Matchday three of the Africa Cup of Nations gets underway with four matches today, featuring plenty of traditional heavyweights who need points to avoid an early exit.
Africa Cup of Nations acca of the day
Equatorial Guinea vs Ivory Coast
Safe to say this Africa Cup of Nations campaign has not gone to plan for hosts Côte d’Ivoire, who need a result here to make sure of a place in the knockout stages.
Les Éléphants made a winning start to this tournament on home soil, swatting aside Guinea-Bissau on the opening night.
However, on Thursday, Jean-Louis Gasset’s side suffered a serious reality check, beaten 1-0 by Nigeria, the only goal of the afternoon coming from the penalty spot.
So, Ivory Coast kick off in third place and the three points they have may be enough to take them through, but only a win in Abidjan will guarantee a top two finish.
This certainly won’t be easy given that Equatorial Guinea are currently top of Group A with four points to their name.
The National Thunder held Nigeria to a 1-1 draw last Sunday before hammering Guinea-Bissau 4-2, with Emilio Nsue netting thrice, the oldest player to ever score an AFCON hat-trick.
Juan Michá's side are all but guaranteed a place in the round of 16, thereby maintaining Equatorial Guinea’s record of having never been eliminated in the group stages at the Cup of Nations.
So, backed by the home crowd, can Ivory Coast claim a vital victory at Stade Alassane Ouattara?
Guinea-Bissau vs Nigeria
Kicking off simultaneously over at Stade Félix-Houphouët-Boigny is Group A’s other fixture, with Nigeria firm favourites to pick up the three points here.
Not many were tipping Nigeria for glory before the tournament began, but the Super Eagles will be pleased to have four points on the board after two matches.
José Peseiro’s side could only draw with Equatorial Guinea in their opener, before a very impressive 1-0 victory over hosts Ivory Coast on Thursday, thanks to William Troost-Ekong’s emphatic penalty.
Nigeria have not been eliminated in an AFCON group phase for 42 years, a streak that’s almost certainly set to continue, with the Super Eagles widely-expected to pick up three points in this clash too.
That’s largely because Guinea-Bissau have been Group A’s whipping boys so far, losing both matches, beaten 2-0 by Côte d’Ivoire and then 4-2 by Equatorial Guinea last time out.
The Djurtus made their AFCON debut in 2017, now qualifying for four editions on the spin, although they’re still yet to win a match in four attempts.
Thus, Nigeria should be too strong at Abidjan.
Cape Verde vs Egypt
Group B also comes to a conclusion this evening, and there’s very much plenty to play for.
Record seven-times Africa Cup of Nations champions Egypt have only been eliminated in the group phase once since 1992 but, given that they’re yet to win, an early ignominious exit could be a reality.
The Pharaohs have not been impressive at all, drawing both matches 2-2 to date.
First, they required a stoppage time penalty to salvage a draw with minnows Mozambique, before fighting back from behind twice against Ghana; Omar Marmoush and Mostafa Mohamed on target.
The headline story from that game though was the first half injury sustained by Mohamed Salah and, without their captain and talisman, Egypt’s hopes of glory plummet exponentially.
Given that they have two points, Rui Vitória’s team must win here to be guaranteed a spot in the round of 16, but this certainly won’t be easy.
That’s because Cape Verde have been ultra-impressive to date, winning both matches, thereby wrapping up top spot with a game to spare.
Garry Rodrigues’ 92nd minute tap-in snatched a last-gasp win over Ghana before, on Friday, the Blue Sharks hammered Mozambique 3-0.
Bebé scoring from miles out, before both Ryan Mendes and then Kevin Pina were both on target.
Bubista’s team know they will be in action in Abidjan on Monday, facing a third-place finisher in the second round, so does he heavily rotate his team, or stick out a strong side and try and claim a famous win?
All the pressure is on Egypt, so will they claim their first win of this AFCON at Stade Félix-Houphouët-Boigny?
Mozambique vs Ghana
At the same time at Stade Alassane Ouattara, Ghana too need points to avoid a second successive Africa Cup of Nations group phase elimination.
The Black Stars began this campaign with a shock 2-1 defeat at the hands of Cape Verde, before a vastly improved performance saw them hold Egypt to a 2-2 draw on Thursday.
Mohammed Kudus’ return to the team completely changing this team’s fortunes, with the West Ham man on target twice in Abidjan.
Chris Hughton’s team have only won three of their last 11 internationals, all coming against minnows, but victory for Ghana here would see them through to the round of 16.
Despite the fact this is far from a vintage Black Stars side, they should pick up three points given that Mozambique are the section’s minnows.
The Mambas have never won an AFCON match in 14 attempts, but came agonisingly close to changing that fact against Egypt eight days ago, thwarted by a late stoppage time penalty.
Chiquinho Conde’s team did earn a point for their efforts, but were unable to build on it in mid-week, hammered 3-0 by Cape Verde.
If Mozambique were able to claim that illusive first win, they would be through to the knockout stages for the very first time, but Ghana should be too strong.