal conceded possession Feghouli pulled back from the byline down the right for Belaili to take a touch and slam the ball beyond a motionless, unsighted Mendy.
Having created a raft of chances in a commanding win over Tanzania, Senegal’s attack found a compact Algeria far less forgiving and Mahrez went close to doubling the lead with a fizzing strike from distance.
Senegalese penalty appeals were ignored when Mane was sandwiched by Ramy Bensebaini and Adlene Guedioura, while M’Bohli did well to repel a stinging shot from Youssouf Sabaly with substitute Mbaye Diagne heading the rebound wide as the Teranga Lions searched for an equaliser.
Algeria survived a late scare when Bounedjah almost inadvertently poked a set-piece into his own net, but this is the first time they have won their first two matches at the Cup of Nations since 1990 when they ended up winning the title.
Herve Renard hopes to torment Ivory Coast with Morrocan team
Morocco and the Ivory Coast meet Friday in a Group D top-of-the-table showdown in Cairo.
Since transforming the Ivory Coast into African champions four years ago, Herve Renard has tormented them as coach of Morocco. The 50-year-old Frenchman, whose matchday shirts are always white, ensured the 2017 title defence of the Ivorians did not last beyond the first round as they fell 1-0 to the Moroccans.
Renard inflicted more misery on his former team in 2018 World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 triumph in Abidjan taking Morocco to Russia at the expense of the Ivory Coast. Considered potential winners of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, Morocco and the Ivory Coast meet Friday in a Group D top-of-the-table showdown in Cairo. “This is a special game for me,” said Renard, the only coach to win the Cup of Nations with two countries, Zambia and the Ivory Coast.
Here is a preview of the Group D doubleheader with the Ivory Coast-Morocco clash followed by Namibia against South Africa, while Group E leaders Mali face Tunisia in Suez.
Ivory Coast v Morocco: Both countries launched their campaigns with solitary-goal victories in mid-afternoon Cairo heat, but the Ivorians will have been the happier side. While they outmuscled South Africa and should have won by more than a Jonathan Kodjia strike. Morocco laboured to a win that came via a late Itamunua Keimuine own-goal.
Ivory Coast coach Ibrahim Kamara said “the result was more important than the performance. It was critical not to fail in our opening match”. Rather than slam a lacklustre Moroccan display, Renard hailed Namibia: “They were well organised and coached.”
While both nations should make the last 16, winning the group would set up a fixture against one of the third-place qualifiers while coming second means taking on the Group E winners.
Namibia v South Africa: Namibia coach Ricardo Mannetti played for his country when they were humiliated 4-1 by South Africa at the 1998 Cup of Nations in Burkina Faso
“The best way to banish those memories would be to beat Bafana Bafana (The Boys). We have never won a Cup of Nations match and that is our priority,” he said. “My players were heartbroken after holding Morocco for 89 minutes and then losing to an own-goal.”
South Africa were inept against the Ivorians and this match could decide which country sneaks through as a third-place finisher and which makes an early exit. England-born coach Stuart Baxter has warned his players not to underestimate Namibia because “this match is like a cup final for them”.
Mali v Tunisia: Tunisia coach and former France star Alain Giresse knows what to expect from Mali as he coached them twice at the Cup of Nations with mixed results. Under him, the Malians came third at the 2012 Cup of Nations in Gabon but made a first-round exit in the same country two years ago without winning a match.
Now Giresse hopes to bring the Malian Eagles down to earth after they achieved the biggest win of the 12 first series matches in Egypt, a 4-1 hammering of debutants Mauritania. The Mali scorers included burly Moussa Marega, who notched six goals for Porto in the Champions League last season, the equal third best tally.
Tunisia were the only one of the six top group seeds not to collect maximum points and midfielder Ferjani Sassi blamed “an inability to convert chances” for a 1-1 draw with Angola.
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